|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|At the Living Desert Zoo, we spotted this beautiful lizard scurrying in the bushes. Every few minutes it would stop to do some push-ups all the while showing off its extended throbbing blue throat. It was quite a sight.|
Desert Spiny Lizard
At 3.5-5.5 inches long (excluding tail), a large spiny lizard. Called spiny due to enlarged and pointy scales, or "bluebelly,' due to blue undersides of many species. Blue patches, edged in black, run down sides of belly, joining posteriorly to cover entire groin area, mixing into brown anteriorly. Dorsal coloration dark and often flecked with metallic greens and yellows; a dark wedge, geographically variable in color, occurs on each side of neck in all populations. Adult males have blue throat patch. In females, blue belly patches may be weak or absent, and if breeding, head may have red to orange tint.
A diurnal species with a reputation for being shy, desert spiny lizards are best located with binoculars, then approached slowly. Look for them at the tops of rocks. Upon approach, you may notice the lizard head-bobbing or "doing push-ups' and displaying belly patches. These displays serve several functions, depending on who sees them. Flattened to the substrate, or viewed from above, the lizard blends into its surroundings. Evolutionarily, reproductive success is greater for animals that remain hidden from predators, yet stand out when wanting to be noticed, such as when trying to attract a mate. The push-up display allows for otherwise hidden areas to be seen by a target audience that may include others of the same species, similar species competing for resources, or predators. Males, which have the most brightly colored bellies, must defend territories against invading males, and attract mates. Females are better served by less obvious coloration. This difference between the sexes, termed sexual dimorphism, is analogous to antlers on elk. A competing male seeing a displaying male may "keep its distance.' A female may be attracted and even enticed to mate. To us, a bobbing lizard may seem an easy target. It may be the lizard's way of saying "I see you, don't bother.' If scared into hiding, it will likely re-emerge shortly, allowing spectators to observe at a distance.
Breeding occurs in early summer; hatchlings appear August to September. In warmer months, most of the day is spent basking and feeding. A generalized feeder, the desert spiny opportunistically consumes arthropods, other lizards, and occasionally plant material. It uses ambush, as well as active foraging strategy. Its predators include roadrunners, hawks, snakes, and bullfrogs. Desert spiny lizards hibernate in winter, except for brief activity on warmest days.
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