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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Watching Lizards in Southern California

Two species of lizards inhabit our yard. Take a minute to watch them reveal how different they are from each other.


The western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis) are diurnal (active during the day), numerous, and prey on a variety of small insects–including flies and ants. They are highly visual–sitting in prominent locations watching for food or competition and creating visual displays in response to territorial challenges and mate attraction. Males do push-ups to show-off blue-colored chests and extend a flap of skin under the throat called a dewlap. (Watch the subordinate male in the video.) We typically have several batches of youngsters each year.

The southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) is more secretive, solitary, and predatory. Notice its short legs, elongated body and long tail. It travels through foliage using a serpentine movement. This lizard will prey on the juvenile fence lizards, as well as snails, slugs, and larger insects. The alligator lizard locates prey and mates using its slightly forked tongue and following scent and pheromone trails. On warm summer nights, they are still out hunting the sleeping juvenile fence lizards.

Take a minute to watch for the wildlife in your backyard and you might discover it's a world of predator and prey.

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