Most species are active terrestrial or rock-living species, while a few others are arboreal. All are diurnal heliotherms. The exceptionally long tails of Asian grass lizards are prehensile to allow them to climb in vegetation. Of the many desert-living species, the most superbly adapted is the shovel-snouted lizard (Meroles anchietae) of the Namib Desert. It has large hindlimbs with fringed toes to help it run quickly over loose sand, and an aptly named snout that allows it to dive under the sand to escape predators and to sleep in cooler, deeper sand. Hatchlings of the Kalahari sand lizard (Heliobo-lus lugubris) are boldly marked in black and white and walk with a stiff-legged gait. They mimic the noxious oogpister ("eye squirter") beetle (Anthia), but when adult they become colored in cryptic tans and brown.

When attacked, lacertids can discard their tail. From the sixth vertebrae backwards, every tail bone has a special plane of weakness through its body. There are corresponding weak points in the surrounding connective tissue and musculature. If the tail is held, circular muscles at that position contract strongly, the tissues break, and the tip of the tail falls off. The discarded fragment continues to twist violently to attract the attention of the attacker while the tailless lizard escapes. The shortened tail can regrow, but it lacks bone and is supported only by a central rod of cartilage.

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