Years ago I had a really tame five foot long twelve pound iguana that demonstrated what I felt was remarkable intelligence. As a baby and juvenile I spent a lot of time with him and the time investment really paid off once he grew up.

He was super tame and relaxed around people as an adult. He was potty trained to use either a shallow tub of water in the winter or the lawn during the summer or on road trips. He never tried to run away and could be trusted to come back inside when he was done pooping and sunning.

He had a heat station set up and was given free run of the house. With a lot of patience I was able to teach him to not eat the houseplants or climb on the sofa.

For a while he would not eat the plants when we were present, but was smart enough to sneak and eat plants when nobody was around, until I waited in ambush for him and caught him in the act a few times.

He clearly recognized individuals and would climb down from his perch and rapidly approach a friend who gave him treats when he visited when he saw that friend approaching through the window and ignore other people who did not. After he passed away, I was surprised at how small his brain was during the necropsy. Truly amazing the stuff that he was capable of with that tiny brain.

At some point I’ll do a post about how I tamed and trained that iguana.

For today, I came across a couple of very interesting things regarding lizard intelligence recently, and some of the research being done on that topic the past few years. I found a couple of videos for you that you may find interesting.

This first one deals with research being done by Manuel Leal and Brian Powell from Duke University using Anolis evermanni lizards. The problem solving ability of the lizards were tested by hiding worms under colored discs. The lizards had to figure out a way to move the disc to get at the worm beneath. Different individuals solved the problem of moving the disc in different ways some used their nose as a lever to move the disc, others grabbed the disc in their mouths to move it. Which I find amazing. Later, different colored discs were used to see if the lizards would figure out where the worms were based on color and experience and then to find out of they would try another color after failing at the usual color. Fascinating stuff.



Sources of interest:

The anolis video and short article about the research can be found here.

The published anolis research can be obtained here.

This next video done by NOVA titled “Lizard Kings: On the Trail of the Monitor Lizards: NOVA” deals with monitor lizards intelligence in nature and in the lab. I originally saw this on Netflix watch it instantly and the quality is better than this. This isn’t bad but if you have Netflix you might want to watch it there instead of watching here.

I’m only putting the first section here, but when it ends it gives you a link to click to watch the rest over on PBS. It is delivered in 6 segments. Segment 5 deals with research done in the lab in Tennessee, and I found it really fascinating. Among other things they have shown that monitor lizards can count to six!


Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

A couple of random thoughts on this last video that have nothing to do with lizard intelligence.

They showed bearded dragons in the red sands area of Australia. Clearly running around on a very sandy substrate in nature. There is a spreading fad opinion lately online here in America about bearded dragons’ natural substrate being hard clay and keepers only using ceramic tile claiming this is “more natural” as it supposedly mimics sun-baked clay earth and kind of condemning sand substrate keepers. I think this video shows that at least in some places, a sand substrate is fairly natural. Actually inland bearded dragons are fairly wide-ranging and adaptable and hardy and occur in somewhat varied habitat.

Also I noticed they used earthworms sometimes as a treat for the monitor lizards in the lab. I thought that was interesting I don’t think I’ve ever tried earthworms with my monitor lizards.

I was also interested to see that the monitor lizards were performing well in the lab tests even though to my eyes they didn’t appear particularly healthy. Anyone else notice that as well?

Next video.

Target trained monitors at the National Zoo. Individual Monitor lizards are trained to go to different colored targets for feeding on command. This prevents feeding aggression and makes handling the lizards easier (say if they need to be collected for veterinary examination).



Lots of other interesting videos and information about training lizards, turtles, snakes and crocodilians can be found at

Final video for today.

Step by step how to target train your own lizard. Owner gets lizard to ring a bell for a reward.



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