Common lesser earless lizard

Holbrookia maculata

SUBFAMILY

Phrynosomatinae

TAXONOMY

Holbrookia maculata Girard, 1851, opposite Grand Island, Platte River, Nebraska. Nine subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Mountain earless lizard, speckled earless lizard, band-tailed earless lizard, bleached earless lizard, Bunker's earless lizard, Huachuca earless lizard, eastern earless lizard, northern earless lizard, western earless lizard, spotted lizard; Spanish: Lagartija.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Common lesser earless lizards are gray, with rather regular dark blotches down the back and onto the sides and tail. They lack the ear openings typical of other lizards. Males have orange to red throat patches. Adults average about 5 in (12.7 cm) in total length, including a tail that is about as long as the body in males and slightly shorter in females. Subspecies have slightly different scalation patterns.

DISTRIBUTION

These lizards occur in the central United States as far north as Nebraska and Wyoming, and also in northern Mexico.

HABITAT

Lesser earless lizards live in sandy, open areas with sparse vegetation that provides shady retreats.

BEHAVIOR

These are quick lizards that race between burrows or the shade of a bush during the day. The males are often territorial. As the breeding season progresses, the females become more vividly colored, eventually developing a bright yellow head and reddish-orange sides and hind legs. The males use a series of rapid head bobs to court females who are just beginning to show the breeding coloration. Later-season, high-intensity coloration appears to signal the end of a female's receptivity to the male's approach.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The diet of the lesser earless lizard consists of insects, especially grasshoppers and ants, and spiders. Occasionally it will eat other, smaller lizards.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Breeding in the lesser earless lizard occurs in early summer. About two months later, the females lay between three and 11 eggs in an underground burrow. Younger females have one clutch per year; older females may have a second clutch.

CONSERVATION STATUS Not listed by the IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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