San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide
California Side-blotched Lizard, San Diego, Photographed by Dick Schwenkmeyer

Uta stansburiana
Common Side-blotched Lizard

PHRYNOSOMATIDAE

Uta is named after the state of Utah and stansburiana after the explorer Howard Stansbury who collected the holotype during the exploration and survey of the valley of the Great Salt Lake of Utah (1852). The common name refers to the black spot on each side of the lizard, just behind the forelegs.

Description

Size: The Side-blotched Lizard is small -- snout-vent length about 2 1/4 inches (5.5 cm).

Coloration:The body color is generally brown with a double row of darker spots that run the length of its back, converging to a single row down the tail. There is a conspicuous dark blotch on each side, just behind the front legs. A narrow white stripe extends from the outside corner of each eye onto the shoulder. Males, especially during mating season, sport a dorsal cover of blue spots. Females lack this decorative coloration.

Subspecies: As many as five subspecies have been recognized. Only the California Side-blotched Lizard (U. s. elegans) occurs within our region.

Range and Habitat

The Side-blotched Lizard is distributed across most of the western United States and northern Mexico.

This is probably the most common lizard in the southwestern United States. It can be found in abundance from the coastal cliffs through the chaparral covered coastal plains and foothills to the mixed forests of our highest mountains. Typically, the Side-blotched Lizard can be seen on rocks, the lower branches of shrubs, in debris near the ground, usually with cover nearby. It frequents highly disturbed areas

Natural History

Behavior: They are active all year in some areas, but most active during the summer months when they sun themselves or search for food. During periods of inactivity, they dig shallow burrows or hide themselves under logs, rocks, or similar cover.

Prey and Predators: The Side-blotched Lizard is insectivorous. One observer estimated that a single lizard can devour up to 9,000 insects each year. In captivity, they readily take flies and mealworms. Their primary predators include snakes and predatory birds, such as small hawks, roadrunners, and loggerhead shrikes. Weasels and skunks may also eat side-blotched lizards.

Breeding: They lay their eggs from March through August. During this time, as many as seven clutches are produced, with as many as eight eggs in each clutch.

Conservation Status

There has been no proposed conservation plans.


Text and photo by Dick Schwenkmeyer.

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