Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Northern Fence Lizard Youngster

I’ve only seen a few adult Northern Fence Lizards this year, but hatchlings have been showing up on a regular basis.  They’re probably not really hatchlings since they didn’t just crawl from the egg.  Their size indicates they haven’t been long out of the shell, so I’m just using the term to describe a very young lizard.

I found this guy on the barn wall.  He’s probably the smallest specimen I’ve seen all summer.  I’m wondering what has caused the abundance of youngsters.  I’m leaning towards the theory that the early warm up in late winter allowed the lizards to emerge from hibernation much sooner than normal.  This would have allowed for earlier mating, earlier egg laying and earlier hatching.  The most important point being that older females would have had time to lay more than one clutch of eggs and this would account for the emergence of lizards over a period of months.  Since this is all based on casual observations, it’s also possible that I’ve just been in a position to notice more lizards this year.

I was trying to get a close look to see if the egg tooth was still attached.  The egg tooth is used to slice open the egg shell at hatching and is soon lost.  I think the tooth is gone, but the spot it occupied is still visible at the tip of the snout.

The natural pattern and colors of the lizard make superb camouflage when the lizard is running on the rocks, fallen trees and tree trunks which are its normal haunts.  The visual effect fails when the background is a solid color.

It’s easy to see why this species is referred to as a spiny lizard.  I love the spiky scales.  Upon close examination each scale seems to have its own unique shape and color pattern.  The whole effect gives the lizard the appearance of invulnerability.  Of course there’s a whole list of predators ready to prove that to be untrue.

Northern Fence Lizards are great climbers as long as the surface they are scaling is rough enough for a toe hold.  Long, sharp nails tip the toes and allow a firm grip.  I can’t be sure why I’m seeing so many lizards this year.  Whatever the reason, it’s been a lot of fun.


  1. I have seen them here near XU for the first time ever.

  2. Hi Lois. If they can find the right habitat components, they'll thrive anywhere.

  3. Hi Pat. He's cute, but he's already got the face of an old timer.