10 Types of Spiny Lizards Found in Texas! (ID Guide)

What kinds of spiny lizards are there in Texas?”

common spiny lizards in Texas

When you hear the name “spiny lizard”, you might picture an animal with long, sharp spikes like a porcupine. I know I did when I first started learning about spiny lizards!

However, the name refers to the lizards’ pointed scales, which look like deadly spikes but are surprisingly soft to the touch.

Today, you’ll learn about the 10 different kinds of spiny lizards in Texas.


#1. Prairie Lizard

  • Sceloporus consobrinus

species of spiny lizards in Texas

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 3.5 to 7.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring is light reddish-brown with a light brown stripe down the spine.
  • Orange or red coloring on the lips and chin is sometimes present.

Look for Prairie Lizards in Texas in habitats with lots of places to perch, including open forests, tall grass fields, or even dunes. Their diet is made up of insects and spiders they can easily subdue.

Prairie Lizard Range Map:

These spiny lizards are one of the best climbers in their family! In Texas, Prairie Lizards spend most of their time off the ground, perched in trees, on fences, and even on sunflowers.

In addition to climbing, Prairie Lizards can run so fast that they are hard to catch. If you see one, you’ll probably have more luck observing from a distance than trying to get up close!

YouTube video

#2. Southwestern Fence Lizard

  • Sceloporus cowlesi

types of spiny lizards in Texas

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 3.5 to 7.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring is light reddish-brown with a light brown stripe down the spine.
  • Orange or red coloring on the lips and chin is sometimes present.

Until recent studies confirmed its DNA, Southwestern Fence Lizards were considered a subspecies of the Western Fence Lizard!

Southwestern Fence Lizards prefer habitats in southern Texas with plenty of places to perch, including rock formations and dunes. Their food sources are spiders and insects, which they catch while in their perch.

Southwestern Fence Lizard Range Map:

Southwestern Fence Lizards spend most of their time perched in trees or fences. If you see one, get a good look – chances are it will be gone before you know it! They’re quick to hide if threatened.


#3. Dunes Sagebrush Lizard

  • Sceloporus arenicolus

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 2 to 2.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring is light yellowish brown with no pattern except for two grayish lines on the back.
  • Blue patches on the throat and belly are much less pronounced than other spiny lizards.

The Dunes Sagebrush Lizard has the most specific habitat of any spiny lizard in Texas.

It only lives in a small area of dunes created by shinnery oak trees. It uses the sand and the root systems of the trees to create burrows to hide in and escape uncomfortable temperatures.

Dunes Sagebrush Lizard Range Map:Credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGS

When out of their borrows, Dunes Sagebrush Lizards spend their time basking in “blowouts,” which are crater-like holes in the sand.

The small range of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard is threatened by cattle grazing and oil industry development, which causes damage to shinnery oak trees and the introduction of invasive species.


#4. Crevice Spiny Lizard

  • Sceloporus poinsettii

common spiny lizards in Texas

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 3 to 5.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring is yellowish with a thick black collar bordered with white and thick, dusky bands down the back.
  • Scales are pointed and keeled (raised in the center), giving this species a particularly spiky look.

As their name suggests, Crevice Spiny Lizards live in rocky areas with plenty of cracks and crevices.

Crevice Spiny Lizard Range Map:

They are very timid, so you would be very lucky to see one of these spiny lizards in the wild! They are so nervous and skittish, they have been known to climb straight up a rock face to escape a threat!

Crevice Spiny Lizards also find their food- mainly insects and spiders- in the cracks of their rocky habitat.

Females have the interesting ability to carry their eggs until they hatch, instead of laying them in a nest! There aren’t many places in its habitat suitable for burying eggs, so this adaptation is truly necessary!


#5. Twin-Spotted Spiny Lizard

  • Sceloporus bimaculosus

species of spiny lizards in Texas

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 5 to 5.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring is pale gray to brown or straw. Dark lines run from the corners of the eyes down the back.
  • Males have two long blue-green patches on the sides that females lack.

The Twin-Spotted Spiny Lizard prefers a semi-arid desert habitat and usually lives near thickets, rock formations, or old buildings.

Twin-Spotted Spiny Lizard Range Map:Credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGS

The Twin-Spotted Spiny Lizard is one of the largest spiny lizards in Texas!

Even for a lizard, it has a strikingly long tail. It can be up to twice as long as the lizard’s body and ends in a sharp point.


#6. Canyon Lizard

  • Sceloporus merriami

common spiny lizards in Texas

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 2 to 2.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring often matches the boulders of its habitat – gray, tan, or reddish-brown. Vertical black bars are present on the shoulders.
  • Males have two large blue belly patches edged in black.

The Canyon Lizard can ONLY be found in Texas.

Canyon Lizard Range Map:

It has three distinct subspecies, all with slight variations in coloring. The subspecies are Merriam’s Canyon Lizard, Big Bend Canyon Lizard, and Presidio Canyon Lizard.

All three subspecies have a throat fold, which is unique in spiny lizards.

The easiest way to tell the difference between the three subspecies of the Canyon Lizard is location; their ranges are close together in Texas but don’t overlap.


#7. Texas Spiny Lizard

  • Sceloporus olivaceus

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 3.5 to 4.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring is gray to rusty brown with light stripes along the sides and wavy bars across the back.
  • Males have narrow light-blue patches on the sides.

The Texas Spiny Lizard range is limited in Texas.

However, it’s very widespread and abundant in its habitat.

Texas Spiny Lizard Range Map:

Texas Spiny Lizards are habitat generalists, which means they can live in almost any habitat. However, they prefer high perches and live in trees and patches of prickly pear cactus, on fences, in old bridges, and even in abandoned houses!


#8. Graphic Spiny Lizard

  • Sceloporus grammicus

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 1.5 to 3 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring is gray to olive-gray without distinct markings.
  • Males sometimes have a metallic-green luster to their back scales.

The Graphic Spiny Lizard, sometimes called the Mesquite Lizard, can ONLY be found in extreme southern Texas.

Graphic Spiny Lizard Range Map:

This tiny lizard lives primarily in mesquite trees and some other scrubby tree varieties. Graphic Spiny Lizards, like most other lizards, prefer to eat insects like ants and beetles.

Graphic Spiny Lizards have a much rounder head than most other spiny lizards, which is one way to tell them apart from similar species.


#9. Rose-Bellied Lizard

  • Sceloporus variabilis

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 1 to 2.25 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring is buff to olive-brown, with two rows of brown spots on the sides. Males have pink spots edged in dark blue on the belly.
  • Skin pockets behind the thighs create folds near the base of the tail.

The Rose-Bellied Lizard is found in arid deserts in Texas.

Look for them on fenceposts or cactus. They are extremely well-adapted to sharing space with humans and often bask out in the open along trails.

Rose-Bellied Lizard Range Map:Credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGS

Rose-Bellied Lizards have a fascinating defensive strategy.

Their tails are easily broken off and can regenerate! This is useful if a predator grabs on – even if they get a bite, the Rose-Bellied Lizard can still escape!


#10. Blue Spiny Lizard

  • Sceloporus cyanogenys

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 4 to 6 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Male coloring is metallic greenish-blue over dark brown, with bronze coloring on the legs and pairs of light spots along the back.
  • Females are gray to brown without metallic coloring, but they do have pairs of light spots as in the males.

This species is the largest spiny lizard in Texas, growing up to 14 inches long!

Blue Spiny Lizards prefer to live in rocky areas with plenty of hiding places since their size and coloring make them conspicuous to predators. Interestingly, they can sever their tail and regenerate it if a predator latches on!

Blue Spiny Lizard Range Map:

Blue Spiny Lizards have a small population in Texas, but their gray-blue coloring and large size make them recognizable if you find one.

YouTube video

Do you need additional help identifying spiny lizards?

Try this field guide!


Which of these spiny lizards have you seen in Texas?

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3 Comments

  1. Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, Hidalgo County, has Texas Spiny, Blue Spiny, Rose-bellied, Mesquite Lizards in addition to several non-spiny lizards.