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Microteiids: Gymnophthalmidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Although this family has at least 175 species, their small size and tendency to remain hidden has helped to keep much of their behavior a secret from scientists. Some have, however, been seen wandering along the forest floor and along the shores of streams and swamps looking for insects to eat. When they feel threatened by an attacker, they will run to the water, where they dive in and swim off. Many have flattened tails, which help them swim quickly through the water. Unlike most other lizards, which sunbathe, or bask, out in the open during the day to warm their bodies, the microteiid lizards apparently do not. Instead, some appear to heat up their bodies by finding a sunny spot and crawling under leaves there.


Scientists do not understand just how important each individual species is to life on Earth. Over the years, the most-studied animals are those that humans find cute and/or want for pets, like dogs and cats; that people find useful, like cows for meat and horses for farm chores; or bothersome, like mosquitoes that transmit disease. Scientists know much less about other species that lack these traits and that stay out of sight. The microteiid lizards are an example. They are small lizards that hide in piles of leaves and rarely come across a person. Even these species, however, are important to the web of life on the planet. For example, numerous predator species probably eat them, and they in turn eat many different types of insects, which eat other animals and plants, and so on. If the microteiid lizards were to disappear, it is possible that the surrounding environment would change so much that it would cause harm to the other animals and plants that live there. This is also true of other species on Earth. No animal or plant lives and dies without having an effect on some other living thing.

Those species that have been studied are all egg layers, and scientists believe that the females only have one or two young at a time but lay eggs more than once a year. Some of the species are all female, which means that they can and do have babies without mating with males. Species that do this are called parthenogenic (PAR-thih-no-JEH-nik). This is rather unusual among lizards and among other vertebrates (VER-teh-brehts), which are mammals, birds, and other animals with backbones. Most vertebrates require that a female and male mate before the female becomes pregnant. In the microteiid lizards, however, a female can become pregnant without ever seeing a male and produces babies that are her exact duplicates. Such exact duplicates are called clones.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesMicroteiids: Gymnophthalmidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, No Common Name (bachia Bresslaui): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, MICROTEIIDS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS