Why Do Lizards Have Scales?

Are you interested in learning more about your lizard?

Have you ever wondered about the scales covering your lizard’s body?

If you are looking to learn more about your lizard and how they survive in the wild, you might wonder:

Why do lizards have scales?

Scales are multifunctional for lizards. They help lizards keep in moisture, act as a defense against predators, and provide camouflage as well as help the animals move.

Lizards use their scales to survive every single day in the wild.

Keep reading as we look further into why lizards have scales.

why do lizards have scales

Why Do Lizards Have Scales?

Lizards continue to survive in the wild because their bodies have adapted based on the conditions around them.

A lizard has scales for several reasons, but all of those reasons are focused on helping the animal to survive both the environmental conditions and the predators a lizard may encounter.

In this section, we will break down some of the reasons lizards have a layer of scales.

Lock In Moisture

Many lizards have made their home in the desert where water is not so prevalent.

Scales help these lizards and other desert reptiles retain water and survive in hot and dry climates.

The scales are watertight and form a kind of barrier, so water does not evaporate through their skin. 

Because of this, lizards are not as likely to get dehydrated.

They also will not need so much water to survive.

In general, scales allow reptiles to live on land while keeping moist, unlike amphibians who need water and moist environments to survive. 

Defense Against Predators

In addition to helping lizards retain water and survive, the scales on a lizard offer protection.

Think of the scales like a suit of armor on a knight.

The armor provides protection when a predator wants to attack. 

These strong scales help protect vital organs when predators are biting or scratching the lizard.

Some lizards even have prickly scales on their bodies.

This gives them even more protection from the predators they might encounter. 

The scales will make it difficult when the predator tries to attack.

With any luck for the lizard, the scales may also injure a predator during the struggle. 

The scales on a lizard also offer protection, not just when they come up against a predator. 

As they travel around their environment, lizards might encounter all sorts of surfaces, sticks, rocks, and other things of this nature.

Their armor keeps these items from scratching them or penetrating their skin.

This is important as they move or when they are running from a threat. 

Providing Camouflage

If you needed another reason lizards have scales, we have it here.

These scales provide camouflage for the animal, helping them blend in with their environment.

When camouflaged, they have a better chance of avoiding being a target for a larger animal by staying hidden and out of sight of something wanting to eat them.

No matter where they are in the world, lizards rely on the color of their scales to help them blend in. 

It could be a rock or a tree.

Lizards will find something matching their coloring and post up there.

This comes in handy when they are basking, soaking up the sun.

Being out in the open is dangerous for most lizards, but being able to blend in with their surroundings helps protect them, even from birds flying overhead. 

There are some lizards, like chameleons and geckos, who can change color to match their background. 

The patterns and colorations of their scales help them blend in with whatever rock or tree or another object.

Aide In Movement

Being able to move and move quickly keeps the lizards out of the reach of predators.

Movement is also essential for many lizards as they need to catch their food.

For many lizards and reptiles in general, scales help them move.

Crested geckos have modified scales located on their feet. 

These modified scales look like hairs and are found on the bottom of their feet.

With these, the crested gecko can grip smooth surfaces and scale them without any trouble. 

Crested geckos aren’t the only ones with these modified scales. 

Other gecko species have them too. 

What Are Scales Made Of?

Sometimes people think lizards and other reptiles with scales are slimy, but the scales on their bodies aren’t slimy at all.

In fact, the scales covering a lizard’s body are dry when you touch them.

And it is commonly thought these scales are their skin, but this is just not the case.

Go back to the picture of the knight in armor.

The knight inside has a layer of skin under the armor.

Much like the knight, the lizard’s skin is located just under the layer of scales.

Whether you have or haven’t had the opportunity to touch a lizard and feel their scales, you might wonder what the scales are made of.

Scales are composed of a protein called keratin.

Keratin is light and flexible, but at the same time, it is also powerful.

You may have heard of this potent protein when we talk about our fingernails and hair.

Keratin also makes up feathers and horns, for example, the horn of the rhinoceros. 

Mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians all have appendages on their skin created by keratin. 


After reading this article, we hope you have a better understanding of how vital scales are for a lizard and why lizards have scales (to help them survive in the wild).

Lizards don’t have scales because they are pretty or because they look cool.

These scales are essential to keeping the animal alive, no matter what environment they are found in. 

The scales on a lizard serve several functions, helping keep in moisture in the desert, acting as protection, and offering camouflage while assisting with movement.

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