Online Field Guide to The Reptiles and Amphibians of Arizona

Plateau Fence Lizard (Sceloporus tristichus) Arizona

Plateau Fence Lizard (Sceloporus tristichus) Arizona
Coconino Co., AZ
Plateau Fence Lizard (Sceloporus tristichus) Arizona
Maricopa Co., AZ
Plateau Fence Lizard (Sceloporus tristichus) Arizona
Male venter. Maricopa Co., AZ
Plateau Fence Lizard (Sceloporus tristichus) Arizona
Coconino Co., AZ
Plateau Fence Lizard (Sceloporus tristichus) Arizona
Coconino Co., AZ

 PLATEAU FENCE LIZARD  Sceloporus tristichus  

DESCRIPTION: A small (up to 80 mm or 3.1″ from snout to vent), gray-brown to golden-brown lizard with pointed, keeled, overlapping scales. Most specimens have two light stripes on the back and a broad, muted, gray mid-dorsal stripe. There are often small, dark blotches between the stripes. Some specimens lack stripes and have dark crossbars. Males have two large, dark-edged, blue patches on the belly. The underside of the throat is marked with two blue blotches, one on each side. Belly patches are faint or lacking in females and, when present, lack dark edges. Gravid females often have an orange or yellow tint on the back. The paired throat blotches distinguish this lizard from the similar looking Common Sagebrush Lizard. Its lack of side blotches distinguishes this lizard from the Common Side-blotched Lizard. The Southwestern Fence Lizard is nearly identical to this lizard in appearance but the two are genetically distinct from one another.

DISTRIBUTION: This lizard ranges across nearly all of northern and eastern Arizona. Its boundary with the similar Southwestern Fence Lizard is poorly known. In Arizona the Plateau Fence Lizard is found at elevations ranging from about 3,000′ to 9,000′.

HABITAT: A variety of biotic communities including Great Basin Desertscrub, Plains and Great Basin Grassland, Great Basin Conifer Woodland, Madrean Evergreen Woodland, and Petran Montane Conifer Forest are home to this lizard. It inhabits low valleys, grassy plains, bajadas, foothills, rocky canyons, and forested slopes. It is usually encountered in relatively open, sunlit areas with plenty of basking sites such as rock piles, wood piles, and fallen logs.

BEHAVIOR: During the summer this diurnal lizard is most active mid morning and late afternoon. In spring and fall it can be active all day long. It forages on the ground but climbs onto rocks, trees, fence posts, and wood piles to bask. It hibernates during the cold months of winter and late fall. 

DIET: The Plateau Fence Lizard sits and waits for prey to wander within close proximity. It feeds on a variety of insects including termites, ants, beetles, grasshoppers, flies, larvae, and wasps. It also eats a variety of spiders, snails, and small lizards.

REPRODUCTION: Mating begins in spring and continues into early summer. One to 4 clutches of eggs are laid in late spring and summer. Clutch size ranges from 1 to 10 eggs. Hatchlings begin to emerge in June and continue to emerge through September.

By Thomas C. Brennan

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

Degenhardt, W. G., Painter, C. W., and Price, A. H.. 1996. Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque.

Leaché and Reeder 2002 Molecular Systematics of the Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus): A Comparison of Parsimony, Likelihood, and Bayesian approaches. Systematic Biology. 51: 44–68

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

Plateau Fence Lizard (Sceloporus tristichus) Arizona Range Map


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