Some like it hot, and that includes Nevada lizards. It was 99 F air temperature in the desert outside Fallon today, but felt much hotter with the sun beating down on a bare head, and yet, the Zebra tailed lizards were frisky in the afternoon sun.
I haven’t tried to stalk one of these lizards for about 40 years, but they seem to be just as tame now as they were then. We could walk as close as about 4 feet, reach over and drop a noose of fishing line around their heads, pull it tight, and grab the snared lizard for body temperature measurements. When they are cool, they are dark on top to maximize heat gain from the sun.
As they heat up, the back skin becomes a mottled gray. The extremely long toes enable them to stay on top of the sand surface as they run. And are they ever speedy! If you can manage to follow them through the desert brush, you might be able to wear them out as they sprint repeatedly away from you 50-100 meters a time. Chances are you will get overheated before they do.
I have measured body temperatures in excess of 44 Centigrade (111 F) in Zebra tailed lizards in the middle of the day. Why would any sensible lizard be out in the middle of the day in a Nevada desert?
To avoid these guys, the Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard. Like most other desert dwellers, leopard lizards avoid the crushing heat of the mid-day sun.
These lizards are stealthy stalkers, who hide beneath bushes, dart out and grab unlucky passers by, which might be insects or small lizards.
Big heads, large mouths, and sharp little teeth and toe nails help them grab their prey.
And they do a pretty good job of color matching their background when they need to.
These two lizard species are perfectly adapted to the searing heat and aridity of the northern (Great Basin) desert.