Desert night lizard

Xantusia vigilis

TAXONOMY

Xantusia vigilis Baird, 1858, Fort Tejon, California, United States.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Yucca night lizard; French: Xantusie du désert; German: Yucca-Nachtechse; Spanish: Lagartija nocturna del desierto.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The desert night lizard is small (maximum snout-vent length, 1.5 in [3.7 cm]) and has vertically elliptical pupils lacking eyelids. The lizard is covered with small, granular dorsal scales and 12 longitudinal rows of ventral scales. The body usually is brown with small dark spots.

DISTRIBUTION

North America, spotty in southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.

HABITAT

The desert night lizard inhabits desert and chaparral. It is common in decaying yucca logs or dead agaves. The species was considered rare until the discovery of its close association with these plants.

BEHAVIOR

The desert night lizard is rarely found outside cover.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The desert night lizard is insectivorous, feeding primarily on ants and beetles within the confines of yucca logs and agaves.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

In the Mohave Desert, copulation takes place in May and early June. Gestation is approximately 90 days. One to three young (average, 1.9) are born in September and early October. During dry years there may be no reproduction.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. Despite the low reproductive rate, populations are quite dense (approximately 12,000 per square mile [4,000 per square kilometer]) in favorable habitat in the Mohave Desert, but extensive areas in the western part of the range have been cleared for housing.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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