Everything You Need to Know About Identifying Lizard Droppings
There is a lot you can tell about an animal from its poop. Apparently. Even with humans, today you can get gut biome tests that will tell you all the different types of food you should and shouldn’t eat, any nasty biotics and bugs lingering around and things that you may be deficient or allergic too. It can be fascinating stuff. They can tell all of this from your poop.
Similarly with animal poop, we can learn a lot about any bacteria or parasites that may thrive in them, what they like to eat or what they have a problem with. We can even tell how animals are adapting to climate change, by changes in their poop, particularly around changes in diet.
But not all poop is the same. Take lizard poop for example. Their poop can look very different to the poop of mammals. You might not even recognise it as poop, with its little white cap. That is the focus of this post.
Here we are going to look at all things lizard poop, from what it looks like, to where they poop, and why that matters!
What Does Lizard Poop Look Like?
Although similar in some ways to the poop of other animals, there are very noticeable differences with lizard poop.
Lizard poop is different than other animal poop because it has two “parts” to it. At one end of their waste, they deposit a small white or yellowish section that is actually the lizard’s urine. Because lizards hold more moisture in their urine, the uric acid crystals form a solid or semi-solid mass called a urea cap or smear.
They are not the only animal to do this, and you will have no doubt noticed a similar appearance, if not texture to many types of bird poop for example. Indeed this single arrangement for depositing waste is found in birds, some amphibians as well as reptiles such as snakes too!
Bird poop has the same color to it, the dark faecal matter and the light colored urine. Though the texture is different, usually more loose and when dropped from a height, usually more splattered.
Lizard droppings on the other hand, are usually long and thin, and they can be black, brown or, on occasion, green. The green poop only usually happens when a lizard has had some green coloring in their diet, sometimes from lots of green leafy vegetables. It doesn’t happen often but it’s not dangerous when it does. This has been noticed many times with bearded dragons kept as pets.
Lizard poop is also usually small and dry. They often have a strong smell, and they can be hard to clean up.
What Is In Lizard Poop?
Unlike mammals and other animals, lizards don’t have separate means to get rid of different types of waste. They have a single opening area called the cloaca, where deposits from the digestive tract, reproductive organs or urinary tract are collectively relieved from the body. So their poop is a collection of all these waste materials.
There is usually an order to the poop though, and it is not all mixed together. You can tell easily from a healthy lizard, which parts of the deposit are poop, and which are urine.
Where Do Lizards Poop?
Lizards typically poop close by to the same place that they eat, which is usually near their water source. Depending on the size and weight of the lizard, they may poop on the ground, in branches or on leaves. But they very often poop when they are in water.
In captivity, they very often poop in their water bowl. It can be a good idea to have two water sources for them. One for bathing and pooping, and the one for drinking. In the wild though, they will often use the one water source for all their needs.
Why Do They Poop In Water?
Lizards are ectotherms, which means that they get their heat from the environment instead of from their own bodies. This means that they have to be very careful about where they poop.
It’s much easier for lizards to dump their droppings in water than it is for them to dump them on land. When they poop in water, the current quickly carries away their droppings and helps to regulate their temperature at the same time. This is why you’ll often see lizards pooping in streams or puddles.
Water, and particularly warm water can act as a relaxant, to calm and even soften faeces, allowing for an easier deposit.
Another possible reason they do it in water, is that poop can attract predators. By pooping in water, the lizard is making it more difficult for predators to find them, by masking their scent.
How Often Do They Poop?
The frequency of lizards pooping varies depending on a number of conditions, as it does for all species. If you were to go days without food and very little water, you would soon find a change in your poop frequency. Lizards are the same. How often they eat and drink, as well as what they consume, their size and environment all play a part in determining how often they poop.
There are a few commonalities though:
Size – Smaller lizards like geckos tend to poop more often than large ones like the Nile monitor.
Diet – Lizards that eat meat poop less than herbivorous lizards. Those eating more vegetation will produce more waste material naturally. There is less fibrous residue in meat to pass through as waste.
Location – Those with a reliable water source, in humid or temperate conditions with a steady climate will poop more frequently and easier than those facing a water shortage, arid or volatile temperatures.
Is All Lizard Poop The Same?
Although most lizard poop is basically the same, there can be some variation. Some lizards’ droppings may be more watery than others, and some may have a stronger smell. Different species of lizards will have different-sized and different-colored poop.
Herbivorous lizards that eat a lot of leafy vegetation may poop green from time to time, whereas carnivorous lizards won’t have the same exposure to green dyes in their diet, so are likely to never poop green.
All lizards will poop with the same split between faecal matter and a urine cap though.
What Does Lizard Poop Tell Us?
Lizard poop can tell us a lot about the lizard’s diet and overall health. For example, if a lizard’s droppings are particularly watery like diarrhea it may be overhydrated or have an intolerance to something in their diet. And if the droppings are very smelly, the lizard may have an infection.
How Dirty Is Lizard Poop?
Lizard poop can be pretty dirty, especially if the lizard is eating a lot of insects. The droppings can contain bits of insect shell and other debris, as well as urine and feces. So it’s important to wash your hands after handling lizard poop.
If you do come into contact with lizard droppings, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Lizard droppings can be a valuable source of information for scientists. By studying the parasites present in lizard droppings, for example, scientists can learn more about the parasites’ life cycles and how they spread. Lizard droppings can also be used to determine the health of lizards in the wild.
Can You Get Sick From Lizard Poop?
Yes, you can get sick from lizard poop, although the risk is small.
Lizard droppings can contain bacteria like Salmonella, as well as viruses and other parasites that can make you sick. If you touch or inhale lizard droppings, you may end up with a respiratory infection, diarrhea, or another illness.
So it’s important to take precautions when dealing with lizard poop. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling it, and avoid breathing in the dust or fumes from the droppings. You should also always wash vegetables and salad leaves before you eat them, particularly if you have grown them at home.
If you do get sick after coming into contact with lizard droppings, be sure to see a doctor.
Lizards are interesting creatures, and their droppings can tell us a lot about them. For example, the color of their poop can indicate what they’ve been eating. Black or dark brown droppings usually mean that the lizard has been eating insects. Green droppings usually mean that the lizard has been eating plants. Droppings can also indicate that the lizard is sick or that it’s not getting enough food.
Lizard poop can also tell us about the health of the lizard. Parasites, for example, are often present in lizard droppings. If you see parasites in lizard droppings, it’s a good idea to take the lizard to a vet for treatment.