Order: Squamata
    suborder: Lacertilia
The varied families of lizards are the most encountered reptiles in our area and compose the suborder Lacertilia, the largest group of the reptilian order Squamata. In general lizards have moveable eyelids, external ear openings and four legs; many can drop their tail as a means of escape and all but one genus are non-venomous. It is interesting to note that we have to opportunity to observe exceptions to each of the above rules in our area. Noteworthy exceptions include the California Legless Lizard Anniella pulchra, which has neither legs nor external ear openings, the Leaf-toed Gecko Phyllodactylus nocticolis which cannot blink as it lacks eyelids and must clear its eyes with its tongue as it scampers up vertical rock walls in the desert nights, and the mystical Gila Monster Heloderma suspectum, which is the least encountered and only venomous lizard in California. Lizards vary in size from the bulky Gila Monster that may exceed 2 feet in length to the diminutive Night Lizards Xantusia which barely exceed 3 inches.

Being successful in many habitats lizards are found throughout our region from below sea level to over 10,000 feet. While they are most often encountered in the desert’s boulder and rock strewn hillsides, many have become highly specialized to take advantage of the sandy desert floors, or to burrow and spend most of their lives just beneath the surface, others yet have adapted to life in and around trees and bush. Most lizards are indeed diurnal using the suns rays to heat their cold-blooded bodies and raise their metabolisms to efficiency, yet a few have become nocturnal to take advantage of the opportunities of the night as the desert comes to life.

Many lizards will need close inspection to identify as they scurry about and may indeed need to be captured for certainty of identification. Nooses and nets, as well as other means of capture which won’t be mentioned or encouraged, are effective means for many species, however, California has specific laws concerning the methods of capture and California Department of Fish and Game should be consulted before any animal is pursued, harassed, or captured. One alternative, and my personal method of ‘take’, is to photograph these wonderful animals, preserving the observations to share with others and documenting our natural resources. Currently a fishing license is needed to pursue any native reptile in our state, even when photographing animals you may be asked to produce your license. Once again, consult current regulations and laws before interacting with our wildlife. Conservation of our precious desert’s inhabitants should play an underlying role if not be the main theme as we leave the hustle and bustle of our cities for the quiet mystery of our wilderness areas, so that generations after us can enjoy the wonders of nature we have been gifted with. If a rock is lifted, it should be replaced, if a log is turned, turn it back. Though capturing these animals does indeed have it's place, if we can observe with our eyes or a camera and not with our hands we will gain a greater understanding of the natural behaviors of our native reptiles without negatively impacting the delicate systems of Nature around us.

The lizards native to our area include:

Anguids: Anguidae
Elgaria coerulea palmeri (Stejneger, 1893) - Sierra Alligator Lizard
Elgaria multicarinata webbii (Baird, 1859) - San Diego Alligator Lizard
Elgaria panamintina (Stebbins, 1958) - Panamint Alligator Lizard

California Legless Lizards: Anniellidae
Anniella pulchra pulchra (Gray, 1852) - Silvery Legless Lizard

Geckos: Gekkonidae
Phyllodactylus nocticolus (Dixon, 1964) - Peninsular Leaf-toed Gecko
Coleonyx switaki switaki (Murphy, 1974) - Peninsular Banded Gecko
Coleonyx variegatus abbotti (Klauber, 1945) - San Diego Banded Gecko
Coleonyx variegatus variegatus (Baird, 1859) - Desert Banded Gecko

Beaded Lizards: Helodermatidae
Heloderma suspectum cinctum (Bogert and Martín del Campo, 1956) - Banded Gila Monster

Iguanids: Iguanidae
Callisaurus draconoides rhodostictus (Cope, 1896) - Western Zebra-tailed Lizard
Crotaphytus bicinctores (Smith and Tanner, 1972) - Great Basin Collared Lizard
Crotaphytus vestigium (Smith and Tanner, 1972) - Baja California Collared Lizard
Dipsosaurus dorsalis dorsalis (Baird and Girard, 1852) - Northern Desert Iguana
Gambelia copeii (Yarrow, 1882) - Cope’s Leopard Lizard
Gambelia sila (Stejneger, 1890) - Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard
Gambelia wislizenii (Baird and Girard, 1852) - Long-nosed Leopard Lizard
Petrosaurus mearnsi mearnsi (Stejneger, 1894) - Mearns’ (Banded) Rock Lizard
Phrynosoma coronatum (Blainville, 1835) - Coast Horned Lizard
Phrynosoma mcallii (Hallowell, 1852) - Flat-tailed Horned Lizard
Phrynosoma platyrhinos calidiarum (Cope, 1896) - Southern Desert Horned Lizard
Sauromalus ater (Duméril, 1856) - Common Chuckwalla (obesus)
Sceloporus graciosus vandenburgianus (Cope, 1896) - Southern Sagebrush Lizard
Sceloporus magister transversus (Phelan and Brattstrom, 1955) - Barred Spiny Lizard
Sceloporus magister uniformis (Phelan and Brattstrom, 1955) - Yellow-backed Spiny Lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis longipes (Baird, 1859) - Great Basin Fence Lizard
Sceloporus orcutti (Stejneger, 1893) - Granite Spiny Lizard
Uma inornata (Cope, 1895) - Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard
Uma notata notata (Baird, 1859) - Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard
Uma scoparia (Cope, 1894) - Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard
Urosaurus graciosus graciosus (Hallowell, 1854) - Western Long-tailed Brush Lizard
Urosaurus microscutatus (Van Denburgh, 1894) - Small-scaled Lizard
Urosaurus ornatus symmetricus (Baird, 1859) - Colorado River Tree Lizard
Uta stansburiana elegans (Yarrow, 1882) - Western Side-blotched Lizard

Skinks: Scincidae
Eumeces gilberti rubricaudatus (Taylor, 1935) - Western Red-tailed Skink
Eumeces skiltonianus interparietalis (Tanner, 1958) - Coronado Skink
Eumeces skiltonianus skiltonianus (Baird and Girard, 1852) - Skilton’s Skink

Whiptails: Teiidae
Cnemidophorus hyperythrus beldingi (Stejneger, 1894) - Belding’s Orange-throated Whiptail
Cnemidophorus tigris stejnegeri (Van Denburgh, 1894) - Coastal Whiptail
Cnemidophorus tigris tigris (Baird and Girard, 1852) - Great Basin Whiptail

Night Lizards: Xantusiidae
Xantusia henshawi gracilis (Grismer and Galvan, 1986) - Sandstone Night Lizard
Xantusia henshawi henshawi (Stejneger, 1893) - Granite Night Lizard
Xantusia vigilis sierrae (Bezy, 1967) - Sierra Night Lizard
Xantusia vigilis vigilis (Baird, 1859) - Yucca Night Lizard

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