Spiny Lizards

picture of an Eastern Fence Lizard

The Spiny Lizard family breaks down into nine genera and consists of some of the most familiar lizards people see on a daily basis during the season.

For example, the top picture shows an Eastern Fence Lizard. They belong to the Spiny Lizards (Sceloporus) genus. It’s the largest genus in terms of species numbers (22), with multiple species.

Both the Eastern and Western Fence Lizards are very common across the United States. They are known as blue bellies because the males have blue patches on the sides of their bellies.

picture of a Crevice Spiny Lizard
Many of the spiny lizards have common names that include spiny lizard. The picture shows a Crevice Spiny Lizard, a native of the Chihuahuan desert region. Usually the collar on the neck is a good field identification clue.

picture of apair of Desert Spiny Lizard
Desert Spiny Lizards pick up where the Crevice Spiny Lizard range ends. They inhabit areas of the Sonora Desert and north to the high deserts that spill over into Utah and Colorado.

A quick glance down the page shows that all the species share similar physical characteristics such as the pointed scales and mostly dull colors. It helps them blend into the background of their environment The pictures do not do much to speak to size. Most of the species are of medium length. With their tails they rarely reach over ten inches in length.

Earless Lizards

picture of a Greater Earless Lizard
Can lizards hear? Do lizards have ears?

Those are common lizard questions. The quick answers are yes and most.

Two spiny lizard genera, greater and lesser earless lizards, do have external ear openings, however they can still pick up a few sounds.

The first picture shows a Greater Earless Lizard. There is only one species and it lives in the Southwest. They can grow up to seven inches in length.

picture of an elegant Earless Lizard
Four species of Lesser Earless Lizards are found in the Southwest and Midwest. The picture shows an Elegant Earless Lizard.

picture of a Greater Short-horned Lizard
Horned Lizards (Phrynosoma) are popular in the Southwest where they also go by the name Horn Toads. They are lizards and not toads.

There are actually nine different Horned Lizard species. They are very regionally oriented. Anywhere in the Southwest a herper travels brings another opportunity to add to their lizard life list.

Rather than having a slender body like other lizards they have an oval to round body. Look for them basking in the desert sun in the early morning hours. They forage for ants and other insects.

picture of a Fringe-toed Lizard
Five species of Fringe-toed Lizards (Uma) are documented in the Southwest. The common name comes from the fact that they have scales extending along the sides of their back toes. It helps them navigate the desert sands.

All the species have some form of small spots across the body.

picture of an Ornate Tree Lizard
From a picture perspective, it’s practically impossible to differrentiate the Tree & Brush Lizards (Urosaurus) from most of the other spiny lizard species.

Like the Fence Lizards, male Tree Lizards have blue patches on the sides of their bellies.

They are one of the most common lizards in Arizona. The Fence Lizards tend to have white spots on their back and most pictures of the Tree Lizards show an absence of the white spots.

picture of Side Blotched Lizard
There is only on species of Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana), inhabits arid regions of western North America.

The side blotch refers to the black spot behind the front leg of the lizard. The Uta genus was named for Utah, the state where they were first discovered.

picture of a Zebra Tailed Lizard
One species of Zebratail Lizards (Callisaurus) can be found in the Southwest. A look at the picture shows the black and white stripes on the tail, explaining the name. They are easily identified.

Note: Only one species of Banded Rock Lizards (Petrosaurus) is currently documented in the United States. Its range is limited to the southern border of California.