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A Guide to the Amphibians
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Western Side-blotched Lizard - Uta stansburiana elegans

Yarrow, 1882
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Side-blotched Lizards California Range Map
Range in California: Red


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from the Southwest Here.



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Western Side-blotched Lizards Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
Adult male (top) and adult female (bottom) San Benito County Adult male, San Diego County Adult female, San Diego County Adult female, San Diego County
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
A dark mark on the side
gives this species its name.
Adult male, San Benito County Adult male, San Diego County Adult male, San Luis Obispo County
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
Adult female, southern Inyo County Adult female, southern Inyo County Adult male with regrown tail,
southern Inyo County
Adult male, San Bernardino County
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
Colorful adult male, San Bernardino County © Guntram Deichsel Adult female, San Bernardino County Adult male, Santa Cruz County Adult male, San Diego County
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
Adult male, San Luis Obispo County Adult male, San Diego County Adult male, Kern County Adult, San Diego County
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
Adult male, San Diego County Adult male with orange throat,
San Diego County
Adult female, Kern County
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
Adult female, western Riverside County Adult female, western Riverside County
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
Adult female, western Kern County Adult male, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Barbara County
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
Adult male showing the characteristic black blotch on side and a colored throat, Alameda County Adult male, Los Angeles County
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
Adult male, Santa Barbara County
© Jen Castle
Adult female, Kern County Adult male, southern Inyo County Adult male, Yuma County, Arizona
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizards Western Side-blotched Lizards Western Side-blotched Lizards
Adult male, San Diego County Gravid adult female (top) and adult male (bottom) San Bernardino County.
© Kate Britsch
This apparently gravid Orange County female has bright orange coloring on her face and throat. Compare her to the male on her right. Like males, females can have orange, yellow, and blue throat coloring. Some orange-throated females are as colorful as the males. The photo was taken in late April. © Scott Shoemaker
Western Side-blotched Lizards Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard scorpion eating Western Side-blotched Lizard
Adult, Santa Clara County (east of Mt. Hamilton) © Jon Hirt Adult male, San Bernardino County This picture shows the difference in color and pattern (not size) between an adult female Side-blotched lizard (above) and juvenile Western Fence Lizards (below.) © Mark Miller Side-blotched lizards are low on the food chain, falling prey to many predators, including desert scorpions.
© Todd Battey
Great Basin Collared Lizard      
The Side-blotched Lizards, genus Uta, have small keeled spineless scales on the back.      
       
Uncommon and Interesting Patterns and Colors
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
Patternless adult, San Joaquin County.
© Chad M. Lane.
Adult male with yellow sides,
San Diego County. © Jeffrey Belotti
Patternless adult female,
Riverside County © Adam Helbert
Riverside County patternless gravid adult female in center with a normally-patterned adult female on the left and a normally-patterned adult male on the right. © Adam Helbert
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard  
Striped adult, Santa Catalina Island
© Nathan Smith

Adult with stripes,
San Bernardino County
© Guntram Deichsel
Striped adult from San Bernardino County
© Bo Zaremba
 
       
Breeding Behavior
Western Side-blotched Lizards Western Side-blotched Lizards Western Side-blotched Lizards  
Mating adults, Los Angeles County
© Emily Chebul
Mating adults, Kern County
© John Sullivan
Mating adults, San Bernardino County
© Jeremiah Easter
 
       
Habitat
Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat
Habitat, Mohave Desert,
San Bernardino County
Habitat, Alameda County grassland Habitat, coastal Riverside County Habitat, beach driftwood on Santa Cruz Island, Santa Barbara County
Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County desert Habitat, San Gabriel mountains chaparral, Los Angeles County
Habitat, Inyo County Habitat, Inyo County
Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County desert canyon Habitat, Carrizo Plain,
San Luis Obispo County
Chaparral / sandy wash habitat
San Benito County
Habitat, Santa Cruz Mountains,
Santa Cruz County
       
Short Videos
Western Side-blotched Lizards Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
A male side-blotched lizard tries to pursuade a female, chasing her and displaying. She is not interested, so she runs off the rock into the San Diego County desert. Common Side-blotched lizards in the Mohave Desert in San Bernardino County bask on rocks, do territorial push-ups and move around in the desert. Walking through the San Bernardino County Mohave desert we discover several of these common lizards basking in the sun. A female side-blotched lizard in the San Diego County desert repeatedly goes in and out of a small hole under an exposed root, digging out the sand with her feet and pushing it lower with her body. It's the middle of the May breeding season, so maybe she is digging out a place to lay her eggs.
     
Description
 
Size
1.5 - 2.5 inches long from snout to vent (3.8 - 6.3 cm). (Stebbins 2003)

Appearance
A small brownish gray lizard with small smooth granular scales on the back, larger scales on the head and limbs, a gular fold, and a long thin tail.

According to Brennan in Lizards of the American Southwest, this subspecies has an average of 91.3 dorsals (counting along the mid-dorsum from the interparietal scale to a point above the hind limbs) and more than 8 iterfemorals.
Color and Pattern
Color is brown, gray, yellowish, or black, with dark blotches, spots, and sometimes stripes.
Often there is a double row of dark spots or wedges on the back, edged with white on the rear.
The underside is whitish to gray and mostly unmarked.
The throat is mottled with dark and light.
A dark blue-black mark on the sides of the chest behind the front limbs gives this lizard its name.
This dark mark is sometimes faint or absent.
Male / Female Differences
Males are more colorful than females, having blue speckles on the upper surfaces, which are most visible during the light phase.
Males also have a swollen tail base and enlarged postanals, but no distinct blue coloring on the belly (which can be found on male lizards of many other species.)
The throat is marked with blue, orange, or yellow.
Males often have many blue speckles on the tail and the posterior of the body.

Females are blotched on top with brown and white, often with stripes, and have a less well-defined blotch on the sides.
They have no blue speckling, and no color on the throat.
Similar Subspecies
This subspecies is marked with a stronger dorsal pattern of spots and wedges than U. s. nevadensis, which has a more uniform dorsal pattern of scattered dark and light spots.
Three Color Morphs and Associated Behavior
Some fascinating discoveries have been made recently that show cooperative behavior with this species. Males have blue, orange, and yellow color morphs:

Orange-throated males - are dominant, aggressive and territorial and mate with many different females.
Yellow-throated males - do not defend territories. They mimic females and sneak past territorial orange-throated males to mate with their females.
Blue-throated males- guard their mates, chasing off the yellow males, but they are run off when confronted by orange males. Blue males also cooperate with neighboring blue males to protect their respective mates from the orange and yellow males, and their breeding is much more successful when they do so.
(Sinervo and Zamudio, 2001)
You can read more about Male Uta cooperation and throat colors here.

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Diurnal.
Active all year in the southern deserts and semi-arid regions whenever the temperature is warm. Inactive during cold weather.
It is active mostly on the ground, but a good climber.
Often seen basking on rocks, hopping from boulder to boulder, or running quickly along the ground.
The most abundant and commonly-seen lizard in the deserts and semi-arid areas.Usually the first lizard species out in the morning due to its small size which allows it to warm up quickly.
Often this lizard can be approached closely, since it relies on crypsis as a defence against predation, but when frightened it runs quickly into a burrow, under a surface object, or under vegetation.
The tail is often broken off when a lizard is captured, but it will grow back with time.
Longevity
This lizard is short-lived, living only about one year.
Territoriality
Males use a push-up display to display their territory.
Defense
The tail is easily detached and when detached wriggles for several minutes which may distract a predator from the lizard long enough for it to escape.
Diet and Feeding
Primarily insectivorous - eats small invertebrates such as beetles, grasshoppers, ants, spiders, scorpions and ticks.
Plant matter is sometimes eaten either for its water or by accident.
Breeding
Mates mostly in the spring.
1 - 7 clutches of 1 - 8 eggs are laid from March to August. (Stebbins 2003)
Females can store sperm to fertilize eggs at a later time.
Juveniles hatch from June to September, and breed the following spring.

Geographical Range
In California, this subspecies is found throughout the southern deserts and coastal region, north through the central valley and coast ranges to just south of the Bay Area, extending northward to the Sacramento River, and on Santa Cruz, Anacapa, San Clemente, and Catalina Islands.

Its range outside California continues into western Arizona, extreme southwestern Utah, and southern Nevada.
The species as a whole ranges north into central Washington, east into west Texas, and south into Mexico, including all of Baja California.
Elevational Range
From below sea level to around 9,000 ft. (2,700 m). (Stebbins 2003)

Habitat
Prefers open rocky areas with scattered vegetation, including the edges of sandy washes. Utilizes a wide variety of habitats, including hardpan, sandy, rocky, and loamy areas grown with chaparral, scattered trees, grass, shrubs, and cactus.

Notes on Taxonomy
The taxonomy of this widespread and variable species has been disputed.
Some experts do not recognize any subspecies of Uta stansburiana pending further studies that will provide more clarification about this species (which may consist of several different species). 

Three subspecies of Uta stansburiana are sometimes shown occuring in California, including
U. s. stansburiana
- Northern Side-blotched Lizard, which is shown to range east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Inyo and Mono counties.

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None
Taxonomy
Family Phrynosomatidae Zebra-tailed, Earless, Fringe-toed, Spiny, Tree, Side-blotched, and Horned Lizards Fitzinger, 1843
Genus Uta Side-blotched Lizards Baird and Girard, 1852
Species stansburiana Common side-blotched lizard Baird and Girard, 1852
Subspecies

elegans Western side-blotched Lizard Yarrow, 1882
Original Description
Uta stansburiana - Baird and Girard, 1852 - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 6, p. 69
Uta stansburiana elegans - Yarrow, 1882 - Proc. U.S. Natl. Mus., Vol. 5, p. 442

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

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Uta - state of Utah - refers to the region where it was first discovered.
stansburiana
- honors Stansbury, Howard S.
elegans - Latin - fine or elegant

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

Alternate Names
California Side-blotched Lizard

Uta stansburiana - Common Side-blotched Lizard (no subspecies recognized.)

Related or Similar California Lizards
U. s. nevadensis - Nevada Side-blotched Lizard

More Information and References
NatureServe Explorer

USGS

Male Uta cooperation and throat colors

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.

B. Sinervo and K. r. Zamudio. The Evolution of Alternative Reproductive Strategies: Fitness Differential, Heritability, and Genetic Correlation Between the Sexes. The Journal of Heredity 2001:92(2)

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.


There are no significant conservation concerns for this animal 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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