How Long Do Lizards Live? Reptile Lifespan Explained

Names such as Gila monster and Komodo dragon, conjure up images of creatures more suited to realms of science fiction.

Yet these mini-dinosaurs are very real, with many of the approximate 6,000 reptile species even more strange than some people may consider possible.

And with their less formidable reptilian cousins becoming increasingly popular as household pets, people are ever-more interested in the lifespan of lizards.

So how long do lizards live? We asked the experts.

How Long Do Lizards Live in the Wild?

Dr. James Stroud, a Postdoctoral Researcher at The Losos Lab at Washington University in St. Louis, told Newsweek about how the lifespan of the curious reptiles "can vary dramatically", due to the sheer diversity of the creatures.

This claim is supported by Martin Whiting, Professor of Animal Behavior at Sydney's Macquarie University, who said: "There is enormous variation in the lifespan of lizards."

He suggests the length of time these exemplars of evolution can roam the Earth can telescope from a mere matter of months to several decades, depending on several factors.

He told Newsweek: "For example, we sometimes apply plant terms to refer to annual lizards. Those are lizards that typically would not live longer than a year in the wild.

Green chameleon hunting
Green chameleon hunting. Lifespans could be anything between 2-50 years depending on breeds and if in captivity or wild kozorog/Getty Images

"In one extreme case—Labord's chameleon from Madagascar—most of its life is spent as an egg. Once the chameleon hatches, it reaches sexual maturity in less than two months, breeds, and dies at age four to five months.

"Incredibly, for part of the year, there are no chameleons in the population, only eggs.

"On the other end of the extreme, there are lizard species that live to their 40s, 50s and 60s.

"In many cases, we simply don't know how long a species lives in the wild because nobody has studied them for long enough to find out."

Professor Whiting cites the example of famed Australian scientist Mike Bull, who studied the Sleepy Lizard in South Australia.

He found this lizard to be unique, "because it may have the same partner for its entire life and some individuals he studied were close to 50 [years-old] and counting."

Green Iguana eye
Close-up of the eye of a Green Iguana. There are more than 6,000 known lizard species, with many boasting incredible characteristics Gaschwald/Getty Images

How Long Do Pet Lizards Live?

Reptiles such as lizards are becoming a growing fixture in today's family homes, meaning people are interested in knowing how long they can expect the creatures to live.

Professor Whiting believes lizards' lifespan is influenced by the conditions and care given to them while in captivity.

He said: "[There are] lizards that typically would not live longer than a year in the wild.

I say in the wild, because if you bring reptiles into captivity, they can live substantially longer because they don't deal with predators or parasites and they don't have to expend energy looking for food, which is plentiful."

Girl holding and playing with chameleon
Girl holding and playing with chameleon. Lizards living in captivity, may well be blessed with a long life—if looked after properly Sasiistock/Getty Images

How to Look After a Pet Lizard

Proper care and attention to a pet lizard's needs can help extend the reptile's lifespan.

Whether it is a gecko or an iguana; lighting, heating and humidity all play a key role in replicating the conditions of the creature's natural habitat, while its tank should always be kept extremely clean to avoid the onset of disease.

Every creature will likely have its distinct food preference, so avoiding a diet solely of insects can help prolong your beloved lizard's life.

As with many other popular pets, reptiles also need to consume sufficient quantities of calcium and vitamins in forms they enjoy.

And owners should always remember lizards are cold-blooded creatures, meaning the temperatures of their environment—including water sources— is vital to their well-being, comfort and lifespan.

skin of a chameleon
Detail of the particular colored skin of a chameleon. Different kinds of species have different lifespans Isaac74/Getty Images

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts