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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Western Long-tailed Brush Lizard -
Urosaurus graciosus graciosus

Hallowell, 1854
Click on a picture for a larger view



Long-tailed Brush Lizard Range MapRange in California: Red



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Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard
Adult female in dark phase, Imperial County
Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard
  Adult male, Imperial County  
Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard
Adult male, Imperial County Adult male, Imperial County (notice the salt excreted from the right nostril. Adult male, Imperial County
Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard
Adult, San Diego County, found sleeping on a creosote bush at night. Adult, Imperial County Adult male, Imperial County
Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard
Adult male, Imperial County Adult, Imperial County
Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard
Adult male, Imperial County Adult female, Imperial County Adult female, Imperial County
Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard
Adult, Imperial County Adult in a typical setting inside a
creosote bush, Imperial County.
Adult, eastern Riverside County
© Geoff Fangerow
Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard
Juvenile, Imperial County.
While chasing a lizard in the dunes, I spotted another lizard on top of a dead tumbleweed apparently basking in the 95 degree heat. It turned out to be a long-tailed brush lizard that looked like it had taken up residence in the bush since there were no large creosote or other bushes within about 10 meters. I suppose the good bushes are taken by the adults and the juveniles have to take what they can get. When I got too close for comfort, the lizard descended down into the tumbleweed.
Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Roadrunner with Long-tailed Brush Lizard
Adult, Yuma County, Arizona This Long-tailed Brush Lizard fell prey to a Roadrunner in San Diego County
  Great Basin Collared Lizard  
  The Long-tailed Brush Lizard has a mixture of small  granular scales and larger weekly-keeled scales on the dorsal surface

 
Similar Sympatric Species
The tail of the Long-tailed Brush Lizard is longer than that of other similar species except the Colorado River Tree Lizard, Urosaurus ornatus symmetricus, which occurs throughout all of the range of the Long-tailed Brush Lizard in California and most of its range elsewhere. The two species are often very similar in appearance, but they can be separated by examining the wide band of enlarged scales on the middle of the back that is found on both species:

Colorado River Tree Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard
The band of wide scales on the back of a tree lizard is split in the center by smaller scales.

(The picture above is not the U. o. symmetricus subspecies which has a wider band of small scales than the subspecies illustrated here.)

The band of wide scales on the back of the Long-tailed Brush Lizard is not split in the center by smaller scales.
The Western Side-blotched Lizard - Uta stansburiana elegans - has small scales on the back with no band of enlarged scales in the middle, and typically has a large dark blotch on the sides behind the front legs.

Great Basin Collared Lizard






Western Side-blotched Lizard
Habitat
Long-tailed Brush Lizard Habitat Long-tailed Brush Lizard Habitat Long-tailed Brush Lizard Habitat
Habitat, sand dunes, Imperial County Habitat, with Creosote bush,
Riverside County
Habitat, dead Creosote bush,
Imperial County
Long-tailed Brush Lizard Habitat Long-tailed Brush Lizard Habitat  
Habitat next to Colorado River,
Yuma County, Arizona

Habitat, Imperial County  
Short Videos
Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard  
We slowly move up to and into the middle of a Creosote bush to find a Long-tailed Brush Lizard on a branch resting motionless and relying on its camouflage to stay hidden. A Long-tailed Brush Lizard moves along a branch.  
Description

Size
1 7/8 - 2 3/5 inches long from snout to vent (4.7 - 6.6 cm). (Stebbins 2003)
Appearance
A small lizard with a very long thin tail, up to twice the length of the body that is stongly associated with shrubs and trees. Scales are small, but there is a wide band of distinctly larger keeled scales down the middle of the back. A distinct gular fold across the throat. There may be a light stripe along the side.

Color is grayish, light brown, or beige with faint dark irregular crossbars on the back. Able to quickly change from dark to light phase to match it's habitat. (I took a dark gray lizard off a gray branch and put it on the light sand where it turned to a sandy color in only a few minutes.)

Males have enlarged postanal scales, and a pale belly with green or bluish patches flecked with white on each side of the belly, and an orange or yellowish patch on the throat. Females have a pale unmarked belly, and may also have orange or yellow on the throat.
Behavior & Natural History
Diurnal. Tolerant of high heat (more so than Urosaurus ornatus). Active from March through fall. Often found basking on lower branches in the morning. Spends the night in burrows under a shrub or in the sand or at the tips of branches.

Relies on its cryptic coloring to act as camouflage as it lies still on a branch with the body and tail aligned with a branch. When spotted, it will quickly turn to the other side of a branch to hide from a predator, or run into a root tangle or burrow. Occasionally seen foraging on the ground and on roads at night.
Diet
Eats small invertebrates and occasionally some plant material.
Reproduction
Mates in the spring. 1 or 2 clutches of 2 - 10 eggs are laid underground from May to July. Eggs hatch in about two months, with young appearing from July to September.
Range

The subspecies U. g. graciosus inhabits much of the Mojave and Colorado deserts of California south into northeastern Baja California Norte and part of Sonora, Mexico, extreme eastern Arizona into extreme southern Nevada and just barely into Utah. Another subspecies, U. g. shannoni - Arizona Long-tailed Brush Lizard, is found in south-west-central Arizona and extreme northwest Sonora, Mexico.

Most field guides show the western limit of the range of U. g. graciosus to be the western edge of the Mojave Desert where the Tehachapi and Transverse mountains meet in the Antelope Valley. The 1998 California Department of Fish and Game range map shows the western range limit to be near Barstow. I have found only one record for the species farther west than the Barstowarea, and that is one mile northwest of Rosamond which is labeled Los Angeles County, but is actually Kern County. Because of this record and a probable U. graciosus I saw pictures of from Palmdale, which is not far south of Rosamond, I have made the western limit of the range in that area.

Habitat
Capable of living in hot areas with sparse vegetation. Found in the desert in areas where there are patches of loose sand and scattered bushes and trees, including creosote, salt bush, cat's claw, smoke tree, and mesquite. Favors creosote bushes with large exposed roots. From below sea level to around 3,500 ft. (1,070 m).
Taxonomic Notes
At one time two subspecies of Urosaurus graciosus were recognized, but the subspecies with more prominent dorsal markings found in southcentral Arizona is no longer recognized.
Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None.

Taxonomy
Family Phrynosomatidae Zebra-tailed, Earless, Fringe-toed, Spiny, Tree, Side-blotched, and Horned Lizards Fitzinger, 1843
Genus Urosaurus Tree & Brush Lizards Hallowell, 1854
Species graciosus Long-tailed Brush Lizard Hallowell, 1854
Subspecies


graciosus Western Long-tailed Brush Lizard Hallowell, 1854
Original Description
Urosaurus graciosus - Hallowell, 1854 - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 7, p. 92

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

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Urosaurus - Greek - oura - tail and saurus - lizard
graciosus
- Latin - gracilis slender, thin and  -osus - full of - referring to the narrow head and long tail

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

Alternate Names
Brush Lizard

Related or Similar California Lizards
U. nigricaudus - Baja California Brush Lizard

U. o. symmetricus - Colorado River Tree 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.

Lemm, Jeffrey. Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of the San Diego Region (California Natural History Guides). University of California Press, 2006.


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) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None

 

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