Prairie Lizard (Sceloporus consobrinus)
This species is generally gray or tan with a series of approximately 8 dark, jagged crossbars on the back. Scales overlap and are keeled, giving this species a rough texture. This species has a very limited ability to change color, from darker (in cooler weather) to lighter (in warmer weather).
Males will develop bright turquoise-colored patches on the underside of the belly and throat. Juveniles resemble females in coloration, but are often darker.
This species is unlikely to be confused any other in Arkansas, though it might be noted that recent studies have shed light on the Sceloporus undulatus complex and no subspecies are currently recognized. Recently, this species was considered the subspecies Northern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthinus).
This species is also known as the Fence Runner, Fence Lizard, or Gray Lizard.
This is a species of forest edge habitat. Wood and rock piles provide ideal conditions for this species to find a perch to survey its territory or quickly find shelter. As the name suggests, this species is commonly found on or near fence posts (but note that fences are typically found along edge habitats).
This species is likely to be seen off the ground atop a rock, log, or up on a tree. They are excellent climbers and obligate baskers. Males are especially territorial and are known to compete quite fiercely for the best "perch". From a vantage point, they can bask, prey can be spotted, potential predators can be watched for, and males--during the breeding season--can do "push ups" to show off their bright breeding colorations to nearby females and to warn off rival males. Males with the best lookouts are known to have an advantage in successful breeding. Breeding occurs throughout the spring and summer and females may produce multiple clutches (typically 2) per season.
Prey consists primarily of insects and spiders. From a "perch", this species will spot prey and then chase after it or allow the prey to come within gobbling distance. From there, it is pretty straightforward since this species will only take prey it can easily subdue.
This species is well camouflaged against rocks and tree bark. They are relatively fast and good climbers. Upon approach they are likely to tuck behind a nearby tree or log. If one walks around the tree, the lizard will adjust to stay on the opposite side out of sight. With the wave of a hand around the backside of a tree, a hiding specimen will usually jump around to become more visible. A captured specimen is not likely to bite. Although the tail will detach, it does so with much less ease than in other lizard species.
This common species holds no special status in Arkansas. In fact, it is relatively common in parks and even in backyards. Human disturbances, such as rock walls, rock piles, and log piles may actually enhance the habitat for this species. They are just fast enough to prove difficult to catch by curious youngsters.