Western sandveld lizard

Nucras tessellata

SUBFAMILY

Eremiainae

TAXONOMY

Nucras tessellata A. Smith, 1838, eastern parts of the Cape Colony.

OTHER COMMON NAMES English: Striped sand lizard.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

A slender, brilliantly colored lizard with a tail almost twice as long as the body. The lizard has a black body with four thin cream stripes on the back and brilliant white bars on the sides of the head and body. The rear of the body, hind limbs, and long tail are rich red-brown.

DISTRIBUTION

This species occurs in the western arid region of South Africa, just extending into adjacent Namibia and Botswana.

HABITAT

This lizard inhabits succulent scrubland in a winter-rainfall area.

BEHAVIOR

This is an unusual lacertid that spends long periods underground, sheltering in its burrow. It forages on rocky hillsides among the stones and succulent vegetation.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Despite its relatively small size, this lizard specializes in feeding on scorpions, although grasshoppers and beetles are also eaten. It searches actively for the insects' burrows and then digs them out. As it spends a lot of time locating and digging for food, it is vulnerable to predators such as birds and mongoose. Its

bright red tail helps to deflect sudden attacks away from the vulnerable head towards the expendable tail. Safety in this lizard is therefore not based on camouflage or mimicry but on distraction.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

A small clutch of three to four eggs are laid under a sun-warmed rock and take two to three months to develop.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Its habitat is sparsely populated and it is not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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