Reveal That Metazoan! Roadcut Reptile Edition

Oh, look, it’s a brand-new mystery series! Many of you seem to enjoy these puzzlers, and I’ve got pictures of animals other than birds and bugs, so I figured I’d expand a bit. Branch out to other metazoan families, donchaknow. And that’ll help break up the relentless onslaught of mystery flora. The sad truth is, plants stand still. Animals often don’t. Hence, we have a dearth of animals as it is. We cannot afford to ignore any of them just because they don’t fly or don’t have an exoskeleton.

Here to inaugurate our new series is a delightful lizard seen in that incredible rhyolite road cut near the Nevada-Oregon border.

Image shows a gray-brown lizard with horizontal black stripes on its tail clinging jauntily to an outcrop of rheamorphic rhyolite.
Mystery Metazoan I

Saucy, innit? And large! It was quite plump and long. I’m used to Arizona lizards, which were skinny little things about the length of a finger. This one was longer than my hand, and definitely looks like it’s found good eating, out there in the rocky wastes.

Image is a close-up of the lizard's face.
Mystery Metazoan II

Look at those arch eyebrow ridges or whatever you call ’em on a lizard! I love their dear little faces. There’s something about a lizard’s expression that just screams superiority. It’s like they know they’re better than those warm-blooded young upstarts that went infesting the planet. They almost seem to remember a time when reptilia ruled the world, and they haven’t bloody forgotten it.

Image shows the lizard now on a different rock, facing down and to the left.
Mystery Metazoan III

This one seemed to be curious about us, and also quite pleased to show off the remarkable rocks that were its home. It posed here and posed there, and I snapped away frantically, wanting to get a few good photos in before it decided it had graced the uncouth mammals with its appearance quite long enough.

Image is a close-up view of the head, showing a dark charcoal strip beneath its eye and along its head.
Mystery Metazoan IV

So really look closely at that glorious animal. Note the subtle but gorgeous patterns in its earth-toned scales. Observe the insouciant ease with which it perches in impossible positions on its rocks. Drool on the rocks a little, by all means, but do please return to perusing the lizard.

Alas, it eventually tired of us, and swept away across a rhyolite boulder, vanishing into some rabbit brush.

Image shows the lizard clinging to a rhyolite boulder, about to dodge into some rabbit brush.
Mystery Metazoan V

Look at those toes! They’re so agile. Amazing little critters.

I’ve got more photos over on Flickr for ye. Good luck in your identifications, my darlings!

Reveal That Metazoan! Roadcut Reptile Edition

11 thoughts on “Reveal That Metazoan! Roadcut Reptile Edition

  1. 1

    Maybe the lizards up in Flagstaff were “skinny little things”, but down here in the Sonoran Desert weve got big ‘uns: Desert Spinies, Chuckwallas, and even Gila Monsters in the surrounding foothills and bajadas. I love ’em!

    This guy’s clearly of the spiny lizard tribe, and near the Oregon-Nevada border that probably means Western Fence Lizard Sceloporus occidentalis. Very nice photographs!

  2. rq

    I can’t figure out which is more awesome, the lizard or the rhyolite. The lizard looks a bit like a rhyolite itself, excellently done, camouflage! The flickr pictures are amazing, too.
    Not going to try to ID, I don’t think I’m much good with large animals. ;)

  3. 5

    I have the Audubon Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians on my tablet. I’ll have a go at looking it up later.

    Most of the small lizards you see in Az are the ubiquitous ‘Western Fence Lizard’. We had a good size (~8 inches) collared lizard that lived in our front yard in Tucson that we named Komodo. And I have been lucky enough to see a Gila monster in the wild, whilst hiking Saguaro Nat’l Monument East one time.

  4. 6

    Found an online guide, and damn, but a lot of these buggers look a lot alike! I think that might be the NW version of a western fence lizard.

    The Northwestern Fence Lizard has 2 blue throat patches often with light-blue connecting band and a light belly found inc. Washington to c. California. Island Fence Lizard has a black throat patch and is only on Channel Islands off coast of s. California. San Joaquin Fence Lizard has 1 blue throat patch, a gray or black belly with blue patches and is only found in the lower San Joaquin Valley, California. Coast Range Fence Lizard has throat patches which are small in males & absent in females, from San Mateo to Santa Barbara County, California. Great Basin Fence Lizard has 1 large blue throat patch in males, a gray to black belly with blue patches and is found in c. Oregon and extreme se. Washington to c. Idaho south through e. California, Nevada, and w. Utah. </b?Also c. California south along coast into n. Baja California. The Sierra Fence Lizards entire belly and throat is blue in adult males and is found in Sierra Nevada of California, usually above 7,000' (2,100 m).

  5. 7

    My knowledge of herpetology is pretty much limited to “Eeek, a snake!” So I will defer to those above. It looks right based on a Google image search. Great pictures!

  6. 8

    Ah, so the spiny lizard family does include horny toads. I had a feeling that Dana’s little friend must be related.

    Great pics, Dana! Esp. the second one, I’d like a poster of that!

  7. 11

    I would say that’s definitely a “blue belly” or western fence lizard. They’re fabulous, fast little lizards that quickly acclimate to handling. I’ve had a few as temporary pets when I was much younger.

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