The Oriental garden lizard

Writer: Isaac Cohen  |  Editor: Liu Minxia  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A garden lizard is seen on a tree trunk in the OCT Wetland Park in Nanshan District on April 25, 2020.

One little friend you can always observe around the city parks is the Oriental garden lizard (Calotes versicolor). This fantastic creature is known by many names, including changeable lizard or bloodsucker due to its striking red coloration during its reproductive season.


The garden lizard can have different colorations and oftentimes people may think they have come upon a completely different animal when they are actually meeting an old friend. Its colors may vary from green, gray, red, brown or even whitish. They are not too big in size, measuring around 25 to 40cm from nose to tail. The newborns are as short as three centimeters. Males and females look a bit different, basically in terms of the length of their tails. The males display a red coloration during the breeding season, when their crests turn into a striking crown of spines.


An Oriental garden lizard is seen at the Dasha River Park in Nanshan District on July 2, 2020.

These beautiful lizards are often perched in small trees or bushes throughout the city and they tend to stay still, waiting for their prey to pass in front of them. They feed on a wide range of smaller animals that include insects, annelids, mollusks, amphibians, reptiles or even small birds, and in some cases, they can end up eating their own youngsters.


One of the coolest facts about the lizards is that they lack sexual chromosomes, making them basically born as females and developing into males due to an increase in the sex hormone testosterone. Females can lay three to more than 20 eggs per clutch during spring and autumn, depending on the size of the female.


An Oriental garden lizard is seen in the Dasha River Park in Nanshan District on July 2, 2020. 

Garden lizards are important for controlling other animal populations, but they also need to be controlled, because they are voracious predators that could easily decimate an entire population of other species by eating them all. They also compete for resources against other kinds of lizards.