5 Earless Lizards in the United States! (ID Guide)

How many EARLESS lizards are there in the United States?”

common earless lizards in the united states


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 5 kinds of Earless Lizards in the United States.


#1. Common Lesser Earless Lizard

  • Holbrookia maculata

types of earless lizards in the united states

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 the United States in tallgrass prairie with sandy soil.


They are highly camouflaged and almost impossible to see on the ground unless they’re moving.

United States Geological Survey (USGS)


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

species of earless lizards in the united states

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 the United States. 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!

United States Geological Survey (USGS)


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

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 the United States 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.

United States Geological Survey (USGS)


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.


#4. Spot-Tailed Earless Lizard

  • Holbrookia lacerata

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Up to 3 inches long from snout to vent, and 4.5 to 6 inches total.
  • Coloring is tan to brown, with dark spots bordered in white on the back.
  • Dark spots, without a white border, appear on the underside of the tail.


Spot-Tailed Earless Lizards in the United States prefer arid desert habitats with prickly pear cactus and mesquite trees.


United States Geological Survey (USGS)


They have a much more flattened, broad body than other earless lizards.


Both subspecies, Northern and Southern Spot-Tailed Earless Lizards, are only found in Texas. The northern subspecies’ spots are fused on the tail, while the spots on the southern subspecies remain distinct.


#5. Keeled Earless Lizard

  • Holbrookia propinqua

By William L. Farr – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Up to 2.5 inches long from snout to vent, and 4.5 to 5.5 inches total.
  • Coloring is tan to brown with dark blotches and stripes.
  • Males have two dark bars on their belly surrounded by blue.
  • The tail is noticeably longer than the body in this species, and the scales are keeled or ridged in the middle.


The Keeled Earless Lizard lives primarily on sand dunes and barrier island beaches in the United States.


United States Geological Survey (USGS)


If you find one, you’ll notice that its scales are different from other earless lizards. They have keels, or small ridges, in the middle of each scale, similar to an alligator!


Keeled Earless Lizards live only in southern Texas, either in coastal areas or along sandy streambeds.


Their lack of an ear-opening and hardened scales are useful in this habitat because they prevent sand from getting into their bodies when they burrow.


Do you need additional help identifying Earless Lizards?

Try this field guide!


Which of these Earless Lizards have you seen in the United States?


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