Desert Night Lizard (Xantusia vigilis) Arizona
Yuma County, AZ

Desert Night Lizard (Xantusia vigilis) Arizona
La Paz Co., AZ
Desert Night Lizard (Xantusia vigilis) Arizona
Maricopa Co., AZ
Desert Night Lizard (Xantusia vigilis) Arizona
Maricopa Co., AZ
Desert Night Lizard (Xantusia vigilis) Arizona
La Paz Co., AZ

 DESERT NIGHT LIZARD  Xantusia vigilis  

DESCRIPTION: A small (up to 57 mm or 2.25 " from snout to vent), soft-skinned lizard with small, dark spots or flecks on a light tan, gray-brown, olive gray, or dark gray background. Some specimens lack spots or flecks. The scales on the upper surface of the body are small and granular and a fold of skin runs along each lower side. The scales of the belly and tail are larger and rectangular. The scales on top of the head are large, smooth, and plate-like. The eyes are lidless and the pupils are vertically elliptical. The northwestern part of the state individuals have apparently independently evolved adaptations to living in rock crevices. These ‘crevice dwellers’ are larger than lizards to the south, are dorsoventrally flattened, have larger dark blotches on the body and tail, and often superficially resemble the genetically distinct Arizona Night Lizard.

This lizard's range extends across the deserts of our northwestern border, up the western Grand Canyon to the vicinity of Powell Plateau, and down into several mountain ranges in southwestern Arizona. It occurs at elevations ranging from about 150 m (500') in southwestern Arizona to nearly 2,000 m (7,000') on the peaks of our northwestern ranges.

The Desert Night Lizard's range in northwestern Arizona closely follows the range of the Mohave Desertscrub and Interior Chaparral communities. In some areas it enters Great Basin Conifer Woodland and, in southwestern Arizona, it is found in several mountain ranges within Sonoran Desertscrub. It inhabits rugged slopes and boulder fields and shelters under dead plants such as agave, yucca, and prickly pear and, in northwestern Arizona, in rock crevices.

This secretive lizard rarely ventures away from shelter during the day. Daytime activity takes place under the cover of rocks or plant debris. Crevice-dwelling individuals thermoregulate by basking near the sun-warmed edge of the crevice or under sun-warmed rocks.

The Desert Night Lizard feeds on ants, flies, beetles, a variety of other insects, and spiders.  

REPRODUCTION: Live bearing. Mating presumably takes place in spring and a brood of 1–3 young is born in summer.

By Thomas C. Brennan

Bezy, R.L., 2005. The Night Lizards (Xantusia) of Arizona. Sonoran Herpetologist. 18(2) 14-19.

Brennan, T. C., & A. T. Holycross. 2006. A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish Department. Phoenix, AZ

Brennan, T. C., & A. T. Holycross. 2005. A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Maricopa County. Arizona Game and Fish Department. Phoenix, AZ

Stebbins, R.C. 2003. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Desert Night Lizard (Xantusia vigilis) Arizona Range Map



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