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Differences between Dragon Lizards, Goannas, Geckos and Skinks

Blog | June 23rd, 2017

Reptiles and amphibians are amazingly captivating and mysterious species that have long held peoples’ interest. With an ancient pedigree and an equally long and storied history in myth and legend, they are no less intriguing and mysterious today as they were hundreds of years ago.

Yet while in the old days, reptiles and amphibians were feared and revered in equal proportion, today, a great many of them are loved as pets. In the reptile pet trade there are four very basic lizards that every enthusiast has encountered even in hindsight at least once – dragon lizards (aka the ‘bearded dragon’), goannas, geckos, and skinks.

To the untrained eye, all of these equate to one thing – crawling scaled lizards, but for those who have a deep-seated passion for reptiles and amphibians, they pose striking differences.

Here’s what you need to know about all four different animals:

• Bearded dragons (aka ‘Dragon Lizards’) – genus Pogona, these are so-called because of their distinctive beards that make them appear like small, wingless dragons. These beards, which are actually spines located on the animal’s throat, can be enlarged to make the lizard appear more menacing. Although it is equipped with sharp-looking scales, they aren’t actually sharp enough to cause significant injury. A bearded dragon’s average lifespan is between four to ten years of age. A little known fact about them is that they can change the colour of their skin from dark to light in order to regulate their own body-heat.

• Goannas (aka ‘Monitor lizards’) – genus Varanus, these lizards are related to the dreaded Komodo Dragon and belongs to the monitor lizard family. The average size of a goanna is anywhere from 4 to 4.6ft long, and they can weigh as much as 13 pounds in total weight. Although they come in a variety of different colours, the most common hues found in endemic species with Australia are black, brown, and a mottled colour-combination of both. Goannas can run and climb quite efficiently, and will normally run from danger. Just like snakes, goannas swallow their prey whole, and, like the Komodo dragon, it is reported that its saliva is a festering cocktail of bacteria, making its bite lethal.

• Skinks – belonging to the family Scincidae, the skink is the second most numerous lizard group in the whole world, trumped only by the gecko. Skinks come in a wide variety of colours and are typified by their thin, shiny, almost snake-like appearance. They are relatively small and feed predominantly on insects. Skinks are well-known for being able to detach their tails if it is grabbed by an attacker, over time the tail grows back. On average, a skink can live for up to twenty years, and can lay anywhere from ten to thirty eggs per season.

• Geckos – belonging to the family Gekkonidae and the infraorder Gekotta, geckos boast the largest number of species within their own family of any lizard, beating even the humble skink. Geckos, like skinks, come in a wide assortment of colours, although they are less snake-like, with large, bulging eyes that they regularly clean and keep moist with their tongue. Like many lizards, geckos have ‘sticky’ tongues that they use to hunt their prey; they also have detachable tails. They are well known for the ability to stick to any surface using its special ‘suction cup’ feet. Geckos are surprisingly long-lived. In the wild, they can live for anywhere from five to eight years, while in captivity, well-cared-for geckos can live to up to twenty years of age.

If you are curious to learn about reptiles, amphibians, and all sorts of other fascinating critters, then visit, and open yourself up to a whole new world of wonder!