Greater Earless Lizard
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I’ve resumed my regular desert hikes. The other afternoon I hiked a hilly trail in Sabino Canyon. It was a hot day with the temperature approaching 90 degrees and I was proceeding very slowly, partly in order to avoid exhaustion and partly also because I was scanning for wildlife. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something small sitting on a large rock. It was a Greater Earless Lizard, basking in the sun.
Greater Earless Lizards are among the most common lizards living in our local desert. They are small — with bodies that are about three to four inches long (not counting tails) — and often quite shy. My experience with these lizards is that for every ten that I see only one sticks around long enough to be photographed. This one was extremely cooperative. It sat calmly on its rock as I moved in a circle around it, taking picture after picture.
These lizards get their name from the fact that their ears are covered by a flap of skin, hiding them from view. They definitely have ears, however, and can hear. Like most of the small lizards in our desert, they are insectivores.
If you look again at the first image you’ll see that the lizard is engaging in typical behavior for this species, balancing on its heels. Herpetologists believe that this behavior is a way of avoiding unpleasant contact with the hot surfaces of the rocks on which this species loves to sit. On hot days the surface of rocks in the Sonoran Desert can be much warmer than the air, sometimes reaching temperatures approaching 150 degrees. Looking at this lizard you’ll also notice the bright colors on its flanks. This individual is probably a male. Some males of this species are much more gaudily colored than is this individual. They sometimes exhibit colors that are a riot of spots and blotches, in brilliant hues of orange, yellow and turquoise.
The lizard never budged. He seemed to be curious about me, watching me as I photographed him. After a few minutes I finished and resumed my hike. As I looked back the lizard was still on his rock, watching me as I walked away.
Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180mm f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite and stabilized by monopod, M setting, ISO 160, f18 @ 1/160.