In The Desert
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Photo Courtesy of Martin Feldner
Yucca Night Lizard also called the Night Lizard. Like all night lizards, the desert night lizard is viviparous, giving birth to live young and producing 1 to 3 young from August to December. The night lizard is 1½ to 2¾ inches long with a tail roughly the same length. The lizard's coloring is usually gray, yellow-brownish or olive. Despite their name, night lizards are active during the day. They are known to easily change their color, from light olive (usually during the evening) to dark brown during the day. It is a good climber and usually eats termites, small insects, spiders and other arthropods.
(Xantusia vigilis vigilis)
Yucca Night Lizard
Photo Courtesy of Martin Feldner
Banded Rock Lizard Enlarge
Banded Rock Lizard is an extremely flat bodied lizard with an olive, brown or grey dorsum and white or bluish spots on dorsum. It has a single black collar, a banded tail, and granular scales on its body with keeled tail and limb scales. It is 6.2 to 8.7 cm long. Males have more pronounced throat patterns and brighter blue coloring than females. These lizards are associated with boulder hillsides
Banded Rock Lizard
This is one lizard that you see a lot of in the desert. The Side-blotched lizard. A lot of times you have to really look closely to see the black blotch on their side that gives them their name. It's not always this obvious.
This is the exploded lizard! Just kidding! This is also a side-blotched lizard that's shedding. When we first saw this lizard in the desert I thought it was dead, untill it took off. It did sit still long enough for me to get this photo of him. The enlargement will give you an idea of what the shedding process looks like.
Here is the Whiptail lizard. You'll see them running at 100 miles an hour across a road in the desert. When they stop you'll recognize them by the long black whip tail and narrow pointed head. They typically eat Insects.
Now here's an interesting series of photographs. While traveling down the road we noticed what looked like a small piece of crime scene tape blowing around in the road. It was two Zebra-tailed lizards fighting. And they had on their fighting colors. Notice the muscles in the rear legs and yellowish coloration to the body.
Well after a few minutes he changed back to his normal coloration of browns. Notice you can't see the defined leg muscles in the same way and his back is no longer yellow. Interesting that they can do that. See the enlargement to see a different variation of stripes on a Zebra-tail's tail. This is unusual but was caused by the lizard losing its tail in the black segment and it grew the new one from the dark pigmented part of this tail.
This is a Zebra-tailed lizard also; only this is a female. The red dot and the yellow coloration on the belly is how you can tell. To see the coloration on the stomach with the red dot, enlarge this image.
Greater Earless Lizard
This is a Greater Earless lizard and it doesn't have the holes in the side of his head for ears like most lizards. This one was photographed in New Mexico.
Western Banded Gecko
Now you'll only find the Western Banded Gecko at night in the desert. This is when we photographed this one. They are bug eaters and their skin looks very delicate and they are soft to the touch. Pretty coloration too!
Desert Horned Lizard
This one was found on the Bradshaw Trail in California. These guys are hard to see in the desert in their natural habitat and are also hard to photograph! The enlargement is one caught by a young boy in the high desert. Kids seem to like catching them. They are often seen eating ants. See more information about the different species of Horned Lizards below.
Reptiles, especially the lizards, are probably the most diversified of the animals found in the desert. They have more color variations, size differences and more varied temperments. Some are unbelievably friendly while others can be aggresive. They are more intelligent than most people give them credit for.
Western Fence Lizard
It is commonly found from the coast to the highest mountain areas at over 6,000 feet. It is only found in the high desert. This lizard is conspicuous and common in its range. It thrives in a wide variety of habitats, ranging from coastal sage scrub and chaparral on the coast and foothills, to the forests of higher elevations. It's usually found on or near the ground, in rock and wood piles, tree trunks, and the lower branches of shrubs. This one was found at an elev. of 5,800 ft.
Western Fence Lizards may reduce the incidence of Lyme Disease in their range! It has recently been discovered that when infected ticks feed on the blood of these lizards, the Lyme disease spirochetes they carry are destroyed. In areas with Western Fence Lizards, about 5 percent of ticks carry the disease, while in other areas 50 percent of ticks harbor the disease.
Taking the Sonoran Desert as a geographic unit species present would be the desert horned lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos - 2 subspecies, only one which occurs in the Sonoran Desert - P.p.calidiarum, the southern desert horned lizard), the flat-tailed horned lizard (P.mcallii), Goode's horned lizard (P.goodei), and the regal horned lizard (P.solare). Other species are peripheral to the Sonoran Desert, such as the Texas horned lizard (P.cornutum) and round-tailed horned lizard (P.modestum), where the Sonoran Desert gives way to the Chihuahuan Desert, and the short-horned lizard (P.hernandesi) which are found at higher elevations in mountains adjacent to or within the Sonoran Desert, but it is not a true inhabitant of desert until further east where it is found in Chihuahuan Desert. Also, it has not been shown that all species of horned lizards have the ability to squirt blood and in some species, like the desert horned lizard, it is extremely uncommon. In research conducted on desert horned lizards only 2 out of 2569 lizards squirted blood, and one was after it was bitten by a Great Basin rattlesnake.
Martin Feldner, Herpetologist
Regal Horned Lizard
Photo Courtesy of Martin Feldner
A native to the desert in the southwest the Regal Horned Lizard is a small flat lizard about the size of the palm of a man's hand. They eat mostly harvester ants and large numbers of them at one time. They spend most of their time in the intense heat of the desert during meals.