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Common Name: Tree Lizard

Scientific Name: Urosaurus ornalus


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Sauria

Family: Phrynosomatidae

Genus: Urosaurus

Species: U. ornatus


Tree Lizards are quite small, up to two and a half inches long and usually are black, dark brown, gray, and tan. They have large scales down the middle of their back separated by a smaller strip of scales. Adult males have bright blue and blue-green patches on their bellies. The females have white, orange, and yellow throats. They easily adapt to their environment by not needing too much water and camouflaging themselves with their surroundings. They make a living by reproducing and keeping their population strong.


Their habitat is along a river edge, woodlands, deserts and evergreen forests. They are found in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Sonora, Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Coahuila. Their population seems to be growing every year since they reproduce one to six times per year, laying two to thirteen eggs per clutch from March through August.


This lizard is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California. One contributing factor that can negatively affect the population is the food supply. If there is not enough food found then the population will start dying. Their diet mostly consists of beetles, flies, ants, bees, wasps, termites, moths, butterflies, grasshoppers, crickets and some spiders. Their tongues are very strong which allows them to catch their prey.


They compete with other lizards and birds for their food. Many lizards are eaten by raptors and other predatory birds, carnivorous mammals, reptiles and sometimes by other lizards. They evade their predators by swelling up, hissing, lashing their tail or, they run away and hide in a burrow. I think it is very interesting that a lizard can camouflage itself to look like its surroundings! In some of the pictures I saw I could hardly tell the lizard was even there. I know if I encountered a lizard in the desert or on a tree or fence post I would probably not even see it there. Another interesting fact is baby lizards don’t go through a larva stage.


Author: Ray B.

Published: 02/2009


Sources: Holt California Life Science Book

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