Are Yellow Spotted Lizards Dangerous to Humans?

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The 2003 Disney movie “Holes” featured aggressive, venomous creatures called “yellow-spotted lizards.” No such animals exist. Although Mexican beaded lizards and Gila monsters do possess venom, neither lizard species looks or behaves like the creatures in the film. The term "yellow-spotted lizard" is most often used to describe a small, harmless species of the family Xantusiidae.

Identification

Yellow-spotted lizards (Lepidophyma flavimaculatum) grow to about 10 inches in length, though most are smaller. They have an earth-toned ground color, with shades of brown, gray and black. Numerous yellow spots cover their dorsal and lateral surfaces. Yellow-spotted lizards have flat, triangular heads with large scales along the top. Their bodies are covered in small, granular scales, but their tails have rings of enlarged scales or keels. Their mouths are full of small, sharp teeth, but they lack venom or fangs.

Habitat and Range

Yellow-spotted lizards inhabit a swath of forested habitat from south Mexico to Panama. Most Xantusiids have become strongly specialized to their microhabitats. Yellow-spotted lizards' preferred microhabitat is inside and underneath decaying logs on the forest floor. These lizards often form isolated populations because of their small home ranges, small body size and reliance on scattered habitats. Scientists have found yellow-spotted lizards living from sea level to more than 2,000 feet elevation.

Predators and Prey

Scientists know little about the predators and prey of wild yellow-spotted lizards, except that these lizards appear to be primarily insectivorous and have high life expectancy. Snakes and large centipedes often inhabit decayed logs, and they might be important predators of yellow-spotted lizards. In captivity, yellow-spotted lizards accept crickets and wax worms.

Reproduction

The reproductive biology of yellow-spotted lizards has been the subject of great scientific interest and research. Unlike most lizard species, yellow-spotted night lizards are viviparous -- they give birth to live young. Of particular interest to researchers is that while although yellow-spotted lizard populations reproduce sexually, a few all-female populations exist and reproduce through parthenogenesis. Yellow-spotted lizards take several years to mature, and females don't produce a litter in every year.

As Pets

Very few reptile enthusiasts keep yellow-spotted lizards, and even fewer bred them. There's scant information about captive care, and maintaining them is not easy. Virtually all specimens available in the pet trade are wild-caught, and they're probably highly parasitized and stressed. Accordingly, yellow-spotted lizards are not suitable pets for novice or intermediate keepers. Yellow-spotted lizards are shy and might bite if handled. Because of their size the bites aren't likely to be serious, though the lizards' tiny, sharp teeth might draw a few drops of blood.

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