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11 Interesting Facts Of Mexican Alligator Lizard

6 mins read
mexican alligator lizard
Derek Ramsay Wikipedia Creative Commons



The Mexican Alligator Lizard (Abronia Graminea), also known as the green arboreal alligator lizard, is one of the most beautiful species of reptiles in this world.

The emerald green color speckled with yellow and a blue sheen on its scales make it look like a tiny dragon. This curious-looking wild creature is also a pet favorite for those looking for exotic and unique pets.

The Mexican Alligator Lizard is a loner that likes to hide in the shrubbery during the daytime. It feeds on insects and arthropods that reside in its natural habitat. It also requires at least 80% humidity for a healthy life and wants to stay on moss-covered rocks during a hot day.

A rare endemic of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Oriental highlands, this arboreal creature is endangered.

The endangered status of the Mexican Alligator Lizard has several contributing factors, including deforestation, forest fires, and land changes for agriculture. Illegal trafficking for the pet trade has also negatively affected its status.

Want to know more about the Mexican Alligator Lizards? Read on to get interesting facts about these arboreal lizards.

Mexican alligator lizard
Photo by Camargo Anthony from Pexels

Fact File: Mexican Alligator Lizard

1. Scientific name

The scientific name of the green arboreal alligator lizard is Abronia graminea. It belongs to the Abronia genus and the class of Reptilia, which also includes snakes and turtles. The Mexican Alligator Lizard is part of the 67 different species of alligator lizards and belongs to the Squamata order and the Anguidea family.

Abronia graminea is the Mexican alligator lizard, green arboreal alligator lizard, and terrestrial, arboreal alligator lizard.

2. What does Mexican alligator lizard look like?

These abronia lizards are vibrantly green like tropical plants in spring in their adulthood. In Mexican alligator lizards, the males tend to be more colorful than the females. They have a bright yellow color lining around their eyes.

This abronia species has beautifully defined scales on its body. These green scales are often dotted with black lines. The juvenile lizards are tan-shaded with subtle black dots to camouflage against predators. They have triangular-shaped heads with sharp teeth to facilitate eating hard-shelled insects.

In captivity, these lizards tend to lose their vibrant green color, which turns to a teal shade. Scientists attribute this change in color to the difference in the amount of natural sunlight the reptile receives.

They have prehensile tails that they can release to get away from danger and regrow if lost. The tails are also very long and can take up more than 50% of the body length. The legs are short and robust limbs with long claws, which help grab hold of trees in their native habitat.

3. Where do Mexican alligator lizards live?

Mexican alligator lizards live in the humid cloud forests of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range. They are primarily found in the Mexican states of Puebla, Oaxaca, and Veracruz. They are also found in Guatemala.

Like all other species of reptiles, they also like to live alone, except during the breeding season. They are arboreal; they live in trees and can be found in high elevations, about 4,500 to 9,000 feet above the ground.

4. What is their habitat?

These lizards are arboreal and like to hide in the dense vegetation of the cloud forests. They camouflage with the habitat because of their bright green scales, which help in hunting for insects.

This reptile has an affinity with humidity, so if you plan to keep this lizard as a pet, make sure to maintain high humidity. These species also prefer to stay near lichens, so when held at home, you can lay down some peat moss or sphagnum moss to regulate the humidity levels.

They need an adequate amount of sunlight during the day and darkness at night. These lizards can also survive temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. What do Mexican alligator lizards eat?

These green arboreal lizards eat insects. They have sharp teeth and a triangular-shaped head, which facilitates in eating even hard-shelled insects.

If kept in captivity as pets, you may feed these lizards 2-4 feeder insects including, diurnal crickets, moths, wax worms, small cockroaches, hornworms, and flies per lizard weekly.

Female Mexican alligator lizards stop eating a month before giving birth. They start eating as soon as they give birth.

6. Life Span of Abronia graminea

The life span of the Mexican Alligator Lizard in the wild is unknown. But, in captivity, they are reported to live up to 10 years. Good care and the right conditions can also extend the life span up to 15-20 years!

So, if you are looking for a long-term care commitment, these reptiles make great pets.

mexican alligator lizard
Derek Ramsay Wikipedia Creative Commons

7. Behavior and Temperament of Mexican alligator lizards

The green arboreal alligator lizards are pretty gentle until provoked or threatened. They will bite when they feel scared, so be careful when you handle them.

They don’t like being handled too much and can show signs of stress on overhandling. So, respect their preference and give them some time to acclimatize to a bit of your involvement.

These animals are usually very busy within their environment, climbing and fun displays during eating.

8. How do they reproduce?

The Mexican alligator lizards are viviparous; that is, the females give birth to the babies instead of laying eggs like other species of reptiles.

The female lizards become sexually mature at three years of age. The usual breeding season is during the end of summer and all through the fall season. The gestation period is approximately six to eight months, and the babies are born during the spring season.

These lizards can give birth to a single litter of 1-12 juveniles in a season. The live young lizards are called neonates, and they feed on small insects during their first months.

The temperature gradient must be carefully maintained for the babies to survive. Too much heat can be challenging for babies. Hence they need to be kept in cooler temperatures.

9. Are Mexican alligator lizards poisonous?

In Mexico, these lizards are called ‘scorpion de Arbol, which translates to tree scorpion, but they are not poisonous. They can be aggressive and may bite if threatened, but they are not toxic. The bite is small, but it can hurt.

10. Are Mexican alligator lizards endangered?

The Mexican alligator lizard is on the IUCN Red List as an endangered species. The destruction of their habitat due to deforestation, agriculture, and forest fires has reduced the population of these sensitive reptiles.

Another major cause for their endangered status is the illegal pet trade. These reptiles are rare and sensitive, requiring great acre and are only recommended for experienced reptile keepers. Always find a reputable breeder and a humane pet trader to purchase from and keep away from the illegal trade of wildlife.

11. Mexican alligator lizard care

The Mexican alligator lizard makes good pets and is best for owners with intermediate to advanced experience in taking care of exotic reptiles.

These lizards require great care with the provision of the proper heat, light, and a balanced diet. The list for care may be precise and long, but if you can nail each of these requirements perfectly, you will have an excellent pet to keep you company for a long time.

Enclosure size

The Mexican alligator lizard may be small, but you may need an enclosure smaller than 24 x 24 x 36 inches. Focus on a good height than length, as these creatures like to climb.

They also require adequate ventilation, hence glass enclosures cannot be used. A screened living space is a good option as it provides cross ventilation and looks nice too.

Create the habitat

The substrate for the enclosure can be paper towels, newspaper, sphagnum moss, or peat moss. The sphagnum moss and the peat moss are preferred as they help maintain the required humidity levels for the reptile. The reptile likes to burrow, so the substrate needs to be several layers.

Live plants need to be used to make a cloud forest-like enclosure, with epiphytic plants and bromeliads, including ficus. These plants retain appropriate moisture and humidity.

The Mexican alligator lizards have a sweet spot of humidity at 80 percent. Any difference in the levels can lead to health problems. You can use a hand mister or install a special reptile fogger to maintain the humidity.

arboreal lizard
Photo by Tom Swinnen from Pexels

Lighting and Temperature

You may need to set up several thermometers to ensure the correct temperatures levels in the enclosure.

The basking area may need a low-watt bulb to maintain the temperature at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Overheating can be dangerous for the lizard, so make sure the temperature is maintained. The other side of the enclosure needs to be cooler at 70 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

These lizards need natural sunlight, but you may use supplemental UV lighting if you cannot provide natural light. Use a timer to measure the amount of light. Keep 12 hours of light on and 12 hours of light off.

Water facility

You don’t need to make a unique watering system for the lizards as they tend to drink water droplets of the mist in the enclosure.

Ensure that the water used for misting the enclosure is safe and free from harmful chemicals like chlorine.

Food and Diet

Mexican alligator lizards can quickly gain weight, leading to a list of health issues, so be careful not to overfeed them.

They eat a variety of arthropods and insects, including crickets, cockroaches, snails, butter worms, and more. You may gut load the insects with calcium powder and vitamins before the feeding time.

You can give the lizard 10 to 15 insects two to three times a week. Keep a careful eye on the consumption by these animals and accordingly increase or decrease the amount of food given.

Possible health issues

The long list of requirements mentioned above needs to be carefully monitored and provided to maintain the reptile’s health.

Otherwise, the Mexican alligator lizard is prone to health issues like other reptiles like metabolic bone disease, parasitic infections, mouth rot, and respiratory infections.

Keep an intelligent check on the animals regularly to notice any differences like lack of energy, loss of appetite, or any physical changes.

A good relationship and regular check-ups with the veterinarian are needed to prevent health issues.

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