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The Smallest Reptiles in the World

Updated on July 20, 2017

It is easy to be impressed by big things. People around the world are in total awe of whales, elephants, giraffes, and komodo dragons. It can be hard being the little guy - especially if you're so little most people wouldn't even see you if you were resting on their bed stand. Below are some of the smallest animals on earth - the smallest reptiles known to man.

This dwarf chameleon from Madagascar is one of the world's smallest lizard. This juvenile can sit comfortably on a match head.
This dwarf chameleon from Madagascar is one of the world's smallest lizard. This juvenile can sit comfortably on a match head.

The World's Smallest Lizard

Dwarf chameleons were recently in the news when researchers discovered four distinct species living in Madagascar. These tiny little creatures lived in the leaf litter but would come up to sleep in branches at night where scientists with very good eyesight could spot them. The animals were so small the researchers were afraid loss of habitat might make them go extinct in the near future. With this in mind they gave them scientific names that mirrored their concerns, meaning "sad" and "desperate." Personally I would have given them names meaning "hopeful" and "optimistic" but who am I? I'm certainly not a lizard researcher. Juvenile dwarf chameleons can sit on the head of a match but they're not the smallest lizard ever found, that would have to go to a very charismatic gecko - no, not the one on the car insurance commercials, but his distant cousin Sphaerodactylus ariasae which as an adult only grows to be 18mm long. They are also island species, living in Dominican Republic. This one here can be seen stretching out over a dime.

Sphaerodactylus ariasae is the world's smallest lizard, measuring a mere 18mm long.
Sphaerodactylus ariasae is the world's smallest lizard, measuring a mere 18mm long.
Teeny and Tiny are the world's smallest two-headed turtle.
Teeny and Tiny are the world's smallest two-headed turtle.

The World's Smallest Turtle

The world's smallest two-headed turtle is the strange distinction given to Teeny & Tiny, beloved freaks owned by the Venice Beach Freak Show in Los Angeles. At six months old this musk turtle is still only the size of a nickel.

However if you are looking for the smallest overall species the North American Bog Turtle holds the record, only growing to a little over four inches at maturity. Sadly their overall adorable size has made them prime subjects for poaching for the black market pet trade. Despite being listed as a threatened species they are still captured for this purpose. In the meanwhile bog turtles that are left in their natural habitat have a hard time replenishing their population because they take 5-8 years to reach sexual maturity and females only lay 1-6 eggs every year after that. The future is not looking so bright for the Bog Turtle, so please if you find one while you're out taking a hike, let it be!


The Bog Turtle of North America is the smallest true turtle - growing only a little more than 4 inches in length.
The Bog Turtle of North America is the smallest true turtle - growing only a little more than 4 inches in length.

The World's Smallest Tortoise

The world's smallest tortoise is even smaller than the world's smallest turtle. This record belongs to the speckled padloper tortoise of Africa. Males are smaller than their female counterparts and only reach 2-3 inches at full maturity. They are also threatened by poaching from the pet trade as well as predation from introduced species (mostly dogs) and a lack of food caused by the overgrazing of livestock. They don't usually fair well in captivity and when they do breeding them is insanely difficult. These little guys only lay one egg a year.

The speckled padloper tortoise is the smallest tortoise in the world with males reaching 3 inches and females reaching four inches at full maturity.
The speckled padloper tortoise is the smallest tortoise in the world with males reaching 3 inches and females reaching four inches at full maturity.

The World's Smallest Snake

Leptotyphlops carlae was only discovered in 2008 when a researcher flipped over a rock and saw the four inch long snake lying there. It lives in Barbados and probably eats termites and other bugs. Like the smallest tortoise these snakes spend all their reproductive energies making one egg at a time - but it is a very impressive egg! By the time the baby snake hatches from it they are already half the length of their parents. The reason for this might be because a larger clutch size would mean smaller offspring which might not be able to find anything small enough to eat. It's an interesting strategy.

The world's smallest snake is as thick as a spaghetti noodle and only grows 4 inches long.
The world's smallest snake is as thick as a spaghetti noodle and only grows 4 inches long.

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    • Theophanes profile image
      Author

      Theophanes 5 years ago from New England

      Awe, that's alright. I had some spiny mice the same problem - little buggars were fast, completely wild, and had tails that would just snap off at a whim. I ended up taking photos of them through the aquarium walls!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      I tried to get a picture of those little geckos in my kitchen to send you, but every time I catch one (no matter how delicate I am) the tail falls off. I have no idea how that photographer captured that cute little chameleon to put on a matchstick, but I have quit trying.

    • Theophanes profile image
      Author

      Theophanes 5 years ago from New England

      Thank you everyone. I am glad you enjoyed my article and hopefully learned a little something. :) As always I a m very happy you stopped by to comment and i think the wee reptiles are too!

    • adity5 profile image

      adity5 5 years ago

      Found the hub interesting :)....loved the way you wrote...Voted up and sharing !!

    • SkySlave profile image

      Skyler DeCristoforo 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This is all news to me. Very interesting! Finally found something fun to read today. Thanks for sharing.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Whoa. Small and dangerous! Wonderful share, Theophanes!! Voting up and passing it around.

    • Theophanes profile image
      Author

      Theophanes 5 years ago from New England

      LoL. Thank you djseldomridge. Animal articles are always fun. I am sure there will always be more for me to write about!

    • djseldomridge profile image

      Donna Seldomridge 5 years ago from Delaware

      I had no idea!! Really, really interesting hub! More...

    • Theophanes profile image
      Author

      Theophanes 5 years ago from New England

      No problem, as always it's been a joy to write. :)

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Fascinating stuff. Thank you for this.

    • Theophanes profile image
      Author

      Theophanes 5 years ago from New England

      Ah, to be so lucky.... I live in New England and I had no idea that lizards were very populous in the US until I took a trip across the Lower 48. I can't tell you how delighted I was to keep spotting them! I was even fortunate enough to spot a curly-tailed lizard in the dessert somewhere - I want to say it was Death Valley. Amazing little creatures.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      That little optimistic chameloon looks really sad! He must be thinking how hard it is going to be to find his next meal. (I see geckos about that size sometimes in my kitchen, and wonder how in the world a lizard that small is going to find his next meal.)

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