Costa Rica is alive with wonderful reptilian faces


One of the joys of living in Costa Rica is the endless variety of wildlife. Additionally, wild animals are to be found everywhere—even in urban areas. One group of creatures I find fascinating is the lizards.

They exhibit a seemingly limitless variety in size, shape, color, and habitat.

They offer wonderful patterns and texture for photography. Finally, I love their faces—not very changeable, but piercingly intriguing.


Green Iguana

The true iguana of Costa Rica is the Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) or Iguana Verde in Spanish. It is also known as the American Iguana and is commonly just referred to as an Iguana.

This attractive reptile can attain a length of nearly five feet and it is common in most of lowland Costa Rica—including both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. During the breeding season, the male will exhibit a striking color change, becoming quite dramatically orange. He will also puff up the large air pouch below his chin, called a dewlap.

Apparently, lady iguanas find this a total turn-on.

Black Iguana

The Black Iguana (Ctenosaura similis) is more commonly known by its name in Spanish—Garrobo.. It has numerous other names including Black Ctenosaur (pronounced tina-sore) and Spiny-tailed Iguana. The Garrobo is also commonly known in Costa Rica as Gallina de Palo, Tree Chicken—because it lives in a tree and tastes like chicken.

The Garrobo is the fastest lizard in the world. It needs to be because everything wants to eat it—including us. It can also grow to be nearly five feet in length.

An interesting and very common misconception in Costa Rica is that Garrobos and Green Iguanas are the same species. Many people believe the Garrobo is the male and the Iguana is the female. In fact, they are separate species and there are males and females of both.

Jesus Christ Lizard

The Jesus Christ Lizard (Basiliscus basiliscus) is famous for its ability to run on top of the water to escape predators. Its name in Spanish is the same, Lagartija Jesucristo.
This is one of four basilisk lizard species found in Costa Rica.

Emerald Basilisk

The colorful Emerald Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons), or Basiliscus Verde in Spanish, is slightly larger than his more famous cousin, the Jesus Christ Lizard. It also enjoys a more extensive range. This lizard evades predators by blending in with the vegetation rather than showboat water walking.

Green Spiny Lizard

The Green Spiny Lizard (Scleroporus malachiticus) or Lagatija Espinosa Verde is common throughout Costa Rica, except for very high elevations. It is also sometimes referred to as the Emerald Swift.

This fellow often keeps me company in my small garden while I have my morning coffee, once the sun is high enough.

So, whether you wish to capture them with a camera or just observe and enjoy, think about paying a little more attention to our scaly friends the lizards.