Desert Spiny Lizard

Sceloporus magister

Photo © by Kevin Smith

This Desert Spiny Lizard female was observed at the Spur Cross Conservation Area, Cave Creek, Arizona in May 2009 by Kevin Smith, Interpretive Ranger, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation.

A robust lizard with sharply keeled scales. Specimens exceeding 10 cm excluding tail are commonly seen. The coloration can vary tremendously, but the dark shoulder patch is characteristic. These are diurnal predators mostly of arthropods, including many ants and beetles, or occasionally other small lizards. They readily climb trees such as mesquite and goodding's willow in riparian areas. They are wary and typically notice an approaching hiker long before they're seen. The naturalist may only hear them before they scamper around into cover away from view.

Like all lizards, Desert Spiny Lizard is careful to maintain proper body temperature when active and away from their hibernation burrows. They will move from basking spots on boulders to shady respite or back underground as the day's temperature rises and falls. They may even become darker during cooler seasons so as to increase the effectiveness of insolation. In the Sonoran Desert they tend to be more common in areas with larger trees, some moisture, and higher productivity.

Phrynosomatidae -- North American Spiny Lizard Family

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More Information:

Sonoran Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, Page created 1 June 2009.