How Do Lizards Mate and Reproduce?

How Do Lizards Mate? Maybe you have pet lizards at home or have seen one and wishes to know how they mate. Do they court like human being before mating? How Do Lizards Mate? Well, in this article we shall answer the question, How Do Lizards Mate?

During Mating, the male lizard (vertebrates) clings on the female’s back and support itself by biting the female’s neck. Then, the male lizards connects is hemipenes/penis to the female’s cloaca (female organ) and ejaculates its sperms that move up the oviduct to fertilize the ova (female egg).

However, before mating, the male and female may have 1 to 2 months courtship during the mating season (spring). After fertilization, the lizard (Savannah, monitor, iguana or Komodo dragon) lays eggs, which hatch to baby lizards in 4 to 8 weeks.



Related: Do Cats Eat Lizards?

Details: How Do Lizards Mate and Reproduce?

Lizards undergo through the following steps/stage during mating. Contrary, some viviparous lizard such the blue-tongue skink and Solomon Island skink give live birth to their baby lizards.

Step 1: How lizards attract their mate for sex (mating – courtship)

Before mating, lizards court for 1 to 60 days to create a strong friendship/bond and form a royal pair that may last them their entire lifetime. During this time, there are some of things/techniques that lizards (either male or female) use to attract their mate for copulation or coitus. These may include:

1. Tactile commination 

Some lizards such as monitor lizards use touch as a way of attracting their mates to sexual engagement. The Komodo dragon likes to lick its female mate to see if it’s sexually ready or responsive.

The direct touch is used severally by lizards to create a close bond – Parthenogenetic Darevskia lizards mate frequently

2. Auditory calls 

The lizards use the auditory call to entice the mate they intend to court with. Many lizards may not use this method since the predators may take advantage and catch/trace them using auditory call signals. 

However, Tokay Gecko are known to use auditory calls when looking for courting mate. But Male Anolis lizards prefer virgin females. 

3. Use of visual display 

The lizards mostly use visual displays such as, swaging of tail, changing of colors, frequent gapping of the mouth, moving of the tongue, special body posture, head bobbing as well as inflation and push-ups to attract its mate for courtship.

Flying lizards and Anoles lizards, males have well-developed and brightly colored throat dewlaps and fans which open and close and use them to attract the female lizards for courtship. This method is most used and pronounced as compared to others. 


4. Chemical Cues 

The lizards produces a chemical pheromones that when smelled will attract the mate for courtship. Normally, female lizards produces these chemical cues to attract the male lizard for mating purpose.

Step 2: Mating Process 

During mating, the male lizard climbs over the female lizard. Then, it connects its hemipenes into the cloaca of the female lizard and ejaculates the sperms into the cloaca from where the sperms swim up the uterus to the oviduct to fertilize the ova (singular – ovum).

The ejaculation process is not a bumpy liquid but continuous drips. The male lizard must wait until the whole ejaculation process is completed.

The male lizard usually bites the neck of the female lizard to support itself during coitus/copulation. In addition, the male lizard will produce/secret cellular debris that have scent, which makes the couple be able to locate each other in a colony of lizards. Moreover, this debris prevent the male lizard from sliding during mating.

During mating, the female lizard raises the tail slightly to enable the male access the cloaca (you may see as if lizards are coiling while mating). There is no kissing in lizards. However, lizard species such as Komodo dragon and monitor lizards lick their female mates during copulation/coitus.

Step 3:  After mating occurrences.

Once the male lizard mates with female lizard, it leaves the female and go to search for other female (most lizards are polygamous). The female searches for a nice place where it intends to lay the eggs.

This place can be in warm holes, leaves, under the sand, seashores or in caves where predator can’t locate them (the eggs have strong eggshells that offer further protection).

Then, the female lizard lays the fertilized eggs in batches may have 1 to 20 eggs. Eastern Bearded Dragon usually lay 5 to 17 per batch. Water Dragon will lay between 6 to 18 eggs per batch while Blue tongue lizard will lay 10 to 20 eggs per batch.

The eggs are left to hatch after 4 to 8 weeks. The female lizards rarely take care of the eggs. Some lizards such as the blue-tongue skink and Solomon Island skink give birth to young live offspring after 10 weeks.

However, these lizards do not have mammary glands to breastfeed their baby lizards. Baby lizards usually have low life expectancy since they face many predators and less care from the adult lizards. 

Related: What’s the House Lizards’ Lifespan?

Which is the Mating/breeding season for lizards

Normally, lizards prefer to court and mate during the spring season. This is favored by warm temperatures that provides a conducive outdoors bonding for lizards. During this time, the male lizard undergo through spermatogenesis (sperms production) and mates with the female lizard after courtship.

The female lizard will then store the sperms in its oviduct until ova (female egg cells) are produced and mature for fertilization. The warmth in spring makes lizards more sexual active such that, they can mate severally in a given day.

The ability of the female lizard to store sperms in some species makes them easier to carry fertilization even when they are not mating. Some lizards such as Iguanas and Monitor lizards love mating during summer due to high temperature, which activates the copulation/coitus urge for the mates.

The Asian Water dragon becomes bright red during mating season while North American Lizards become orange skinned when mating season approaches. 


How Are Lizard’s Reproduction Organs Specialized for Mating in Lizards.

Lizards, unlike human beings, have special reproduction/sexual organs. The male have hemipenis (plural hemipenes) or penis (tubular) that is used during copulation (sexual intercourse). These organs are sac-like and lack erectile tissues as in human being or other animals.

The testicles and the hemipenes in male lizards are stored inverted inside the body at the back of the tail and are only used during copulation (they are not used for urination or egestion). The testicles of male lizards enlarge during the breeding season (you may notice the bulge part at the back of the lizard’s tail).

The female lizard has two oviducts, which join to form the cloaca (a special type of vagina). The cloaca is a multi-purpose organ in female lizards as it is used during mating, egestion and urination too.

During mating, the male lizard connects and ejaculates into the cloaca of the female lizard from where the sperms swim to the uterus and up the oviduct to fertilize the ova.

The uterus of the female lizards (especially the viviparous lizards – those that give birth) has large volume that help carry many eggs/baby lizards.

During mating, the cloaca stops completely its other functions i.e. urination and egestion. You can locate the tiny pole at the back of the tail in each sex (male or female lizard) that represents the sexual organ. 

Related: Can Lizards Swim?

Do All Female Lizards Need to Mate to Get Fertilized or Pregnant?

No. Not all lizards that need mating to lay eggs. Some lizards such as gecko, rock lizards, monitor lizards are parthenogenetic (do no need to mate to lay eggs). These lizard species lay eggs (though not fertilized), which hatch to baby lizards.

However, the young ones from these eggs do not have genes that favor diversity like those from fertilized eggs. The asexual lizards (parthenogenetic) usually have both chromosomes that are provided by the male sex cell thus helps in grow of the egg to maturity.

Other lizard species such as Komodo lizards are bisexual- they can reproduce sexually or by parthenogenesis. In most cases, the bisexual lizards would prefer mating as it offers the bonding chance that make them create a colony for daily activities or defense purposes.

How Many Babies/Off Springs Do Lizards Hatch?

The number of eggs laid by a give lizard species determines the number of baby lizards that are raised in a given season. After mating, the female lizard lays 1 to 20 eggs per batch in a warm environment.

In a given breeding season, female lizards can lay 2 to 3 batches, which may lead to breeding problem on hatching. 80 to 90 percent of the laid eggs normally hatch to baby lizards in 50 to 57 days.

About 1 to 40 lizards are hatched in a given breeding season from a single female lizard. However, due to large predation in the breeding ground, 60 percent of the population do not survive to maturity. Most of them are eaten away or die due to adverse weather conditions and less parental care.

Species such as Blue tongue lizard can raise between 5 to 18 baby lizards. The Asian water dragon manages 5 to 12 baby lizards while Bearded Dragon can hatch between 15 to 20 young ones.

How Long Does The Baby Lizards Take To Mature?

Baby lizard takes about 12 months to acquire full maturity. During this time, the baby lizard is fed partially by the adult ones and also engaged in light hunting of food.

At this age, the lizard can carry out reproduction (can mate and lay eggs). The adult lizard then assumes the duties of food gathering (hunting) since it’s old enough to even have its own shelter/cage. 

Related: What Do Baby Lizards Eat?

Conclusion

When mating, the male lizard climbs over the female lizard and introduces its hemipenes (male organ) into the cloaca (female) of the female lizard and ejaculates the sperms that swim to the oviduct where they fertilize the ova (singular ovum).

The male lizard has scary underneath skin with debris, which prevent it from sliding during coitus. The male and female lizard must court before mating begin. 

Sources: 

  1. Chemoreception, symmetry and mate choice in lizards
  2. How accurately do behavioural observations predict reproductive success in free-ranging lizards?

Jason

Hi, I am a reptiles enthusiats. I'll espaicilly cover guides and DIYs on different Lizard species, Chameleon, Gecko. So, hang in there as we express our reptile pets' love.

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