Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Common Lizards

A trip to the desert just doesn't seem complete unless you see some lizards. Lizards are reptiles, and are generally fairly easy to spot because they make a rustling sound as they move around on feet with five-clawed toes. Getting a good look at one can be difficult, though, because they move so quickly. So I've done the hard part for you. I've found some lizards, managed to photograph them, and spent hours flipping through my A Guide to Field Identification of Reptiles of North America and then went to the internet because the entries are much more interesting. Here's what I found out.
The desert horned lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos) is a pudgy-looking lizard, and because it's so cute I get more excited about seeing this one than most others. It has small horns on its head (imagine that), and cryptic coloring that allows it to blend in with its habitat. It's one of about seven horned lizards found throughout the deserts of North America.

With its orangish head, this lizard doesn't blend in as well with its surroundings. As best as I can tell (and if you're a herpetologist and know better, let me know), it's the orange-headed desert spiny lizard (Sceloporus magister cephaloflavus), which has a wide distribution throughout the North American deserts. One cool thing about this lizard is that if the temperature decreases, it can turn its dark spots even darker to soak up even more heat. 

This sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus graciosus) can be distinguished from its close relative the western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) by its longitudinal stripes that run parallel along its body. As you can probably guess, the sagebrush lizard likes to hang out in sagebrush habitats. What you might not guess is that this little guy is a voracious ant eater. It will also eat other insects and arachnids. 

Here's another view of the sagebrush lizard checking out its surroundings. (I can just tell it's thinking "How close should I let her come to take her freakin' photograph?") They are quick to frighten, and they take refuge under bushes, in burrows, or wherever they can get away from you. They mate in the spring, typically lay a clutch of four eggs in June and the eggs hatch in August. I will soon be on the lookout for them so I can show you. (Please pretend you care.)

I should mention that if you come out to the desert in really cold weather, you won't see any lizards. They aren't that dumb. They like to wiggle into loose soil or hide in other animals' burrows to keep a relatively constant temperature. If you are trying to find lizards in warm weather, one of the best techniques is to go to some lizard habitat (a golf course is not good habitat), and sit still. Eventually a lizard will run by. You don't have to do anything except sit there. See, I knew I could convince you to like lizards!

1 comment:

Lori said...

Just don't make me touch them..

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