Purposes of Reptile Skin and Scales Are More Than Skin Deep

Reptile Skin

Our knowledge of reptile skin and scales only scratches the surface for many of us. Their outer layering provides functionality and protection in numerous ways.

Most functions of the skin and scales are primarily for the health and wellness of most lizard species.

UVB Light Absorption

UVB light is absorbed through the skin and helps the reptile convert inactive vitamin D to active vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 helps the intestines absorb vital calcium from your lizard’s diet.


Reptiles bask in the sun or under a basking light for thermoregulation. To get the warmth they need, they can indirectly receive warmth from a heated surface, such as a Zen Cave, or direct heat from the sun. Zen Habitats’ wood and PVC reptile enclosures are designed for you to choose the most appropriate habitat for your species of lizard.

The Right Tank Helps Skin and Scale Health

The health of a reptile, and their can skin and scales, can be significantly impacted by their cage and setup. Check out our Zen Habitats cages. Features of our vivariums that maintain your lizard’s health include their:

  • Bamboo-finished panels – Our stackable wood and PVC reptile habitats are better than glass at retaining heat, helping to maintain ambient temperatures at a lower cost.
  • Non-reflective surfaces Most reptiles are territorial and do not like their own reflections. Our surfaces reduce your reptile’s anxiety.
  • Front-opening doors – Minimize stress when approaching your lizard.
  • Larger enclosure sizes – A larger-sized habitat provides room for your reptile to run, jump, and climb. We offer 120-gallon wood reptile tanks. Our PVC reptile enclosures are available in 30- to 240-gallon options.
  • Stackable and expandable – Our stackable terrariums are designed to setup and grow with your pet or add more lizards to your family. Our stands and spacers, and extension kits are designed to provide a secure setup. Try the Design Your Dream Setup tool to see how you can make your custom reptile enclosure setup.


Many reptiles use camouflage as their first line of defense against predators. A great example is the Chahoua Gecko, also called mossy prehensile-tailed geckos. Their coloring is primarily brown, green, and rust, with some having patches on the napes of their necks and tails that mimic moss.

Chahoua Gecko


Reptiles release pheromones from their skin to communicate with other reptiles. These pheromones are for territory marking, breeding, or danger signaling. Skin coloring also influences sexual selection. Brighter male lizards may attract females better than their less bright rivals.

Water Transport

Reptiles are efficient at conserving water, and much of this is due to their skin. Reptiles have a heavily keratinized epidermis that is water-tight and prevents water loss.

Some functions of the skin and scales are more specific to certain species.

Infrared Capabilities

Snake Enclosures

Certain snake species have infrared receptors, or pits, located between the nostrils and the eyes. These pits allow the snake to feel hot-blooded animals and attack them in the dark.

Better Movement

The belly scales on a snake are different from those on the rest of its body. They are specifically for slithering, grabbing onto tiny surface imperfections to create friction and propel the snake forward.

Body Shaping

Scales on certain reptile species will determine their shape. For example, burrowing lizards have smooth, slippery-like scales that make them more streamlined for their habitat.


When a rattlesnake is born, it only has one segment at the end of its tail. As it grows and sheds, new segments develop. These segments are loosely connected, and when shaken 50-100 times per second by the snake, a rattling sound wards off predators or distracts prey.

Crests, Spines, Flaps, and Frills

Bearded Dragon

These reptile features are mainly used in defensive displays but can also indicate territorial boundaries or attract females.

Sub Digital Adhesion

Geckos have microscopic hairs on their feet that make them stick to walls. The molecular physics term for this is Van der Waals Force.

Protected Vision

All snakes and some lizards do not have eyelids; they have brille that helps to protect their eyes. It is a layer of transparent, non-movable, and disk-shaped skin on the reptile that protects its eyes.

Read the care sheets to learn more about how to ensure the health of your pet’s skin and scales and when you should seek treatment.

Want to learn even more about reptile skin and scales? Watch our YouTube video on the topic!

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