How Do Lizards Reproduce?

Are you interested in learning more about the life cycle of a lizard?

Do you wonder how baby lizards come to be?

If you are curious about the reproduction of lizards, you might ask:

How do lizards reproduce?

Most lizards reproduce sexually, meaning they need a male and female to mate, fertilizing an egg. Some lay eggs and other give birth to live young, with the egg developing inside the mother. 

Reproduction is very much dependent on the type of species and their location in the wild. 

Read on for even more information about how lizards reproduce. 

how do lizards reproduce

How Do Lizards Reproduce?

Reproduction varies depending on what kind of lizard you are looking into and where you find them in the wild. 

Sexual Vs. Asexual Reproduction

Most lizards will reproduce sexually, but there are a few species of lizards who reproduce asexually.

Sexual reproduction means a male and a female come together and mating, with each offering half of the genetic material needed to produce a baby.

Some lizards don’t need to mate to produce offspring. 

Babies are created by one animal, instead of two. 

This form of reproduction is called asexual reproduction.

Very few lizards do this, and ultimately very few animals in the entire world who produce offspring asexually.

One such lizard is the New Mexico whiptail lizard, an all-female species which reproduces completely asexually.

What the New Mexico whiptail lizard does to reproduce is seen as basically cloning themselves to create a copy. 

Even though these female whiptail lizards don’t need a man to fertilize their eggs, the females still engage in some of the traditional mating rituals other lizards do.

Researchers believe this helps trigger hormones in their bodies to help promote ovulation.

Experts speculate they didn’t always only reproduce asexually, but instead came to it over time. 

Komodo dragons, the largest lizard species alive on Earth, sometimes also participate in asexual reproduction, though most commonly, a male and female mating produce offspring.

Oviparous Vs. Ovoviviparous 

When it comes to the offspring, lizards either participate in oviparous reproduction or ovoviviparous reproduction.

Again, this is dependent on the species of lizard. 

Oviparous reproduction is probably what you think of when you think of how lizards are born. 

In oviparous reproduction, the male and female lizards will mate, and after a gestation period, the female will lay a clutch of eggs.

Depending on the animal, and their size, the number of eggs will vary.

Some lizards might only lay one or two eggs, especially if they are small, while other lizards might have a clutch with anywhere from 20 to 200 hundred eggs.

The eggs will hatch, again depending on their species, but they will hatch after three to 12 months on average. 

The eggs laid by the Parson’s chameleon are said to take 24 months or more to hatch.

Ovoviviparous reproduction differs from oviparous reproduction and is less common among lizards.

With this form of reproduction, the lizard will give birth to live offspring after a gestational period lasting several months.

Ovoviviparous reproduction sees the embryos developing in an egg inside of the mother.

In this case, the egg does not have a hard or leathery exterior shell like you might picture when you think of an egg.

Everything the embryo needs, including all the nutrition they need to grow, comes from an attached yolk sac.

The embryos do not get their nutrition from a placental connection like human babies.

When the lizard babies are ready to be born, they emerge alive, covered in a sticky membrane of their yolk sac.

Also, unlike a live birth in humans and other mammals, ovoviviparous reproduction results in a live delivery where the baby is not provided milk by the mother when it is born.

The newly born lizard is left on its own to find food and defend itself against predators. 

Many lizards like the gecko, monitors, iguanids, water dragons, and some chameleons will give birth in this way.

How Is Reproduction Similar In All Lizards?

While we touched on some significant differences in how lizards breed, there are also similarities.

Common threads linking these animals together when it comes to reproduction include the age when they can start mating.

Small and medium lizards species are ready to mate at as young as a year or two old, and large species usually reach sexual maturity at about two or three years. 

Males may travel great distances to find females to mate with, and after the mating process has occurred, the two go their separate ways. 

The male goes on to find more females to mate with, and the female starts looking for a safe place to lay her eggs so predators will not see them. 

Once a female lizard lays the eggs, she leaves them, never returning. 

Once the babies hatch, they have to take care of themselves right from the start, looking for food and avoiding predators. 

The female who develops the eggs inside her body, giving birth to live young, also leaves her young once they are born.

They, too, are not provided any protection from their mother. 

Mating Rituals

Nearly every animal has some mating ritual, and lizards are no different.

Males lizards of many species will attract females with a series of head bobs and other body movements. 

There are tail wags, and some even do push-ups.

In other lizards, the males will produce a strong odor from glands located at their tail base. 

The female will be attracted to the odor, gravitating to the male with the most pungent odor.

Other lizards, like the chameleon, will change colors to communicate, with the male turning color showing off and the female’s color in return tells the male if she is, in fact, interested or if she wants to be left alone. 


Knowing how lizards reproduce is essential, especially if you are considering breeding your pet lizards.

The variations are interesting to explore for anyone who wants to learn more about how it all works.

After reading this article, we hope you now have a better understanding of how reproduction works in different lizard species.

If you enjoyed this article check out why lizards flick their tongues.

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