“How many EARLESS lizards are there in Arizona?”
After reading the title of this article, you might be asking yourself, do ANY lizards have ears?
Technically, the answer is yes! But most lizards only have an opening on the outside of their head and no outer ear.
Earless Lizards, on the other hand, have a completely closed head with NO earholes!
Today, you’ll learn the 3 kinds of Earless Lizards in Arizona.
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#1. Common Lesser Earless Lizard
- Holbrookia maculata
- Up to 2.75 inches long from snout to vent, and 4 to 5.25 inches total.
- Tan to brown with pale stripes along the back.
- Males have pairs of black bars behind the arms, which females typically lack.
- Gravid (pregnant) females develop pink, yellow, or orange coloring on their backs.
Common Lesser Earless Lizards are found in Arizona in tallgrass prairie with sandy soil.
They are highly camouflaged and almost impossible to see on the ground unless they’re moving.
If you do spot a Common Lesser Earless Lizard, you might notice that it doesn’t have ear openings like other lizards! This is one of the adaptations that allow it to spend most of its life burrowed under the loose soil of its habitat.
There are up to NINE distinct subspecies of Lesser Earless Lizard! However, there is some disagreement in the scientific community about whether all subspecies deserve a separate name. They are all very similar in looks, and more research is needed.
#2. Elegant Earless Lizard
- Holbrookia Elegans
- Up to 3 inches long from snout to vent, and 6 to 7 inches total.
- Blotches on the back and tail form a chevron pattern.
- Some males have yellowish sides, but predominantly the coloring is gray to tan.
The Elegant Earless Lizard is found only in a small part of Arizona. Until very recently, it was considered a subspecies of the Lesser Earless Lizard, and not much is known about its life cycle or even its habitat preferences!
Looking at its tail is the most reliable way to tell the difference between an Elegant Earless Lizard and a Lesser Earless Lizard. You will notice that the Elegant Earless Lizard has a much longer tail, and the chevron pattern (an inverted V pattern, with each side meeting at the point without interruption) extends all the way to the tip.
Before it was given status as a separate species, this lizard was known as the Mexican Earless Lizard.
#3. Greater Earless Lizard
- Cophosaurus texanus
- Up to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent, and 6 to 7 inches total.
- The tail is long and flat, and the body is slim.
- Coloring is generally matched to the soil color of its habitat, which is gray-brown to slate.
Greater Earless Lizards in Arizona avoid extreme elevations both above and below sea level.
You are likely to find them in middle elevations, which is where cactus, mesquite trees, and creosote brush grow.
They eat grasshoppers, caterpillars, wasps, and other insects. Greater Earless Lizards are athletic runners and sometimes curl their tails over their bodies when they are moving quickly!
There are two subspecies:
- Chihuahuan Earless Lizard (C.t. scitulus) Males of this subspecies can be extremely colorful, with pinkish-orange on the upper back and yellowish-green to blue on the lower back. This coloring appears rainbow-like on some individuals!
- Texas Earless Lizard (C.t. texanus) Less colorful than their bright cousins. They generally match the soil of their surroundings.
Do you need additional help identifying Earless Lizards?
Try this field guide!
Which of these Earless Lizards have you seen in Arizona?
Leave a comment below!