Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Prairie Lizard (Sceloporus consobrinus)




Identification: Gray or tan with eight (more or less) jagged crossbars on its back. Tends to be darker in cooler weather and lighter in warmer weather.

Distribution: Arkansas, Oklahoma, large parts of Texas and Missouri, and contiguous area of several adjoining states.

Habitat: Woodland edges. The Prairie Lizard prefers spending most of its time up off the ground perched on rocks, logs, fence posts or up in a tree. From these elevated perches, it can bask, search for prey and watch for predators. During breeding season, males often do "push ups" to show off their bright breeding coloration to nearby females and to warn off rival males. Males with the best lookouts are known to have an advantage in successful breeding.  (This particular lizard was basking on a tree branch at the edge of our garden in June, 2005)

Life Cycle: Breeding occurs throughout the spring and summer. Females lay 3 to a dozen or so eggs often in rotten logs or sawdust. Two egg clutches per year are normal.

Food: This species eats a wide variety of insects, spiders, and other invertebrates by either chasing them down or simply letting prey come within striking distance. 

Comments:  When I searched my photo archives looking for a suitable (i. e. easily identified) entry for my first participation in the House of Herps Blog Carnival, I thought this "fence lizard" was a good selection.  However, as I began trying to pin down my ID and find additional material, I found a lot of conflicting information.  Until relatively recently there was a large group of spiny lizards called Fence Lizards (Sceloporus undulatus) with numerous subspecies.  Under that classification, the lizard in the photos above would have been a Northern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthinus).  However, DNA analysis led to a reclassification of this species.  The numerous subspecies became separate species and new common names were appended accordingly.  A PDF describing the DNA analysis is here if you are inclined to wade through it.

Many thanks to Kory Roberts of Herps of Arkansas for getting me straightened out on the reclassification.   The Herps of Arkansas species page is the source of most of the information contained in this post.






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27 comments:

Tom said...

I gotta show some love for the lizard. Very nice Marvin...are these guys pretty frequent in your area?

Tom

Marvin said...

Yes, Tom. I see quite a few Prairie Lizards during the summer. According to the distribution map, they should be the only type of spiny lizards in Arkansas.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

My goodness Marvin, just look at those long back toes!! :) I guess we could climb easily with some like that too. :)

Marvin said...

I agree, Joan. That lizard is a lot better adapted for climbing than am I.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a handsome lizard. You captured the turquoise color perfectly.

MObugs said...

Beautiful lizard Marvin. I know you mentioned that their range spans into Missouri, but I am betting they do not make to the Northern most regions of the state where I am. If they do I would definitely have to find one to photograph, they are lovely.

Marvin said...

Sorry, Shelly, but you're right. The Prairie Lizard's range only extends to the southern half of Missouri. The map I'm looking at (which was buried inside a PDF and is the only part of it I actually understand) shows no spiny lizards in your part of the state.

Marvin said...

Thanks, Lisa. The turquoise is really stunning when a male starts his "push ups" routine while trying to attract the attention of a female and/or warn away another male.

Garden Lily said...

Oh he's gorgeous.

Marvin said...

They are, indeed, beautiful creatures -- and interesting to watch as well.

Rambling Woods said...

I can't help but be struck by the similarities of teenage boys preening for girls and many in the animal kingdom..pretty feathers or hair, shows of strength of battle. Very similar..LOL..Thank you for adding this to Nature Notes..I need to get my HOH post up....Michelle

Marvin said...

LOL You're right, Michelle. Testosterone does, indeed, seem to produce similar behavior in a variety of species. When you watch one of these lizards do a few "push ups" and then pause with his brightly colored chest exposed, it's impossible not to think of a adolescent male saying "Watch this.".

eileeninmd said...

Cool looking Lizard. Great photo.

Leora said...

Handsome fella, especially with the turquoise. Trying to figure out what the "jagged crossbars" are. I wouldn't want to eat his diet.

Marvin said...

Thanks, Eileen. Sometimes he seems to think he's pretty cool looking too.

Marvin said...

Were you a lizard, you'd love his diet, Leora. Both males and females have dark lines that run across their backs, but the lines don't run straight across. They move sharply up and down, kinda like the peaks and valleys on a graph. Herps of Arkansas has a shot taken more from above. It shows the jagged bars on the lizard's back more clearly.

Kenneth Ramos said...

We have lizards similar to that too here in Western North Carolina, though some are just like the one you have shown, others are a grayish color but without a promanent dewlap. We also have anoles too which have a bright orange dewlap to show off for mating and to ward off other males.

Marvin said...

Ken: I suppose your similar lizards are Eastern Fence Lizards. From what I seen in various photos, most members of genus Sceloporus can vary from tan to gray -- and can be very difficult to tell apart from quick visual clues. Anoles are supposed to occur in the southern half of Arkansas, but don't extend as far north as the Ozarks, though I'm familiar with them from time spent on the Texas coast.

Kenneth Ramos said...

From what I have read somewhere, the Anoles we have here are not supposed to be true anoles but a hybrid of sorts, yet I would not know one from the other. Now Fence Lizard, I do recall now that you mention it, someone calling them that one time.

Marvin said...

Ken: From what I found in various places online (Wikipedia for example), the Carolina Anole (Anolis carolinensis) is the only species of anole native to the U. S. It has several sub-species. It is sometimes incorrectly called the American Chameleon because it can change color from green to brown or any side in between, but it isn't a true chameleon and is more closely related to iguanas. Also, we have a large and growing population of Brown Anoles which were introduced from Cuba. In some areas they are displacing the greens, but I didn't run across anything about hybridization.

Kerri said...

Quite a handsome guy! LOVE that blue belly!

Marvin said...

Kerri: He seems right proud of that brightly colored belly too.

Celeste said...

What a little beauty, the breeding colouring is stunning, great photo.

Marvin said...

Thanks for the visit and comment, Celeste. I'm just glad all the lizards around here are wild and, therefore, the job of worming them will not arise.

Johnny Nutcase said...

Good info and awesome photos of the little guy. I would see these a lot in Texas, like 'em!

Roslyn Imrie said...

Are they usually out in January? I have never seen them in winter before but this year, with its mild weather, I have seen a few. Don't they hibernate?

Felicia Flinn said...

we have a male and 2 females that are Eastern Fencies, we found them here in mid MO. they are awesome little lizards!!!