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Do Snakes Eat Lizards? (Some, but not this Thorny One!)

do snakes eat lizards

Since lizards are usually found in the same locations as snakes, they are commonly eaten by snakes. Some lizards that snakes love to eat include skinks and anoles.

These lizards can be digested relatively easily; therefore, snakes tend to feed on them. However, most snakes prefer to feed on warm-blooded animals (birds and mammals) over lizards.

Generally, the more difficult it is to digest, the less likely a lizard will become prey. For instance, snakes don’t usually prey on a Thorny Dragon lizard due to its sharp scales.

In contrast, depending on the size of a snake, other lizards can actually feed on snakes!  Some lizards that feed on snakes include monitors and the six species of blue-tongued lizards.

Reasons Why Snakes Eat Lizards?

snake

There are various reasons why most snakes feed on lizards, but mostly, it’s out of opportunism.

Out of the approximately 3000 known species of lizards, only two are poisonous (Gila monster and the Mexican beaded lizard.) Therefore, most of them are safe for consumption.

In addition to this, lizards are common small animals that are easy to kill. Just like other reptiles, lizards breed in large numbers; hence they are very abundant.

Since both snakes and lizards are reptiles, they tend to be found in the same geographical locations. For instance, both bask under the sun to warm their bodies. Due to these constant interactions, it is easy for snakes to hunt and kill lizards.

Moreover, some snake species, such as arboreal vine snakes, are actively adapted to hunt small lizards. The snake feeds almost exclusively on lizards.

Snakes are evolved from lizards and are considered tetrapods (four-legged) just like modern lizards.

Which Strategies Do Snakes Use To Hunt and Kill A Lizard?

red snake

There are two types of snakes- those that actively hunt their prey and those that hide and ambush them. Some lizards are pretty fast, and thus, most snakes such as vipers prefer to hide and wait for the prey to come to them. However, other snakes use their heat-sensing mechanisms to hunt down prey.

How Snakes Hunt Lizards       

1. How “Active Hunter” Snakes Hunt Lizards

Most snakes prefer to wait and ambush their prey. However, snakes that belong to the Colubridae family prefer to actively hunt their prey. This includes snakes such as kingsnakes, pinesnakes, and eastern racers. Snakes that also belong to the Elapidae family, such as cobras, coral snakes, and mambas, also track down prey.

Active hunters are usually long and have slender bodies. They are usually agile and do not need physical power to overpower their prey. These snakes will use their tongues to pick up chemical information. Using this information, they can pick up the scent of prey such as lizards.

2. How “Ambush” Snakes Hunt Lizards

Ambush hunters usually sit and wait for their prey. These snakes are usually heavy-bodied and include pythons, boas, and vipers. Due to their heightened sense of smell, snakes can pick a spot where prey is likely to be. This can be near rocks where lizards busk or entrance to caves or burrows.

Others such as boas and desert vipers will bury themselves in dirt or sand.

However, one of the most ingenious techniques is luring. Some snakes will lure prey by wriggling their brightly colored worm-like tails to attract lizards. Due to their heavy-bodied nature, these snakes possess muscles that enable them to attack prey in a matter of seconds.

In addition, snakes can also combine these two strategies to hunt for their prey. Cottonmouths is an example of snakes that use a combo of the two techniques.

Related Article: Do Snakes Eat Ducks?

How Snakes Eat Lizards

salamander

Once a snake has gotten hold of its prey, it can kill it by injecting venom or constriction.

1. They use their Venom to Subdue the Lizard

About a fifth of the world’s snakes are venomous. Snakes such as the viperid, elapid, and hydrophid, produce venom in their venom glands. Once they bite prey, it is delivered to the snake’s fangs through a closed canal located in the center of the snake’s fangs.

The venom may contain Haemotoxic, Cytotoxic & Neurotoxic. These toxins damage tissues, immobilize prey and cause severe hemorrhaging. Some snake venom also assists in digestion by predigesting prey before consumption.

2. They use Constriction to Subdue the Lizard

This technique is mainly adopted by larger snakes such as pythons and boas. They coil themselves around the lizard’s body until it suffocates to death. Once it senses any tiny heartbeat from the prey, it squeezes further until the lizard can breathe anymore.

Fun Fact: Some venomous snakes such as mussuranas constrict their prey.

Related: Least Venomous Snakes (List)

Which Snake Species Eat Lizards?

Almost all snakes can consume lizards. This is because most snakes are opportunistic feeders. While it is true that most prefer warm-blooded animals, they will not back down when a chance to consume lizards presents itself.

Below are some examples of snakes that frequently eat lizards.

1. Water Snakes

water snake

One of the snakes that will readily feed on lizards is the water snake. These snakes live near water bodies, and thus they have developed a taste for cold-blooded animals such as fish and frogs.

Contrary to popular belief, these snakes venture out on land and climb trees in search of prey. They will feed on virtually anything that comes their way, including lizards. They are non-venomous and kill prey by constriction.

Related: What do Water Snakes Eat?

2. Galapagos Racer Snake

This snake is an endemic racer found in Galapagos. They are constrictors and only mildly venomous. Due to their habitat, the snake mainly feeds on lizards, geckos, and iguanas. It is important to note that there are different types of lizards. Iguanas are a subspecies of lizards.

This racer is very good at camouflage and is usually active at dawn and dusk. They are active hunters and will chase down prey.

You might have come across this video of a lucky baby marine iguana escaping from dozens of Galapagos racer snakes.

Related Article: Do Snakes Eat Spiders?

3. Pythons

python

Most pythons live in the same habitat as lizards. Therefore, they tend to eat lizards occasionally. Some of these snakes include ball pythons, rock pythons, and carpet pythons

Pythons usually ambush their prey, constrict them and swallow them whole.

How Do Lizards Defend Themselves From Snakes?

1. Staying Perfectly Still

Snakes are blind and move by sensing vibrations in the ground. Lizards are ambush foragers, which means they can stay in the same spot for long without moving.  Not moving protects lizards from being noticed by snakes. However, this does not always work, as most snakes can detect prey by creating thermal images produced by prey’s heat signals.

2. Tail Loss

A lizard’s tail is about as long as its entire body and is mainly made of very flexible muscle. Lizards can regenerate their tails even when it’s amputated. As such, most lizards tend to self-amputate their tails to distract predators such as snakes.

3. Death Feigning

Thanatosis is a state that enables lizards to be immobile, making them appear dead. A lizard adapts catalepsy and maintains a rigid posture. By doing this, the snake might think the lizard is dead and thus discourages sequential attacks.

Lizards in the family Anelytropsidae, Crotaphytidae, and Scincidae typically adopt this defensive strategy. They include; bearded dragon, leopard geckos, southern angle-headed dragons, fence skink, Gila monster, and Chinese water dragon.

When it All goes Wrong: The Snake Becomes the Meal!

Lizards mostly eat small animals such as insects, but some might eat snakes. It depends on the body size of the lizard and snake. Big lizards such as monitors will easily overpower and eat small snakes.

Other examples include the blue-tongued lizards, which enjoy preying on small snakes. Komodo dragons also have large bodies and can quickly attack and eat a snake.

Shockingly, monitor lizards do not fear venomous snakes such as cobras and will readily prey on them.

More on Snake Diets:

Conclusion

Most snakes prefer to feed on warm-blooded animals. That said, snakes are considered opportunistic carnivores and will consume any animal, including lizards. Some of the snakes that frequently eat lizards include pythons, racers, and water snakes.

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