CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California



Southern Sagebrush Lizard -
Sceloporus graciosus vandenburgianus

Cope, 1896

(= Sceloporus vandenburgianus)
Click on a picture for a larger view



Common Sagebrush Lizard California Range Map
Range in California: Blue

Click the map for a guide
to the other subspecies



observation link





Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard
Adult male, San Bernardino County
Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard
Close-up showing orange coloring
behind front legs
Adult Male San Diego County
Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard
Adult, 9,600 ft. San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County Adult, 6,900 ft. San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County Adult, 6,900 ft. San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County
Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard
Adult, 6,800 ft. San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County Adult, 6,800 ft. San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County
Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard
Adult male, 6,000 ft.,
San Bernardino County
Adult male, 6,000 ft., San Bernardino County
Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard
  Adult female San Diego County  
  Southern Sagebrush Lizard  
  Gravid adult female, Riverside County.
© Scott Shoemaker
 
     
Comparisons of Common Sagebrush Lizards with Western Fence Lizards
sagebrush and fence lizard comparison sagebrush and fence lizard comparison sagebrush and fence lizard comparison
Dorsal view - Common Sagebrush Lizard, Sceloporus graciosus, on the left, Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis, on the right. Note the larger dorsal scales on the Fence Lizard.
© Patrick Briggs
Head view - Common Sagebrush Lizard on the left, Western Fence Lizard on the right. © Patrick Briggs Ventral view - Western Fence Lizard on the left, Common Sagebrush Lizard on the right. Note the yellow on the back of the thighs on the Western Fence Lizard.
© Patrick Briggs
sagebrush and fence lizard comparison sagebrush and fence lizard comparison fence lizard
A Common Sagebrush Lizard on the left basking next to a Western Fence Lizard on the right. Comparison of the rear thighs of a Common Sagebrush Lizard - on top, and a Western Fence Lizard - on the bottom.

Note the granular scales on the Common Sagebrush Lizard and the keeled (and yellow) scales on the Western Fence Lizard.
Underside of adult male Western Fence Lizard showing yellow on the back of the thighs and enlarged femoral pores.
sagabrush lizard scales western fence lizard scales  
The Sagebrush lizard has overlapping scales with sharp spines on the back. The Western Fence Lizard has larger scales with longer spines on the back.  
     
Habitat
Southern Sagebrush Lizard Habitat Southern Sagebrush Lizard Habitat Southern Sagebrush Lizard Habitat
Habitat , 6,200 ft. San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County
Habitat, 5,600 ft. San Diego County Habitat, San Jacinto Mountains,
Riverside County
Southern Sagebrush Lizard Habitat Southern Sagebrush Lizard Habitat Southern Sagebrush Lizard Habitat
Habitat, 9,600 ft. San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County Habitat, 8,500 ft. San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County Habitat, 6,800 ft. San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County
     
Short Video
  Southern Sagebrush Lizard  
  A lizard runs over the rocks and does territorial push-up displays.  
   
Description
 
Size
1 7/8 - 3 1/2 inches long from snout to vent (4.7 - 8.9 cm). (Stebbins 2003)

Appearance
A small lizard with small keeled and pointed scales overlapping on the upper surfaces of the body and limbs.
These scales are not as large as they are on other lizards of the genus Sceloporus.
The gular fold is incomplete.
The scales on the back of the thigh are mostly granular, not keeled (as they are on the Western Fence Lizard.)
Color and Pattern
Color is gray or brown with dark blotches or irregular bands on the body and tail and light stripes along the sides and upper sides at the edge of the back.
There is usually a bar of black on the shoulder and rusy coloring on the armpits and sometimes on the sides of the body and the neck.
Unlike the Western Fence Lizard - Sceloporus occidentalis, there is normally no yellow coloring on the rear of the limbs.
Male / Female Differences
Males have a patch of blue color on each side of the belly and on the throat.
Blue patches usually meet across the belly and touch the throat coloring.
The underside of the tail and legs is also often blue.

Male postanal scales are enlarged, and the base of the tail is broader than on the female.
The throat is light blue mottled with white spots.
Sometimes the blue patch is reduced or even absent.
Some males may develop bright orange breeding coloring.

Females have little or no blue on the belly, but belly may be dark. When breeding, females may develop orange coloring on the sides and neck and yellow underneath.
Young
Young lizards have little or no blue on the belly.

Differences Between Subspecies of Sagebrush Lizards
Differentiating subspecies of Sceloporus graciosus in California.

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Diurnal.
Active from March or April to September or October depending on the weather.
Hibernates during winter in rock cracks and mammal burrows.
A good climber and jumper, able to quickly jump from rock to rock.
Lives mostly on the ground near bushes, logs, rocks, or brush piles.
Often observed basking on rocks and logs.
Escapes danger by running into rocks, rodent burrows, or brush or climbs up trees or rock outcrops.
Territoriality
Males defend their territory with head-bobbing and by standing tall and displaying the blue belly and throat.
Diet and Feeding
Eats a variety of small invertebrates, including ants, termites, grasshoppers, flies, spiders, and beetles.
Breeding
Breeds from May to July.
Females lay 1 or 2 clutches of 2 - 7 eggs from June to August.
Eggs hatch in August and September.

Geographical Range
The species Sceloporus graciosus occurs in California, Eastern oregon, central Washington, southern Idaho parts of Montana and North Dakota, in much of Wyoming, Utah, western Colorado, northwest New Mexico, northern Arizona, and in Baja California del Norte, Mexico.

This subspecies (or species) is found in the Transverse and Peninsular mountains of southern California, and in the Sierra San Pedro Martir of northern Baja California del Norte.

Although the sagebrush lizard is not usually shown ranging in the Santa Ana Mountains, there is a museum specimen from the Santa Ana Mountains in Orange County, so I show this subspecies as occuring there on my map.

Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History (LACM) - Vertebrate specimens
LACM Herps 95767 Reptilia: Sceloporus graciosus United States, California, Orange: "2.1 mi. NE Ranger Station on Ortega Hwy, 12 mi. NE San Juan Capistrano Mission, "Lazy W"  1966

Another museum specimen labeled S. graciosus was examined 9/14 and identified as S. occidentalis:
University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute - Herpetology Collection
KU KUH 40390 Reptilia: Sceloporus graciosus USA, California, Orange: 2.8 mi N Laguna Beach 1955)

Elevational Range
The species Sceloporus graciosus is found at elevations of 500 ft. to around 10,500 ft. (150 - 3,200 m) (Stebbins 2003).

S. g. vandenburgianus
is found at higher elevations, from at least 4,500 ft. (2926 - 1371 m) to at least 9,600 ft.

Habitat
Lives in shrublands such as chaparral, manzanita and ceanothus, as well as open pine and Douglas Fir forests, mainly in the mountains.
Prefers open areas with scattered low bushes and lots of sun.
Often occurs with the Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis.

Notes on Taxonomy
Three subspecies of Sceloporus graciosus are recognized in California:
Sceloporus
graciosus gracilis -
Western Sagebrush Lizard,
Sceloporus graciosus graciosus - Northern Sagebrush Lizard, and
Sceloporus graciosus vandenburgianus
- Southern Sagebrush Lizard.

In 1991, Collins (1991, Herpetol. Rev. 22: 42–43) proposed recognizing this taxon as a species,Sceloporus vandenburgianus. In 1997, Wiens & Reeder (1997 Herpetological Monographs 11: 1-101) followed Collins’ proposal but pointed out the morphological similarity and geographic proximity of S. vandenburgianus to populations of Sceloporus graciosus gracilis. In response, many researchers are awaiting further studies before elevating this taxon to full species.

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None
Taxonomy
Family Phrynosomatidae Zebra-tailed, Earless, Fringe-toed, Spiny, Tree, Side-blotched, and Horned Lizards Fitzinger, 1843
Genus Sceloporus Spiny Lizards Wiegmann, 1828
Species graciosus Common Sagebrush Lizard Baird and Girard, 1852
Subspecies

vandenburgianus Southern Sagebrush Lizard Cope, 1896
Original Description
Sceloporus graciosus - Baird and Girard, 1852 - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 6, p. 69
Sceloporus vandenburgianus - Cope, 1896 - Amer. Nat., Vol. 30, p. 834

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Sceloporus - Greek -skelos leg and porus - pore or opening - refers to the femoral pores on hind legs
graciosus
- Latin - graciosus graceful - "This small and graceful species..."
vandenburgianus- honors Van Denburgh, John

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Alternate Names
Sceloporus vandenburgianus - Southern Sagebrush Lizard (Recognized as a full species)

Related or Similar California Lizards
Sceloporus graciosus gracilis - Western Sagebrush Lizard
Sceloporus graciosus graciosus - Northern Sagebrush Lizard
Uta. stansburiana - Common Side-blotched Lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis - Western Fence Lizard

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Turtles and Lizards of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Jones, Lawrence, Rob Lovich, editors. Lizards of the American Southwest: A Photographic Field Guide. Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2009.

Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Lizards, Lizards of the United States and of Canada. Cornell University Press, 1946.

Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


This animal is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.


Organization
Status Listing
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA)
California Endangered Species Act (CESA)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Bureau of Land Management
USDA Forest Service

 

Home Site Map About Us Identification Lists Maps Photos More Lists CA Snakes CA Lizards CA Turtles CA Salamanders CA Frogs
Contact Us Usage Resources Rattlesnakes Sounds Videos FieldHerping Yard Herps Behavior Herp Fun CA Regulations
Beyond CA All Herps


Return to the Top

 © 2000 -