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by Valerie

April, 2016

Texas Spiny Lizard

Texas spiny lizard

One of the most frequently spotted lizards in Austin yards is the Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus). This handsome spiky reptile is quite adaptable and can be found in trees, on rocks or lounging amongst the potted plants on a back porch. It has excellent camouflage against stone or bark and doesn't tend to run away unless it has to. Due to its very rough scales, people sometimes mistake it for a horned lizard, but the spiny lizard has a MUCH longer tail (usually longer than the body) and no large horns on the head. Besides, the horned lizard has not been seen in Austin for a long time.

Although babies are sometimes seen which are no more than three inches long, a full grown lizard with undamaged tail can be about eleven inches. Prey consists of insects and spiders. I've even seen one individual manage to get a large and very spiny grasshopper down its gullet. Females dig a nest in the ground and lay clutches of up to 25 eggs. They might do this several times a year; sometimes they can be found working on the nest or depositing eggs.

Spiny lizards sometimes fall prey to cats, birds and snakes. I saw one eaten by a baby rattlesnake (it took about 10 minutes to get most of that long tail down). Another was halfway down the throat of a Texas rat snake, but appeared too large for the snake to swallow. When I looked for it later, I found the lizard alive but covered with specks of blood. I suspect the backward pointing scales did some painful damage to the snake when it regurgitated the lizard.

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