One of three lizard species on the University of Arizona Campus is Aspidoscelis sonorae, or the Sonoran Spotted Whiptail. This particular lizard species is incredibly interesting, because it is a unisexual species made up of only females. This also means they reproduce asexually, or in other words produce clones of themselves. There are ten species of whiptails in the genus Aspidoscelis that call Arizona home. Out of these ten a total of six of them are parthenogenetic (reproduce without fertilization).
The second lizard species found on campus is Urosaurus ornatus, or the Ornate Tree Lizard. These lizards are the smallest and most abundant of the three species on campus. These lizards are very good at camouflaging into the tree bark and are incredibly quick. In this lizard species you can identify the males and females apart by their bellies; males have bright and colorful blue bellies to attract their mates.
The last, but certainly not the least, species on campus is Sceloporus magister, or the Desert Spiny Lizard. This lizard is part of one of the most species rich family in North America, Phrynosomatidae. There are eight species of Sceloporus lizards in Arizona. You can find the Desert Spiny lizards usually in trees around campus just like the Ornate Tree Lizard that they feed on. Also like the Ornate Tree Lizard the males possess colorful throat patches and bellies to attract mates. You can also observe them doing “pushups” to defend territory and attract females.
All three of these species are ready to be found all over campus if you just know when and where to look! It is just about that time of year where we will slowly start to see an increase in the amount of lizards coming out due to the warming weather.