Online Field Guide to The Reptiles and Amphibians of Arizona
Yuma County, AZ
Yuma Co., AZ
| YUMAN FRINGE-TOED LIZARD
DESCRIPTION: A medium-sized (up to 120 mm or 4.75″ from snout to vent), cream, tan, or reddish-brown colored lizard with a relatively flat body and a flattened tail. Coloration usually closely matches the sand on which the lizard lives. The back is marked with small orange spots surrounded by a network of black reticulations. On the neck and shoulders the spots are in rows and the black reticulations form lines. The underside is plain pale cream with a conspicuous dark spot on each side of the belly. The underside of the tail is marked with distinct, black crossbars. There are thin, dark lines on the throat. During the mating season (spring) the lips often become orange-red and an orange wash appears on the throat, limbs, and each side of the belly. This lizard has numerous adaptations for life on fine sand including a fringe of enlarged, pointed scales on each hind toe to increase traction, a chisel-shaped snout for burrowing, a countersunk lower jaw, interlocking eyelids, flaps over the ear openings, and valves in the nasal passages to keep sand out of the body. The scales are very small and granular. Its straight, thin lines on the throat, orange coloration on the belly during breeding season, and dark lines on the neck and shoulders distinguish this lizard from the similar looking Mohave Fringe-toed Lizard.
HABITAT: This sand specialist occupies open dune fields and shrub invaded sand hummocks with at least sporadic, open patches of fine, wind-blown sand. It occurs within the Lower Colorado River subdivision of the Sonoran Desertscrub community.
BEHAVIOR: Active during the day. Often encountered basking on the warm sand in the mid-morning sun. Hibernates underground during the cold months of winter and late fall. A speedy, ground-dwelling lizard that runs on its hind limbs at top speeds. When threatened it often runs a short distance and then wriggles under the sand chisel-shaped snout first. It also uses existing burrows for shelter.
DIET: The Yuman Fringe-toed Lizard eats a variety of insects, spiders, small lizards, and some plant material including flowers and buds. Captive specimens have been observed to eat their own shed skin.
REPRODUCTION: This lizard mates in spring and lays one or more clutches of eggs in spring and summer. Before coupling the male vibrates his head in a series of rapid bobs, performs push-ups, and flattens his body from side-to-side. The female crawls under the male’s chin with her tail elevated. During coupling the male bites the female’s back. Clutch size ranges from 1 to 5 eggs. Eggs are buried in a shallow, moist nest within the sand.
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
Stebbins, R.C. 2003. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.
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