Why do lizards show their dewlap?


Lizards are fascinating creatures that exhibit several unique physical features. One such feature is the dewlap, a flap of skin that hangs from the throat region of many lizard species. The dewlap is often brightly colored and can be one of the most striking features of the lizard’s appearance. In this article, we will explore the reasons why lizards show their dewlap and the various functions it serves.

Dewlap in lizards

The dewlap is a loose flap of skin that is located on the throat region of many lizard species. It is typically larger in males than females and can be expanded or contracted depending on the lizard’s needs. The dewlap is often brightly colored and may have a distinct pattern, making it an important part of the lizard’s appearance.

Function of dewlap

The dewlap serves several functions in lizards. One of the main functions is to attract mates during the breeding season. The dewlap is often displayed by males in a flashy manner to attract females. The dewlap may also be used for thermoregulation, communication, and even as a defensive mechanism against predators.

Mating and dewlap display

During the breeding season, male lizards will often display their dewlap in a flashy manner to attract females. The dewlap may be expanded to its full size and bright colors may be displayed to catch the attention of females. Males may also bob their head or perform other mating rituals to further attract females.

Thermoregulation and dewlap

The dewlap may also serve a thermoregulatory function in lizards. By expanding the dewlap, lizards can increase their surface area for heat exchange with the environment, allowing them to regulate their body temperature more effectively. This is particularly important in cooler climates where lizards need to bask in the sun to regulate their body temperature.

Communication through dewlap

Lizards may also use their dewlap to communicate with other lizards. The dewlap can be expanded or contracted to signal aggression or submission, and may also be used to establish dominance hierarchies within groups of lizards.

Species with prominent dewlap

Several species of lizards have particularly prominent dewlaps that are used for display and communication. Anoles, chameleons, and iguanas are just a few examples of lizards with striking dewlaps.

Dewlap color and pattern

The color and pattern of the dewlap is often species-specific and may serve as a form of visual communication between individuals. Bright colors and distinct patterns may be used to signal fertility or dominance, while duller colors may be used to blend in with the environment.

Dewlap development and growth

The dewlap typically develops and grows as the lizard matures. In some species, the dewlap may be fully developed by the time the lizard reaches sexual maturity, while in others it may continue to grow and change throughout the lizard’s life.


The dewlap is an important physical feature of many lizard species. It serves several functions, including attracting mates, thermoregulation, communication, and defense. The color and pattern of the dewlap may be species-specific and may change throughout the lizard’s life. Overall, the dewlap is a fascinating aspect of lizard biology and behavior, and one that continues to be studied by biologists and herpetologists around the world.

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