lizard smelling

Can Lizard Smell?

lizard smelling with tongueYou can see lizards everywhere, and you can see them flicking their tongue. Why do they do that? Do they flick their tongue for smelling? If not, then how do they smell or can, they even smell? This article will answer your questions. 

So can lizards smell? Yes, lizards can smell very well. They can distinguish different types of smell using their tongue. They use their tongue to capture the odor from air, and then they put the tongue at the roof of the mouth which has specialized cells in it, and that helps them to identify the odor.

This feature is also present in snakes. They use this same technique to smell. This gives a very accurate reading so much that they can even differentiate a mouse from other animals.

In the same way, the lizard can also distinguish specific insects. They can smell fellow lizards or predators. They use their tongue to get detailed information about their environment. They use their tongue frequently to get an up to date idea about the surroundings.

What Is Smell?

To understand how lizards smell, you need to know what exactly is the smell. Smell is nothing but chemicals released by certain things. It can be food, metals, colors etc. The ability to detect this smell depends upon specific organisms. Some organisms have extremely developed smell organs that can detect the smell of certain things from miles away.

In contrast, others can detect it from a few feet. A classic example would be a dog and a human. Dogs can smell from miles away wheres humans can only smell from few feet away unless the smell is extremely strong.

Just because we cannot smell something; it doesn’t mean the smell is not present in the air. It’s just we don’t have such developed sense organs to smell those chemicals from miles away. 

Lizards can pick up the chemicals from the air using their tongue, and by using the help of their specialized cells present in the roof of their mouth, they can identify the smell better than humans. 

This ability gives them a decent idea of where the food is, where they need to go and which place to avoid. We humans cannot do that until we are quite close to the subject. 

The odor generated by the objects travels through the air. It can reach different places which can confuse people that the source may be nearby, whereas, in reality, the source is much far away. 

Lizards are difficult to confuse even in this matter as they can identify the source of the smell. 

Why The Ability To Smell Is Important To Lizard?

This ability to smell their surroundings using their tongue is essential to lizards because, without that, they will have some vital information about the environment and their preys. This smell draws a picture of their surroundings in their head, enabling them to navigate to the precise location for hunting. 

Without the tongue, lizard won’t be able to do that. That’s why the tongue is essential to the lizard. The ability to smell is one of their primary sense, so losing that means losing the opportunity to spot and catch insects. 

Their ability to smell is extremely advanced since it’s been evolving for millions of years. This ability gives them the upper hand on the battlefield.

Can Lizard Get Confused While Smelling?

Yes can be fooled when they are smelling something but it won’t be easy. Their smelling abilities are well-developed, and they can differentiate an object really well. But if you add fake smell to an object, the lizard might think that it is the object they want.

For example, if you add the smell of their favorite insect in a paper, the lizard might think that it is the insect and may try to attack it. But once they realize it tastes and looks different, then the lizard may lose interest. 

A lizard doesn’t just rely on their sense of smell. They also use other senses to understand what’s going on in the environment, so they analyse the situation with the other senses and then take the required action. If the object looks different, then the lizard will get very cautious and will approach it carefully.

What Happens When A Lizard Cannot Smell?

What Happens When A Lizard Cannot SmellIf all of the senses are working correctly and the lizard is unable to smell something, then they will understand that there is something wrong. This will also awaken their curiosity. As a result, the lizard might try to look around that place to find what’s going on. This curiosity can also lead them to a trap. 

The lizard is able to differentiate what is are dangerous to them and what is not just by using their ability to smell. For example, they know that petroleum or other substances can be dangerous, and they won’t go to that place. If they smell a lot of insects over those places, then they might go, but they will be very cautious.

Predators can blend themselves with other smells in the surroundings, and that can fool a lizard. This is a unique skill that many predators possess and is useful while hunting. If a lizard is not able to differentiate the smell of predators form the surroundings, then the lizard won’t run away from that place and will also become careless. 

This is a perfect opportunity for predators to make a sneak attack on the lizard and capture it. But if the lizard can detect the slightest movement in the nearby surroundings, then the lizard will run away immediately even though their smell nothing over there.

That’s why many predators use camouflage. If a predator camouflage itself, then it will difficult for the lizard to find the predators even if it senses some movements.

Camouflage is also useful in confusing senses because even if the lizard can smell the predator, it won’t see it coming. A lighting fast strike from the predator will catch the lizard off guard, and the game will be over in an instant.

Can Lizard Smell And Differentiate Humans?

Can Lizard Smell And Differentiate HumansA lizard has developed smelling system by which they can identify humans, but they cannot differentiate who is who. They cannot differentiate who is the owner and who is not the owner.

This shows that even with the developed smelling system, they cannot differentiate every person. If they feel threatened by a person, they will attack them even if that is the owner.

Some lizards are exceptions like monitor lizards, iguanas. They are more developed than average lizards so they can identify their caretakers not just through smell but by using all the senses.

To identify every individual differently, the lizard needs to have a more developed brain than an average lizard, i.e. they need to be intelligent. Most lizards don’t have this intelligence level, so that’s why they cannot identify their owners.

So, if you have home gecko or other small lizards in your house as pets, then chances are they don’t recognize you as owners. They behave properly with you because you handle them carefully and you provide them with food. The ability to smell is not enough to identify humans individually. They need superior intelligence.


A lizard has a well-developed smelling system that allows them to identify their prey and eat them. A Lizard flicks it’s tongue and put it in there inside their head where specialized cell helps them to identify the smell. 

With that, they can know about their surroundings and their prey. A lizard can get an accurate reading of the smell around them, but even with that, hey cannot differentiate every single human. They cannot identify who is who but they can recognize that there is a human being in the surroundings. 

Big lizards and all other lizards also use the smell to identify their target and to also helps them to stay away from the predators. Lizards ability to smell is one of the most complicated things that have developed over millions of years.

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