An enormously developed extension of its skull lends this lizard a resemblance to the “Alien” of horror movies. In contrast to other basilisks (which can run so quickly they can stay above the water surface) this tree-dwelling species is a “sit and wait predator”, staying very still, until large beetles, grasshoppers, and other insects, deceived by its unlizardlike appearance, come close enough to be grabbed in its jaws. Found in Southern Mexico and the rest of Central America, it is not often seen in zoos. It has reproduced at the DWA.
Found from Mexico to Paraguay, this is one of the most well-known snakes, and has been popular in zoos for well over a century. It is also common in private collections. While it has a reputation as a giant, it actually rarely reaches 14 feet, and has never been documented to reach 20 feet. In contrast to the much larger Anaconda, it is not dependent on water in its environment, though it swims quite well. A nocturnal animal, it is often motionless during zoo visiting hours.
This larger, more arboreal relative of the Gila monster is easily distinguished from it by being black and cream-colored, rather than black and pinkish-orange. Like the Gila monster, it is venomous, possessing glands in its lower jaw. It is not found in the US, but occurs in Mexico and Guatemala. It appears to feed almost entirely on eggs of birds and other reptiles. Prized as a zoo exhibit, it has been bred in several collections, including the DWA.
Found from northern Mexico to Central America, it was only separated by herpetologists from the South American Tropical Rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus) in 2004. Unlike its South American relative, but in common with most other rattlesnake species, its adult venom is primarily haemotoxin, rather than neurotoxin. It stands out among other Mexican Rattlesnakes for the twin stripes running from the back of its head down a portion of its body, and its unusually rough-looking scales. Rattlesnakes were revered by the Mayans and Aztecs.
There are a number of small Tropical American prehensile-tailed, tree-dwelling pit vipers, but many of them have small distributions and are very rare. This species is found all the way from southern Mexico well into South America and is one of the more likely tropical American vipers to be seen in captivity, where it breeds well. Its name comes from the pointy scales above its eyes. It is famous for its many color phases. Orange ones are especially popular in zoos.
One of the most infamous of the world’s venomous snakes, this species is the leading snakebite species in its habitat. It is found from southern Mexico down to Northern South America. Like rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads, it is a pit viper, equipped with heat sensing organs in a cavity between their eyes and nostrils. Females grow much larger than males, weighing more than ten pounds, and have bigger heads and longer fangs. The haemotoxic venom causes severe tissue damage, and many fatalities have been recorded.
There are more than ninety species in the genus Sceloporus, many of them familiar as “Blue-bellies”, “Swifts”, and “Fence Lizards”. In the same family as “Horned Toads”, they are found across through much of the US, Mexico, and Central America. This species is found throughout in the Chihuahuan Desert, on both sides of the border in Texas, New Mexico, Chihuahua and Coahuila. Its name honors Joel Poinsett, amateur scientist and first US minister to Mexico (1825-1830) after whom the Poinsettia is also named.
Most of the more than 2,000 species of geckos are nocturnal. Many are colored like bark, or in earth tones. In contrast, as their name implies, the 40 or so species of day geckos of the Indian Ocean are diurnal, and include some of the most brilliantly colored of the world’s reptiles. Instead of the cat-like slitted pupils of other geckos, they have round ones, giving them a “friendly” expression. The “Geico Gecko” in commercials is a day gecko. While some species are almost extinct, this one is abundant and often bred in zoos and private collections.
Another very large chameleon of Madagascar, this lizard is slightly smaller than the very similar Oustalet’s chameleon, and differs in having fewer spikes in the crest on its back. It is also found higher up in trees.
Reaching 27 inches in length, this is the biggest species of chameleon. Along with insects, it eats small birds and mammals. Like other chameleons it shoots out its tongue with tremendous force to capture prey. It has a wide range in Madagascar.