A Tale Of Two Spinys
Reminder: You can enlarge any of the photos in this blog by clicking on it. Click again for a full-screen image.
There are two species of Spiny Lizard that one sees in the Tucson area: the Desert Spiny Lizard and Clark’s Spiny Lizard. These are largish lizards about 8 to 10 inches in length, from nose to tip of tail. My experience has been that Desert Spinys are more commonly seen. They seem to be everywhere. Clark’s seem to show up less frequently. On the other hand, there are certain locations where one species seems to dominate. I’m not sure what very subtle differences in habitat exist to make a given location preferable for a given species.
On our side of town, the east side, Desert Spinys definitely seem to be the predominant species. I see Clark’s in this area occasionally, but never so frequently as I see Desert Spinys. However, cross the Tucson Mountains on the west side of town and it’s a different story entirely. For example, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is on the west side of the Tucson Mountains and, over there, it seems to be all Clark’s Spinys. Again, I’m not exactly sure why that is so. To me, the habitats are certainly close. Obviously, the lizards know something that I don’t know.
It’s breeding season for these lizards and the males are displaying their showiest colors, all the better to attract the ladies. Of the two species, the Desert Spiny Lizard definitely brings the most bling to the game. Here’s a photo of a male Desert Spiny Lizard in full breeding regalia that I took recently over at Sweetwater Wetlands.
Believe it or not, some males of this species are actually tricked out in even gaudier colors than is this one. I’ve seen males with solid yellow heads, for example. Nonetheless, this fellow is definitely wearing a lot of chrome. Those deep blue scales on his back are very characteristic of the species, as is the very dark collar around the lizard’s neck.
Now, here’s a male Clark’s Spiny Lizard that I photographed just the other day on the grounds of the Desert Museum.
That brilliant blue neck is a trademark of this lizard as are the emerald green scales on the lizard’s back and flanks. Note that the Clark’s collar does not extend all the way around his neck. Also note the horizontal stripes on the lizard’s lower forelegs. These are an identifying characteristic of the Clark’s Spiny Lizard.
The Clark’s is definitely more subtly colored than is his close cousin. My guess, however, is that the ladies of each species consider each of these males to be quite the thing. It’s a question of taste in men.
Photos taken with a Canon 5Diii. The first photo was taken with a 400 DO, ISO 400, aperture preferred setting, f7.1 @ 1/2000. The second photo was taken with a 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, ISO 125, M setting, f13 @ 1/160.