Leapin’ Lizards

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.

7 thoughts on “Leapin’ Lizards

  1. You seem to adapt to your habitat, Sue, changing your photo subjects as you change your location. Love the photos, though I now can’t get the image out of my head of snaring lizards with fishing line. For a city boy from New England, that sounds so strange.

  2. I’m very fond of herps, in general, and these lizards are so pretty and fascinating. I’ve only visited one desert (the Anza Borrego) but found it fascinating. Living in Florida is VERY different, as you might imagine, but a trip to the desert now and then is a special experience. Thanks for the info, and the terrific photos of these two species. Beautiful! (BTW, how does one measure the body temp of a lizard? Just curious…)

    • Glad you asked about the body temperature measurement. I had a very quick reading electronic thermometer probe that was inserted a short distance into their cloaca (anus) and gave almost instantaneous readings. You have quite a variety of birds and herps in Florida!

      • I thought that might be the procedure, but wasn’t sure. Thanks for explaining. Yes, we live in a very diverse area of central Florida, and my resident snakes & lizards are as welcome in my garden as the birds and bumbley-bees. I love that it’s possible to have SO much nature in an urban yard, and that’s why the name of your blog jumped out at me. At some point, I hope to share some good info about my area wildlife in my general/garden blog, too. You are an inspiration to those of us who find it ALL interesting, and want to share with others how much fun it can be.

        Currently in my yard, the most common lizard would be the Cuban anole, which for awhile seemed to be wiping out the native Carolina anoles. However, the Carolina’s are making a comeback, having figured out they should take to the high ground to avoid their competitors. I have counted at least 6 nice green Carolina anoles in my yard recently, which doesn’t sound like much when you think of the hundreds of Cuban anoles that are there. But it is a significant increase. I also have lovely 5-lined skinks, some little mole skinks, the occasional glass lizard, and numerous garter snakes and black racers. Life is good!

    • I have just started 2 blogs here at WordPress within the last week. One on general musings, wildlife & gardening, and one on book reviews, authors, cover art, etc. Hope you’ll stop by. Maybe someday I’ll create something as awe-inspiring as all the goodies you have posted here.
      Who’s Your Granny? is at http://mmeara.wordpress.com
      Bookin’ It is at http://marciameara.wordpress.com
      Don’t know exactly how to link those here, but hopefully, you can use the URLs to see what I’ve done so far.

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