An Overview: The Mexican Alligator Lizard
The Mexican alligator lizard, also called the green arboreal alligator lizard, is a reptile species belonging to the genus abronia.
It is native to the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Puebla. Scientifically, they are known as abronia graminea. The name ‘Alligator’ is attributed to them for their triangular head and the appearance of armor-like defined scales.
The Adult Mexican Alligator Lizards have real long tails, which accounts for most of their body length. In general, they grow up to 6-12 inches long.
Although there’s not much difference in the length of male and female lizards, male lizards tend to have more weight and larger heads compared to females. Like most reptiles, Mexican Alligator Lizards are capable of regenerating their tales if they lose them.
The Mexican Alligator Lizard is known for its distinctive bright green to blue skin, unique eyes, and tail variations. The Juvenile Mexican lizards have a brownish tan color with dark crossbands.
These peculiar characteristics are what draw the illegal poachers and captive breeders.
Where Do the Mexican Alligator Lizards Live?
These lizards spend most of their lives in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain ranges’ cloud forests.
They have adapted to an arboreal lifestyle with strong legs and toes and bulky prehensile tails that allow them to climb trees as tall as 4500-9000 feet.
Cloud forests provide the ideal habitat for them to live in as they have dense vegetation with high humidity, cooler temperatures, natural sunlight, and lots of moss.
In winter, they take shelter in canopies or hollow spaces to stay warm. They primarily feed on various small insects, like diurnal crickets, worms, and other arthropods.
The average lifespan of the Mexican Alligator Lizard is believed to be about 10-20 years, though not much is known about their lifespan in the wild since it has only become recently popular due to captivity.
What Does a Mexican Alligator Lizard Do In a Day?
For the most part, these animals spend their time high above in the canopy. Their green and scaly skin helps them easily blend in the foliage. They particularly favor bromeliads, a tropical plant with cup-shaped leaves to catch water droplets into them.
Epiphytic plants or air plants play an essential role in the Mexican Alligator Lizard’s life as they rely on them for hydration and sustenance. A bromeliad can serve as their entire home for these alligator lizards, providing shelter, water, and humidity.
So, Are They Dangerous?
In Mexico, these Mexican Alligator lizards are called “Scorpion de Arbol,” which means “tree scorpion” in Spanish. But they are not dangerous. They tend to get aggressive and bite if threatened, which might hurt but are not venomous or life-threatening.
Alligator lizards are sort of antagonistic and will menace you with an open mouth if you pick them up, so be safe. Take care not to injure the lizard! If you are too rough with it, you may damage its teeth or jaws.
Even if they bite you, remember to treat them with kindness. If you are bitten, they tend to take chunks of your skin. Staff who work in zoos with these lizards claim the bites are among the most painful they have ever seen.
Are Mexican Alligator Lizards Endangered?
The Mexican alligator lizard, with the rapid destruction of its habitat contributed by deforestation, forest fires, population fragmentation, and the illegal pet trade, has become an endangered species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
It is also considered a protected animal by the Mexican Federal Law and comes under Threatened Species on the Norma Oficial Mexicana list.
How Do They Reproduce?
The Mexican Alligator Lizard is viviparous- they give birth to babies and do not lay eggs. The female lizards sexually mature in the 3rd year of their life, and their litter typically consists of 1-12 offspring.
The breeding season of these alligator lizards begins at the end of summer through fall and giving birth in spring.
What Do You Call a Baby Mexican Alligator Lizard?
The Mexican baby alligator has the common name of neonate but is scientifically known as abronia graminea. They usually reach maturity between 2 to 3 years of age. They are incredibly delicate and require a lot of careful handling.
Are They Suitable As Pets?
Mexican Alligator Lizard care is quite complex, and unlike other common pet lizards, these Alligator Lizards need a lot more care and work, which isn’t easy.
They are quite introverted and sensitive, due to which they require experienced keepers. This doesn’t stop some exotic pet enthusiasts keen to obtain this uncommon lizard species regardless of the consequences, which has added to its decline. As a protected animal, owning one might even land you in jail.
However, if you happen to get hold of one, provided it is from a reputable breeder, make sure to take all the necessary measures required to keep your lizard friend happy, healthy, and safe.
What Kind of Habitat Should One Provide For the Mexican Alligator Lizard?
Though these abronia lizards are not huge, they require a significant amount of space to utilize as much area as possible.
You should make sure the enclosure size is wide, tall, and spacious, providing enough ventilation with a screen or mesh enclosure to balance the temperature in the tank. However, if you choose a glass enclosure, make sure to install small electric fans for increased airflow.
Mexican Alligator Lizards, being arboreal, will require a habitat equipped with branches or vines for them to climb. A planted terrarium with shady leafy areas is also suitable as it creates the ideal conditions needed for the lizard and will prevent its overheating.
The quality of the substrate is important to provide adequate moisture for these lizards to thrive. Adding plants and some moss, like sphagnum moss or peat moss, in the enclosure can help the little lizard feel more at home.
Mexican alligator lizards are not your typical pets-hence they will not drink water from a water dish. Their enclosure must be misted from time to time, so there are visible water droplets on the leaves and branches, which is how they obtain moisture.
Investing in a good misting or fogging system may save you from this time-consuming activity.
Additionally, you can should the misting water with an aquarium conditioner to remove any harmful chemicals it might contain. Regular misting of the substrate should help provide the lizard with the moisture it needs.
But make sure to let the substrate dry out completely from time to time to prevent mold and bacterial infection. All in all, try to replicate the alligator lizard’s native habitat.
What is the Ideal Temperature For a Mexican Alligator Lizard?
Mexican Alligator lizards usually prefer cooler temperatures as they are easily susceptible to overheating. Setting up a UVB lamp to replicate sunlight will help maintain its health and color.
Although some keepers have found that adding a basking spot is also good for the lizard, this can be achieved by using a low-wattage bulb that can be switched on during the day and switched off during the night. The basking spot temperature should be between the range of 78°-82°F.
Depriving them of the UVB lighting can drastically affect their appearance and turn their bright emerald skin into a dull grey shine. Another option would be to allow them to bask in the outside sunlight in screened enclosures for a little while.
What Do the Mexican Alligator Lizards Eat?
Most reptiles like the Mexican alligator lizard are largely insectivorous and eat a variety of insects like crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, spiders, and larvae. Leafy green veggies are also nutritional for them and can be utilized by your lizard.
Mexican Alligator Lizards must be fed three times a week, though females will stop eating a month before giving birth, and males tend to eat considerably less during the breeding season. All Mexican Alligator Lizards have a reduced appetite in the winter months.
On the other hand, baby lizards need to eat daily by starting with small insects like fruit flies and gradually transitioning with crickets. Growing them together may cause them to pick on each other and fight amongst themselves for survival, so it’s best to allow them to grow separately.
Is There a Risk of Health Issues?
Improper care and carelessness can be detrimental to their health. If the specified requirements are not met, they might experience overheating, dehydration, stress, and risk developing metabolic bone disease.
Dehydration is the number one cause for the deaths of captive Mexican Alligator Lizards.
How to Bond With a Mexican Alligator Lizard?
These lizard species are very active and observant and might take some time to get accustomed to their surroundings and become comfortable with you. Some tong-feeding may help, but be careful! They won’t hesitate to bite you if you push them around too much, which might hurt quite a bit.
A hands-off approach would be better as they don’t like being handled often. It is best to give them some time and observe them from afar.
While the Mexican Alligator lizard is not your regular friendly reptile but if you’re willing to invest your time and money and once you’ve overcome the challenges of creating their perfect home and allow them to settle down in a new environment, you’re likely to win a place in their heart.
These endangered lizard species are very aggressive yet one of the most beautiful reptiles you will ever encounter. The skin and the scales make it look like a baby dragon.
But don’t misjudge them, they might be aggressive, but they are not deadly. They might bite when feeling threatened, but they are not venomous.
I hope this article on Mexican alligator lizards clears up all your doubts.