Montane alligator lizard

Mesaspis monticola

SUBFAMILY

Gerrhonotinae

TAXONOMY

Mesaspis monticola Cope, 1878, summit of Pico Blanco, Costa Rica

OTHER COMMON NAMES Spanish: Dragón, lagartija de altura.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

These moderately sized lizards (9.3 in [236 mm] in total length) have four rather short limbs and a long tail. A ventro-lateral fold is present. Males are bright green or yellowish green with extensive black flecking. Females and juveniles are brownish with black flecking.

DISTRIBUTION

The species occurs in the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama from 5,900 to 12,470 ft (1,800 to 3,800 m).

HABITAT

The montane alligator lizard inhabits open areas within or at the edges of wet montane forests; it also is found in paramo.

BEHAVIOR

The species is terrestrial and diurnal. It thermoregulates by basking on sunny mornings and may be forced to remain dormant on days without sunshine.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

It actively forages for arthropods and juvenile salamanders.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Females give live birth to two to 10 young and may stay with their offspring for a period after birth. It has been suggested that females reproduce only every other year.

CONSERVATION STATUS Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

In parts of its range people incorrectly consider this harmless lizard to be capable of delivering potent venom by stinging with its tail. ♦

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