I get excited about lizards. Maybe I imprinted on them when I was younger because whenever I spot one, I stop everything else to check it out. Which is what happened when I saw the common side-blotched lizard on the edge of the dirt road.
Of course once I stopped she started to move, but I got several photos before she disappered into the shadows under the creosote.
It was only when I looked at the pics on my computer than I realized I’d captured two lizards, not one. Bingo!
Side-blotched lizards are small, no bigger around than my slim index finger, with a tail a bit longer than the body. If you’re lucky enough to get close to one you may see the dark-blue/black blotch immediately behind the front leg which gives it its name.
As for the rest of the markings, they can vary quite a bit. I was lucky — the two I found are a perfect match for the pair in Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona, by Thomas C. Brennan and Andrew T. Holycross. (An excellent reference book and easy to carry in the field.)
In my photo the female (note the blotch) is on the left and the male on the right.
Male colouration indicates status. Adult males tend to have a scattering of bright turquoise spots on their backs and tails — but it’s the throat colour that tells who’s the boss.
In Lizards of the American Southwest, Thomas C. Brennan explains:
- orange-throated males defend and usurp high-quality territory
- blue-throated males defend small territories but don’t take over anyone else’s
- yellow-throated males don’t have territories; they sneak in and mate with any female they find.
Lizards who dress to impress. Who knew! 🙂
Behind the name …
Captain Howard Stansbury of the US Corps of Topographical Engineers lead an expedition to explore and survey Utah’s Great Salt Lake area (1849 to 1851 ). Scientific members of the expedition discovered several new species, including the common side-blotched lizard which was named in his honour.
Common side-blotched lizard Uta stansburiana