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I made this portrait of a spiny lizard the other day over at Sabino Canyon.
But, then, I was confronted with a deceptively simple question: what species of spiny lizard is this?
There are two species of spiny lizards that live in the canyon: the much more common Desert Spiny Lizard and Clark’s Spiny Lizard. At the canyon, Desert Spiny Lizards seem to be all over the place. Clark’s Spiny Lizards tend to hang out in the riparian area near Sabino Dam. The two species are quite similar in appearance but there are differences that usually make it fairly simple to tell them apart. Desert Spiny Lizards tend to be somewhat bigger and to be more brightly colored. Typically, male Desert Spiny Lizards have blue patches on their backs and many have yellow on their faces. Females often have orange around their eyes. Clark’s Spiny Lizards tend to be tinted a bit greenish overall and they invariably have horizontal dark stripes on their front legs. Both male Desert Spiny Lizards and Clark’s Spiny Lizards often have turquoise patches under their necks.
I was near Sabino Dam when I photographed this one and that lent a small amount of ambiguity to the identification issue. Furthermore, this one isn’t as bulky nor is it as brightly colored as many of the Desert Spiny Lizards that I’ve seen. But, it lacks horizontal stripes on its front legs, so I’m going with Desert Spiny Lizard as the species.
Identification aside, I like the photo. It’s hard to capture photos of lizards that clearly show their eyes. This one’s eye is not only plainly visible but it obviously is staring at me. The lizard and I sat there for several minutes, looking at each other, neither of us moving. Eventually, it slowly moved away into the brush.
Image made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 mm f3.5 L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 200, f11 @ 1/160.