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Why Do Lizards Do The Neck Thing? (Seduce A Mate?)

If you have ever seen lizards with a puffed-up neck you may have wondered why they do this “neck thing”, or how it benefits them…

Why do lizards do the neck thing?

There are several reasons why a lizard might do “the neck thing”, also known as puffing up its neck. Some of the common reasons are a defensive reaction when it feels threatened, a way to attract a mate, and a tool to claim territory. This is used be several species of lizards.

So, now you know. But, what things can trigger this behavior? Do female lizards have these dewlaps? Do some lizards bob their head to display their neck thing more? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

What is the Lizard “Neck Thing”?

Why do lizards do the neck thing?

An Anole lizard with a bright orange dewlap.

The lizard “Neck Thing” is commonly known as puffing up their throat. This is seen in various lizards such as Anole or Bearded Dragons. It is used for various reasons such as attracting attention from the opposite sex and fending off threatening enemies.

For lizards, like the Anole, the throat can have bright and vibrant color making it stick out quite a lot and make it a real visual display to other lizards or even us humans.

3 things that can trigger a lizard to do the “neck thing”:

By now, you should have a good understanding of what the “neck thing” is. But, you may be interested to understand a few more things that can trigger this interesting display:

01. Defensive reaction

One of the main reasons the neck is puffed up is to ward off perceived threats. This can be other animals or lizards that appear to be causing a problem. For example, the male Anole is known to inflate its dewlap, which is the colored skin throat pouch that gets inflated, to ward off these dangers.

You may also notice that when this Anole does this they may also do some weird head movements like head bobbing or standing in a menacing posture to intimidate its foe. This is usually enough to warn off their enemy and go on with their day.

02. Attracting a mate

Another important use of neck puffing is to attract a mate. In particular, a male lizard, such as an Anole, will use it during the mating season to attract a mate. As well as puffing out their dewlap, they will also do some interesting body moves like bobbing their head and push up.

The mating season is quite a long duration, so you could see this behavior anywhere from early spring, right through to the end of the summertime.

03. Claim their territory

Male lizards in particular will be keen to claim their territory. For example, the male using its dewlap inflated to appear bigger and more menacing to its perceived “intruder”. This is usually enough to make the other lizard think twice before proceeding into its territory.

What is the red thing on a lizard’s neck?

The red thing on a lizard’s neck is known as the dewlap, it is a fold of skin that can be inflated. It varies a lot in size and color depending on the species of lizard that has it. For example, some Anole lizards have a bright red dewlap. And, when it is inflated it stands out a lot.

The red coloration is nature’s way of warning any enemies. Think of it as the lizard’s big sign saying “back off”! However, it can also be used oppositely, as a way to attract a mate.

If you compare this to us, humans, a big strong muscle man can intimidate a smaller skinnier man. But, those same muscles can be used to attract a partner, are you with me?

Why do lizards puff their throats?

are monitor lizard dangerous - Black Throat Monitor Lizard

Newborn Black Throat Monitor Lizard, Varanus Albigularis.

Lizards puff their throats for a few reasons such as attracting another lizard for mating or to warn off their enemies. Bearded Dragons or Anoles are classic examples of lizards that use this tactic. The Anole in particular has quite a spectacular expandable throat, known as a dewlap.

So, if you have seen these lizards expanding their throats in this way you now know why they do it and some examples of a couple of lizard species that do it.

When lizards puff out their necks?

A lizard will puff out its neck when it feels in danger or the need to mate. For example, the male Bearded Dragon is known to puff out its neck to frighten off another male beardie. This may be done to warn it away from a female so it can mate, for example.

An interesting thing about these Beardies in particular is when their throat turns black while they are puffing it up. Which is quite a contrast to some Anole lizards that have a bright red vibrant color.

Are frill neck lizards dangerous?

Frill neck lizards, or Frilled lizards as they are commonly known, are not regarded as dangerous. They do look dangerous because of their frilled neck, loud hisses, and pink mouth interior. It is enough to scare off most predators, or even us humans.

However, this is all an act used to scare off their predators, and it works quite well. Hence the reason you are reading this now wondering how dangerous they are, right?

Do female lizards have dewlaps?

Some female lizards do have dewlaps. For example, some female Anoles have smaller ones and they are not as bright as the males. One theory is that the male dewlap is generally bigger and brighter because they are more aggressive and need to fend off rival males and attract females.

So, if you have ever wondered if a female lizard has a dewlap you now have an idea about this and a theory as to why males generally have a more prominent and brighter one.

Is the female dewlap smaller?

In general, a female dewlap is smaller. It is often not just smaller but not as bright as a male. In some cases, the color may be very close to their body color and not stand out much at all.

If you think about it logically, the male tends to use its dewlap to attract the female, so there needs to be some distinction between them or they would not stand out to them.

If you compare it to us, humans, if the opposite sex were very similar there would not be anything to make us fancy them, I mean, would you fancy your partner if they were like a mirror image of you? Exactly!

Do Anole lizards bob their head to display their neck?

Anole lizards are known to bob their head to display their neck. In particular, their puffed-up dewlap. This is either to make themselves look bigger to make their predator or rival male lizards think twice about attacking them. This movement is known as the “head bob”.

This head movement is quite interesting and often gets attention. Hence the reason they do this.


Hi, this is me with my daughter and my Lizard friend. I hope you enjoy my research. Please feel free to check out my "About Me" page to find out more about me.