Can Lizards Swim?

Most lizards are usually equipped with four legs with five toes on each foot.  This enables them to run very fast and also makes them able to swim.  However, although lizards are able to swim, doing so can put stress on their bodies.  Warm water is best suited for a lizard to swim in, considering that they are cold blooded creatures that get their heat from their surroundings.  Watching a lizard closely though is a good idea as small lizards such as anoles can get tired very easily from swimming and have even been known to drown in some cases.  As a good rule of thumb it is good to make sure that the water never goes past a lizard’s shoulders, no matter what type of lizard it is.

Interestingly enough, known to exist also is a tiny lizard known as the sandfish.  This marvelous lizard moves through sand by literally diving under the surface of the ground as if it were swimming.  They tuck their legs up next to their bodies and move in an undulatory wave resembling fish through water.  Another interesting thing known about these creatures is that they can go slightly faster in tightly packed sand, as long as they vary the frequency of the wave created by the movement of their bodies.

Starting above the surface, these animals dive into the sand within half a second or so and once below the surface of the sand, they no longer use their limbs for propulsion.  Rather, they move forward by propagating a traveling wave down their bodies such as a snake would.  The large amplitude waves over the entire body are unlike the kinetics of other undulatory swimming organisms mentioned before that are the same size as the sandfish.  This creature demonstrates that both burrowing and swimming in complex media such as sand can have intricacy similar to that of movement in air and/or water, and that certain organisms can exploit the solid and fluid-like properties of these particular media to move effectively and efficiently within them.  This is astounding!


  1. Charles Morel says

    Lifted up the cover of our hot tub and a lizard took off swimming very fast to the other end of the spa, underneath the other half of the heavy cover. I went to the other side and when I lifted the cover I found the lizard in the corner, belly up, perfectly still, floating about 6 inches beneath the water. There was also a large cockroach that had just crawled out from the same spot. I went to get a small net and when I went to scoop out the “drowned” lizard, it “came to life” as if it was just holding it’s breath. I got it out and it jumped from the net to the garden. Now I wonder if it was trying to catch the cockroach by playing dead and waiting for it to come closer….LOL

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