Desert Spiny Lizard

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There are probably in the neighborhood of a dozen or so species of lizards that one often sees in Tucson and its immediate environs.  With the exception of the Gila Monster most of these lizards are quite small.  Some have bodies that are only three or four inches long.  Desert Spiny Lizards are among the most successful of the local lizards and they are quite a bit larger than most other species.  Adult Desert Spiny Lizards have bodies (not counting their tail) that often approach six inches and they are also quite a bit bulkier than are most lizard species.  A Desert Spiny Lizard looks immense, for example, when compared with the Zebra-tailed Lizard whose image I featured a couple of days ago.

Size is relative, however.  These are not very big animals.  They’re just bigger than their cousins.

A Desert Spiny Lizard’s most prominent feature isn’t its size, it is its coloration.  No two of these lizards are colored exactly alike.  Their scales come in a fantastic array of colors ranging from jet black to turquoise, yellow, and even orange.

The adult that I’ve featured today is not the gaudiest of these lizards that I’ve seen.  Indeed, it is fairly subdued in color compared to some of its compatriots.  But, even this relatively toned-down lizard shines like a sequined handbag in the right light.

Desert Spiny Lizards love to sit and bask, as this one is doing.  They are fairly easy to approach, especially when compared with some other species.  Move slowly and you can get quite close to these lizards before they vacate the premises.  I took this picture while sitting on the ground about three feet away from my subject.  It eyed me suspiciously but never budged.

Image made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180mm f3.5L macro lens+1.4x telextender, assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite and stabilized with monopod, M setting, ISO 160, f9 @ 1/160.

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