Added 30 December 2006. Last updated 22 February 2015: updated details for S. acanthinus, S. chrysostictus, S. couchii, S. dugesi S. melanorhinus, S. ornatus, and S. zosteromus and updated Bibliography.

A look at the

Genus Sceloporus - Swifts


Genus Sceloporus - Swifts

The genus Sceloporus is a large one, containing very similar-looking species found across North and Central America from British Columbia in Canada and southern New York to Panama. Some are well-known, particularly in the US where they are often known as "fence lizards", and a few are kept regularly in captivity.

In my own limited experience these are very fast and agile lizards that reminded me of nothing so much as our pet chipmunk in their rapid darting movements and climbing ability. Hunziker records that the two animals do in fact act in similar ways in the wild, namely running around to a different side of the tree and peering around to see if the human is still approaching.

Given their large range, ideal captive conditions for swifts vary somewhat and therefore the exact species being dealt with should be ascertained - sometimes not an easy task. Some are temperate-zone species, while those from the southern US are used to higher temperatures and some from Mexico or Central America (when available) are high-altitude species used to considerable drops in temperature at night. Humidity will likewise vary according to geography. Habitat, activity and reproductive modes all vary within this genus, which encompasses climbers, terrestrials, egg-layers and live-bearers.

Smith gives the following characteristics of the genus: middorsal scales not wider than the paravertebral scales; femoral pores present; nasal separated from rostral; lacks granular fold on throat (if such is present, the lizard is not a Sceloporus species but most likely a Urosaurus or Uta, at least in the US).

Owing to the large number of species in the genus, and the fact that information on Mexican species is generally harder to acquire, this page will take some time to fully detail.




S. acanthinus, Bocourt's Spiny Lizard

S. adleri, Adler's Spiny Lizard

S.aeneus, Southern Bunchgrass Lizard

S. anahuacus, Anahuacan Bunchgrass Lizard

S. arenicolus, Sand Dune Lizard

S. asper, Boulenger's Scaly Lizard

S. bicanthalis, Transvolcanic Bunchgrass Lizard

S. bulleri

S. carinatus , Keeled Spiny Lizard

S. cautus , Shy Spiny Lizard

S. chaneyi , Chaney's Spiny Lizard

S. chrysostictus, Yucatán Spiny Lizard

S. clarkii, Clark's Spiny Lizard

S. consobrinus, Southern Prairie Lizard

S. couchii

S. cozumelae, Cozumel Spiny Lizard

S. cryptus, Sierra Juarez Spiny Lizard

S. dugesii, Duges' Spiny Lizard

S. edwardtaylori, Taylor's Spiny Lizard 

S. exsul, Quereteran Desert Lizard

S. formosus, Emerald Spiny Lizard

S. gadovae , Gadow's Spiny Lizard

S. goldmani, Goldman's Bunchgrass Lizard

S. graciosus, Sagebrush Lizard

S. grammicus, Mesquite Lizard

S. heterolepis, Dorsalkeel Spiny Lizard

S. horridus, Horrible Spiny Lizard

S. hunsakeri, Hunsaker's Spiny Lizard

S. insignis, Michoacan Blackcollar Lizard

S. jalapae, Jalapa Spiny Lizard

S. jarrovii, Yarrow's Spiny Lizard

S. licki, Cape Arboreal Spiny Lizard

S. lineatulus, Santa Catalina Spiny Lizard

S. lundelli, Lundell's Spiny Lizard

S. macdougalli , Macdougall's Spiny Lizard

S. maculosus, Spotted Spiny Lizard

S. magister, Desert Spiny Lizard

S. malachiticus, Emerald Swift

S. megalepidurus, Large-Scaled Spiny Lizard

S. melanorhinus, Pastel Tree Lizard

S. merriami, (Merriam's) Canyon Lizard

S. monserratensis, Monserrat Island Spiny Lizard

S. mucronatus, Southern Crevice Spiny Lizard

S. nelsoni, Nelson's Spiny Lizard

S. occidentalis, Northern Fence Swift

S. ochoterenae, Quereteran Spiny Lizard

S. olivaceus, Texan Spiny Lizard

S. orcutti, Granite Spiny Lizard

S. ornatus, Ornate Spiny Lizard

S. parvus

S. poinsetti, Crevice Spiny Lizard

S. pyrocephalus

S. rufidorsum

S. salvini

S. samcolemani

S. scalaris

S. serrifer, Blue-Spotted Spiny Lizard

S. siniferus

S. slevini

S. smaragdinus

S. smithi

S. spinosus

S. squamosus

S. stejnegeri

S. subniger

S. subpictus

S. taeniocnemis

S. tanneri

S. teapensis

S. torquatus

S. undulatus, Eastern Fence Swift

S. utiformis

S. vandenbergianus, Southern Mountain Lizard

S. variabilis, Rosebelly Spiny Lizard

S. virgatus, Striped Plateau Lizard

S. woodi, Florida Scrub Lizard

S. zosteromus, Baja California Spiny Lizard


Scientific Name

Common Name




S. acanthinus

Bocourt's Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Chiapas), Guatemala 

TL 16½cm

Scalation details: head-shields smooth; row of 4-5 very large transverse supraoculars, bordered internally by incomplete row of very small scales; 2 canthals; occiptal as long as broad, much larger than parietals; anterior border of ear with strong denticulation formed by 5 pointed scales not much larger than those preceding; dorsal scales much larger than ventrals, strongly keeled, denticulated and ending posteriorly in a long spine, forming parallel longitudinal rows; 32 scales between occipital shield and base of tail; 6 scales correspond to length of shielded part of head (8-9 in young due to head being proportionately larger); lateral scales keeled, directed obliquely upwards and backwards, gradually merging into ventrals and dorsals; ventrals smooth, distinctly bicuspid; 40 scale rows at midbody; adpressed hind limb nearly reaches ear; tibia as long as shielded part of head; 12-14 femoral pores; caudal scales a little smaller than dorsals; males have enlarged postanal scales. Coloration: male: grass-green above, with rather narrow black collar complete above and below; greenish chin; throat, breast and side of belly blue; narrow yellowish, black-edged median ventral line; female:olive-brown above, with rather ill-defined black collar; throat green; belly whitish. [SOURCE: Boulenger]

S. adleri

Adler's Spiny Lizard 

Mexico (Guerrero)



S. aeneus

Southern Bunchgrass Lizard 

Mexico (Jalisco, Michoacan, Morelos, Puebla) 



S. anahuacus

Anahuacan Bunchgrass Lizard

C Mexico 



S. angustus

Isla Santa Cruz Spiny Lizard

Mexico (islands of Isla San Diego and Isla Santa Cruz in the Gulf of California)

SVL 8½cm


S. arenicolus

Dunes Sagebrush Lizard



Formerly considered a subspecies of S. graciosus.

S. asper

Boulenger's Scaly Lizard

Mexico (Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit)



S. bicanthalis

Transvolcanic Bunchgrass Lizard

Mexico (Oaxaca, Puebla, Veracruz) 



S. bulleri


Mexico (Jalisco)



S. carinatus

Keeled Spiny Lizard 

Mexico (Chiapas), poss. Guatemala? 



S. cautus

Shy Spiny Lizard 

Mexico (Coahuila, Zacatecas) 



S. chaneyi

Chaney's Spiny Lizard 

Tamaulipas, Nevada 



S. chrysostictus

Yucatán Spiny Lizard, Yellow-Spotted Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Campeche, Yucatán), Guatemala 

15¾cm TL, 5-5½cm/2-2¼” SVL

Small, very wary species, abundant in thorn forest, forest edge and disturbed situations but avoids darker primary forest. Feeds on small invertebrates, occasionally cannibalistic. Scalation details: head-shields keeld or striated; 1-2 canthals; row of 4-5 large transverse supraoculars; occipital broader than long; parietals very small, 1-2 on each side; anterior border of ear very feebly denticulated; scales on upper surfaces imbricate and heavily keeled, those on lower surfaces smaller, imbricate and smooth; 40-45 scale rows between occipital shield and base of tail; 8-10 dorsal scales correspond to length of shielded part of head; 36 scale rows at midbody; caudal scales nearly as large as dorsals; 12-15 femoral pores; males have enlarged postanals. Other: limbs well developed, terminating in strong claws. Coloration: (females and subadult males) normally brown, tan or grey above; 2 rows of dark transverse bars or chevrons extending along body to tail where they may coalesce to form bands; pair of indistinct light dorsolateral stripes running from neck to base of tail; undersurfaces immaculate white, cream or yellow: (adult males) overall dark brown or grey; usually pair of distinct yellow or cream dorsolateral stripes; flanks usually dark brown or nearly black with many scattered light spots, often pinkish or orange; Both sexes have large irregular blotch (usually smaller and less distinct in females) immediately above insertion of forelimb; reproductive females have red-orange coloured lips and shoulders. Reproduction: protracted breeding season, with multiple clutches of 1-4 eggs; sexual maturity reached within 1 year. [SOURCE: Boulenger, Lee]

S. clarkii

Clark's Spiny Lizard

USA (Arizona), Mexico (Sonora, Zacatecas, Jalisco)



S. c. clarkii





S. c. boulengeri





S. c. uriquensis





S. c. vallensis





S. consobrinus

Southern Prairie Lizard 

USA (Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma), Mexico (Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas)



S. couchii


USA (Texas), Mexico (Coahuila) 


Scalation details: head-shields smooth; scales very small; about 80 oblique dorsal rows from head to tail; 25 femorals. Coloration: above dark green, with 2 lateral light stripes, separated by 18 scale rows; irregular spots on back; sides with white band from groin; obsolete dark indigo patch on each side of belly, widely separated below; sides of jaws banded transversely with blue and whitish; subcircular indigo patch in front of shoulder, surrounded by light blotches. [SOURCE: Boulenger]

S. cozumelae

Cozumel Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Campeche, Yucatán Peninsula and Islas Cozumel, Contoy and Mujeres)

4½-5cm/1¾-2" SVL; TL approx. 10-12cm/4-5"

This species is abundant on beaches and coastal areas. It is terrestrial and very fast. Scalation: head shields feebly keeled or striated; lateral scales directed obliquely upward and backward, abruptly differentiated from the dorsals, but not granular; none of transversely enlarged supraoculars in contact with median head shields; 2 canthal scales; about 60 scales around middle of body; series of 6-10 femoral pores on each thigh, widely separated on preanal region; males have pair of enlarged postanal scales. Postfemoral pocket present. Coloration: (females and young males) overall brown or grey with light vertebral stripe; pair of light dorsolateral stripes from back of head down body on to tail; usually 2 rows of black chevrons between the stripes, the chevrons being edged posteriorly by white, light grey or yellow; (reproductive females) lips and upper parts of shoulders suffused with red-orange; upper surfaces of limbs grey or brown with light and dark spots and bars; (older males) pattern may be obscured. All individuals are ventrally white and have a noticeable black spot bordered with white or yellow above the insertion of the forelimb, this marking being more distinct in males. Reproduction: females may lay several clutches per season, each clutch consisting on average of just 2 eggs. Hatchlings reach sexual maturity within 1 year. [SOURCE: Jones, Lee]

S. cryptus

Sierra Juarez Spiny Lizard 

Mexico (Oaxaca) 



S. dugesii

Duges' Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Colima, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit)

12cm TL

Scalation details: head-shields smooth; supraoculars scarcely enlarged transversely; 2 canthal scales; occipital as long as broad, much larger than parietals; anterior border of ear denticulated with 4 pointed scales not larger than those preceding; dorsal scales a little larger than ventrals, broader than long, keeled, obtus, not denticulated, converging to the middle line posteriorly; 44-48 scales between occipital shield and base of tail; 9 scales correspond to shielded part of head; lateral scales keeled, pointed, directed obliquely upwards and backwards; ventrals smooth, entire. 13-15 femorals. Caudal scales a little larger than dorsals, strongly keeled. Males with enlarged postanal scales. Other: limbs short. Coloration: brownish-olive above, with double series of narrow dark brown spots on vertebral zone; sides with oblique light lines; broad blackish, light-edged scapular collar; limbs and tail with brown crossbands; lower surfaces yellowish in female, throat striped with bluish, males with throat bluish with concentric darker lines and sides of belly blue, black-edged internally. [SOURCE: Boulenger]

S. d. dugesii



S. d. intermedius



S. edwardtaylori

Taylor's Spiny Lizard 

Mexico (Oaxaca) 



S. exsul

Quereteran Desert Lizard 

Mexico (Queretaro) 



S. formosus

Emerald Spiny Lizard


Mexico (Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla, Veracruz) 


Ovoviparous species.

S. f. formosus



S. f. scitulus



S. gadovae

Gadow's Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Guerrero, Michoacan, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla)



S. goldmani

Goldman's Bunchgrass Lizard 

Mexico (Coahuila) 



S. graciosus

Sagebrush Lizard

USA (Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Texas, Utah, Montana, Wyoming) 





S. g. graciosus




S. g. gracilis

Northern Mountain Lizard



S. grammicus

Mesquite Lizard

USA (Texas), Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacan, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Zacatecas, poss. San Luis Potosí)


Acknowledgements to the Wikipedia entry for some of the common names for the subspecies.

S. g. grammicus

Southern Mesquite Lizard




S. g. microlepidotus

Northern Mesquite Lizard

USA (extreme S Texas), N Mexico 

TL 4-6¾"/10-17½cm; max SVL 2¾"/7cm

Arboreal, well-camouflaged and hence often unseen species. It is found mainly in mesquite but also other small scrubby trees, where it will often retreat to uppermost branches. Scalation details: scales on sides of neck abruptly smaller than those on the nape. Coloration: overall grey or olive-grey. (Males) sometimes metallic greenish sheen on dorsum; markings obscure; dark vertical line in front of arm; sides of venter pale blue, bordered by black towards centre of belly; throat mottled with black except centre which may be flesh-coloured or pale blue. (Females) 4-5 dark wavy lines across dorsum; foreleg distinctly barred. Reproduction: young 1½-2"/4-5cm at birth [SOURCE: Conant, Smith]

S. g. tamaulipensis

Tamaulipas Mesquite Lizard




S. grandaevus

Isla Cerralvo Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Isla Cerralvo in Gulf of California)

SVL 8cm


S. heterolepis

Dorsalkeel Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Durango, Jalisco, Michoacan, Sinaloa)



S. h. heterolepis

Jalisco Spiny Lizard 



S. h. shannorum




S. horridus

Horrible Spiny Lizard 







S. h. albiventris

Mexico (coastal regions from N Jalisco to Nayarit and Sinoloa)



S. h. horridus

Mexico (S Morelos, Guerrero, Oaxaca, S Puebla, N Jalisco to S Sinoloa, Michoacan, Colima) 



S. h. oligoporus

Mexico (W Guerrero, C & S Michoacan, C Jalisco to Durango)



S. hunsakeri

Hunsaker's Spiny Lizard

Mexico (S Baja California)

SVL 8½cm 


S. insignis

Michoacan Blackcollar Lizard

Mexico (Jalisco, Michoacan)



S. jalapae

Jalapa Spiny Lizard 

Mexico (Puebla, Veracruz) 



S. jarrovii

Yarrow's Spiny Lizard

USA (Arizona), Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Hidalgo, Nayarit, Queretaro, Sinaloa, Sonora, Veracruz, Zacatecas) 


The distributions given for the subspecies are somewhat approximate in the absence of more detailed information, and we acknowledge our debt to the online document pertaining thereto by the Biological Sciences Dept of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

S. j. jarrovii

USA (Arizona), Mexico (Zacatecas)



S. j. cyaneus




S. j. cyanostictus

Mexico (Coahuila)


Considered a full species by some authorities. 

S. j. erythrocyaneus

Mexico (Queretaro)



S. j. immucronatus

Mexico (Hidalgo, Durango, Tamaulipas)



S. j. lineolateralis




S. j. oberon

Mexico (Coahuila, Nuevo León)



S. j. sugillatus

Mexico (Morelos)



S. licki

Cape Arboreal Spiny Lizard

Mexico (N Baja California) 

SVL 7½cm 

Small range. 

S. lineatulus

Santa Catalina Spiny Lizard 

Mexico (Isla Santa Catalina in Gulf of California off S Baja California)

SVL 11½cm 


S. lundelli

Lundell's Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Campeche, Tabasco, Yucatán, Quintana Roo), Guatemala, Belize




Lee calls this an uncommon species. It is arboreal, living in forests and forest edges and often seen on tree trunks at a height of 20m and above, as well as on cacti, fences and wooden buildings. Scalation details: dorsal scales (including those on limbs) are large and heavily keeled, whereas those on undersurfaces are smooth and smaller. 8-10 femoral pores on each thigh, more prominent in males. Coloration: overall grey: dorsal pattern may be present, consisting of irregular jagged dark brown or black transverse bars or spots reaching on to the tail. The forwardmost bar may form a narrow neck collar. A light bar is sometimes present between the eyes on top of the head. Northern populations (presumably S. l. gaigae) usually have a dark band on the posterior surface of the thigh, this band lacking in southern populations (presumably S. l. lundelli). Some individuals, especially those from the outer end of the peninsula, may lack a dorsal pattern and be uniform. Adult males have a pair of large blue patches ventrally which may join on the chest. Reproduction: uncertain but presumed by Lee to be a livebearer on account of its affinity with the S. malachiticus group [SOURCE: Lee].

S. l. lundelli

Mexico (S Campeche), Guatemala (Petén), Belize

S. l. gaigae

Mexico (Campeche, Yucatán, N Quintana Roo)

S. macdougalli

MacDougall's Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Bahia, Oaxaca) 


Ovoviparous species. 

S. maculosus

Spotted Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Durango) 



S. magister

Desert Spiny Lizard

USA (California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah), Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila) 



For some pictures of the subspecies, go to the page (thanks to the latter for the common names of the subspecies).

S. m. magister

Purple-Backed Spiny Lizard



S. m. bimaculosus

Twin-Spotted Spiny Lizard



S. m. cephaloflavus

Orange-Headed Spiny Lizard 



S. m. montserratensis




S. m. transversus

Barred Spiny Lizard has some pictures.

S. m. uniformis

Yellow-Backed Spiny Lizard has some pictures.

S. malachiticus

Emerald Swift

Mexico (Yucatán), Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama



S. megalepidurus

Large-Scaled Spiny Lizard



Mexico (Puebla, Veracruz) 


Scalation details: 56-61 longitudinal dorsal rows; lateral dorsal scales larger than median dorsal scales; 15-17 femoral pores, the rows separated by 4-7 scales; basal subcaudals strongly keeled near distal end of tail. Coloration: middorsal double row of dark spots; sides of males are uniformly whitish or with general diffusion of pale blue. [SOURCE: Smith 1936]

S. m. megalepidurus



S. m. halli



S. m. pictus

Max SVL 5½cm

Originally considered a full species by Hobart M Smith (1936), now a subspecies of S. megalepidurus. Smith did notice the close relationship between the two forms and listed the differences in scalation. Scalation details: nasal separated from rostral; 1-2 canthals; frontal touches interparietal; frontoparietals undivided; 2 rows between supraoculars and supraciliaries, of which 1 complete and 1 incomplete; 45-56 longitudinal dorsal rows; midbody rows 47-52; lateral scales in oblique rows converging dorsally; 3-5 auricular lobules, of which upper usually shortest; 15-18 femoral pores on each side, the 2 rows separated medially by 3-4 scales; caudal scales approximately twice as large as median dorsal scales; ventral abdominal scales about half as large as median dorsal scales; subcaudal scales keeled except near base of tail. Coloration: overall dorsally grey- or brown-olive; broken clove-brown band on each side of body, bordered either side by narrow light line; limbs narrowly banded; dark spot in front of shoulder. Reproduction: males can be distinguished from females by (a) subcaudals more strongly keeled (b) preanal scales not smooth; dark blue areas on side of belly, black-bordered medially. [SOURCE: Smith 1936]

S. melanorhinus

Pastel Tree Lizard




Mexico and Guatemala


See entry at, to which we acknowledge our debt for the distribution information. Scalation details: head-shields smooth; series of 4 transversely dilated supraoculars; 2 canthal scales; occipital broader than long, and as broad as parietals; anterior border of ear rather feebly denticulated; dorsal scales much larger than ventrals, keeled and ending in a strong point, not denticulated; 6 scales correspond to length of shielded part of head; 18-20 femorals; caudal scales smaller than dorsals; no enlarged postanal scales in males. Coloration: ochrous brown above, tinged with greenish on flanks; dorsal row of rhomboidal brown spots present or absent; end of snout, lips and side of neck dark brown; males with throat and sides of belly cobalt blue, chin black [SOURCE: Boulenger]

S. m. melanorhinus

Mexico (Oaxaca)



S. m. calligaster

Mexico (Jalisco, Nayarit, Colima, Michoacan, Guerrero) 



S. m. stuarti

Mexico (Chiapas), Guatemala 



S. merriami

(Merriam's) Canyon Lizard

USA (Texas), Mexico (Coahuila)




S. m. merriami



S. m. annulatus

Merriam's Mountain Lizard



S. m. australis

Southeastern Canyon Lizard


Scalation details: usually has smoth head scales (as per nominate subspecies); anterior half of frontal usually entire, labiomentals usually separated from 1st labial: dorsal scales from occiput to base of tail usually 50 or fewer. Coloration: tail bands evident ventrally (as per S. m. annulatus); gular bars usually separate posteriorly and usually poorly defined anteriorly [SOURCE: Williams, Smith & Chrapliwy].

S. m. longipunctatus

Presidio Canyon Lizard 



S. monserratensis

Monserrat Island Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Baja California) 



S. mucronatus

Southern Crevice Spiny Lizard




Mexico (Chiapas, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Puebla, Veracruz)



S. m. mucronatus



S. m. aureolus



S. m. omilternanus



S. nelsoni

Nelson's Spiny Lizard


Mexico (Chihuahua, Jalisco, Nayarit, Sinaloa, Sonora)



S. n. nelsoni



S. n. barrancorum



S. occidentalis

Northern Fence Swift

USA (California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington)









S. o. occidentalis

Northwestern Fence Swift, Pacific Fence Lizard



S. o. becki

Channel Island Fence Lizard



S. o. biseriatus

Great Basin Fence Swift, Western Fence Lizard



S. o. bocourti

Coast Range Fence Lizard



S. o. longipes

Great Basin Fence Lizard



S. o. taylori

Yosemite Fence Lizard, Sierra Fence Lizard



S. ochoterenae

Queretaran Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Guerrero, Morelos, Puebla)



S. olivaceus

Texas Spiny Lizard

USA (Oklahoma, Texas), Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas)



S. orcutti

Granite Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Baja California)

SVL 11½cm 


S. ornatus

Ornate Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Coahuila) 


Scalation details: dorsal scales in about 64 transverse rows, with only slight carination, mucronation and denticulation; 12 femoral pores. Coloration: well-marked black cervical collar, complete above and edged with yellowish; coloration above dark green, nearly black towards median line, and with small yellowish spots on back. [SOURCE: Boulenger]

S. o. ornatus



S. o. caeruleus



S. palaciosi

Palacios Bunchgrass Lizard

Mexico (Morelos)


Considered a subspecies by some authorities.

S. parvus

Bluebelly Lizard

Mexico (Coahuila, Hidalgo)



S. p. parvus



S. p. scutulatus



S. poinsettii

Crevice Spiny Lizard, Red Scaly Lizard

USA (S New Mexico east to C Texas), Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila and W Nuevo León to S Durango)

Max SVL 4½"/12cm, max TL 11½"/31cm-

A comparatively stocky species found on boulders or rocks as well as on rock fences. Smith noted that in Texas and New Mexico it occurred in large numbers on limestone bluffs.

S. p. poinsettii



S. p. macrolepis



S. p. polylepis



S. p. robisoni



S. pyrocephalus

Boulder Spiny Lizard 

Mexico (Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan)



S. rufidorsum

Mexican Desert Spiny Lizard 

Mexico (Baja California) 



S. salvini

Salvin's Spiny Lizard




S. samcolemani

Coleman's Bunchgrass Lizard

Mexico (Coahuila)



S. scalaris

Bunchgrass Lizard 

Mexico (Aguascalientes, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Puebla, Zacatecas)




S. s. scalaris

Mountain Lizard



S. s. brownorum




S. s. unicanthalis

Smith's Bunchgrass Lizard 



S. serrifer

Blue-Spotted Spiny Lizard 

USA (Texas). Mexico (Chiapas, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, E San Luis Potosí, Veracruz, Yucatan), Guatemala


See notes on intergrades between the subspecies in the Catalogue of Life entry. and in Lee (populations at base of Yucatán are said to be intermediates between S. s. serrifer and other subspecies). The species generally inhabits tropical lowlands. Lee describes it as "moderately common" in the Yucatán. Reproduction: probably livebearer. In Guatemala, new-borns have been observed in mid May before the onset of summer rains. [SOURCE: Lee]

S. s. serrifer

Eastern Blue Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Yucatán)

8-9cm SVL; tail 1.6 x SVL

In Yucatán, found in forest habitats and also on sides of buildings, rock walls and Mayan ruins. Description: head broad, distinct from neck, somewhat depressed; body moderately short, stocky; limbs short, robust. Scalation details: dorsal scales large, imbricate and strongly keeled; ventral scales smaller, imbricate, smooth. Coloration: dorsally yellowish tan or grey with about 4 indistinct, irregular dark brown transverse bars, bordered posteriorly by light blue or grey; distinct black or dark brown collar, narrow on side of neck, broadest in middorsal area, bordered by light blue or grey; head dorsally dark brown or black with large white, yellow or bluish spots; tail dorsally has alternating dark and light bands; limbs indistinctly banded with dark and light markings; ventrally immaculate bluish grey or tan in females, males having indistinct bluish patches. [SOURCE: Lee]

S. s. cyanogenys

Blue Spiny Lizard

USA (S Texas), Mexico (Tamaulipas, Nuevo León)

TL 5-14¼"/12½-32cm; max SVL 5¾"/14¾cm 

Now considered by some authorities (eg TIGR database) to be a full species. Similar to S. s. serrifer. In the USA this is the largest and bluest of the spiny lizards [Conant & Collins]. Found on or among boulders, rocky or earthen cliffs, stone bridges and abandoned houses. Scalation details: head scales keeled or ridged (flat and smooth in serrifer), lacks complete row of small scales separating median head shields from supraoculars (present in serrifer), 31-38 subdigital lamellae on 4th toe (more in plioporus), femoral pores 16-22 (greater in plioporus). Coloration: both sexes have dark band across neck, bordered in white, with light spots on nape and back. Tail markings on tip are not conspicuous. Males are brilliant greenish blue over overall brown, with entire throat bright blue and large light blue patch on each side of belly, bordered by black band on inner side. Females and young males are grey or brown. [SOURCES: Conant & Collins 1998, Martin 1952].

S. s. plioporus

Smith's Blue Spiny Lizard, West Gulf Rough-Scaled Lizard 

E Mexico (S Tamaulipas southwards along Gulf coast), Guatemala



S. s. prezygus

Chiapan Blue Spiny Lizard 

Mexico (Chiapas)


Coloration: adults lack light borders on collar; whole neck tends to be suffused with black; dorsals have black streaking on the keels. In life the iris is orange.

S. siniferus

Longtail Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Chiapas, Guerrero, Morelos, Oaxaca), Guatemala



S. s. siniferus



S. s. cupreus



S. slevini

Slevin's Bunchgrass Lizard 

USA (Arizona), Mexico (Chihuahua, Durango, Sonora) 



S. smaragdinus


Mexico (Chiapas), Guatemala 



S. smithi

Smith's Rosebelly Lizard

Mexico (Oaxaca)


Formerly considered a subspecies of S. variabilis. Known only from rocky habitats in the vicinity of Tehuantepec. Coloration: white or yellow dorsolateral stripe running from rear edge of eye well onto tail, very prominent posteriorly, usually 2-2½ scale rows wide at hind legs.  [SOURCE: Sites and Dixon]

S. spinosus

Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Aguascalientes, Coahuila, Durango, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacan, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Zacatecas)



S. s. spinosus

Spiny Lizard 



S. s. apicalis

Oaxacan Spiny Lizard 



S. s. caeruleopunctatus

Blue-Spotted Spiny Lizard



S. squamosus

Mexican Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Chiapas), Guatemala, Nicaragua 



S. stejnegeri

Stejneger's Blackcollar Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Guerrero) 



S. subniger

Tolucan Bunchgrass Spiny Lizard




S. subpictus

Paintbelly Spiny Lizard 




S. taeniocnemis

Guatemalan Emerald Spiny Lizard






S. t. taeniocnemis



S. t. hartwegi

Hartweg's Emerald Spiny Lizard 



S. tanneri

Tanner's Spiny Lizard




S. teapensis

Teapen Rosebelly Lizard 

Mexico (Campeche, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Veracruz), Guatemala, Belize


Occurs in relatively open savanna habitats. Scalation details: 38-50 dorsal longitudinal rows, averaging 45; ventral longitudinal rows, average 45; subdigital lamellae on longest toes of both hind feet, average 40. Coloration: dorsolateral light stripe, seldom extending onto tail, boldest in males, usually equal to or less than 1-2½ scale rows wide at hind legs. [SOURCE: Sites and Dixon]

S. torquatus

Crevice Swift 

Mexico (Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacan, Morelos, Nayarit, Puebla, Valparaiso, Veracruz, Zacatecas)



S. t. torquatus

Plateau Crevice Swift



S. t. binocularis

Nuevo León Crevice Swift



S. t. madrensis

Sierra Madre Crevice Swift 



S. t. melanogaster

Blackbelly Crevice Swift 



S. t. mikeprestoni

Preston's Crevice Swift 



S. undulatus

Eastern Fence Swift

USA (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming), Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango)












See note in the Catalogue of Life entry on the validity or otherwise of the subspecies.

S. u. undulatus

Southern Fence Lizard



S. u. belli




S. u. cowlesi

Cowles Prairie Lizard



S. u. elongatus

Northern Plateau Lizard



S. u. erythrocheilus




S. u. garmani

Northern Prairie Lizard



S. u. hyacinthinus

Northern Fence Lizard



S. u. speari




S. u. tedbrowni




S. u. tristichus

Southern Plateau Lizard



S. utiformis

Cope's Largescale Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Colima, Guerrero, Sinaloa) 



S. vandenburgianus

Southern Mountain Lizard

Mexico (Baja California)



S. variabilis

Rosebelly Spiny Lizard

USA (Texas), Mexico (Chiapas, Coahuila, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Queretaro, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Yucatan), Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua


Scalation details: dorsal longitudinal rows usually 50-60, average 56; ventral longitudinal rows average 57; subdigital lamellae on longest toes of both hind feet usually >43. Coloration: dorsolateral light stripe, seldom extending onto tail, boldest in males, usually equal to or less than 1-2½ scale rows wide at hind legs. [SOURCE: Sites and Dixon]

S. v. variabilis

Mexican Rosebellied Lizard




S. v. marmoratus

Texan Rose-Bellied Lizard, Northern Rosebelly Lizard

USA (SE Texas), Mexico 

3½-5½"/9¼-14cm, max SVL 2¼"/5½cm 

This is a species of rather dry regions. It is easily distinguished from other US and Canadian lizards by its pink belly patches and the skin pocket behind the thigh. Mainly terrestrial, often seen on fence posts and in cactus clumps, but also sometimes on rocks or in scrubby trees such as mesquite. Scalation details: 58-69 dorsal scales from back of head to base of tail [usually 54-72 per Sites & Dixon], usually >60 and averaging 63; ventral scales average 56; 10-14 femoral pores. Coloration: overall buff- to olive-brown; light dorsolateral stripe, 1½-2 scales wide; row of 9-10 brown spots down each side of back. Males have large area of pink on each side of belly, bordered anteriorly and posteriorly and towards the centre of the belly by dark blue. This dark colour extends upwards to form a prominent dark spot in the armpit and a much smaller one in the groin. Ventrally cream or white. Reproduction: oviparous. Average clutch size of 4 eggs, laid beneath rotten logs or at the base of small trees. Young are about 2"/5cm on hatching [SOURCE: Conant, Smith, Sites & Dixon] 

S. v. olloporus

Southern Rosebelly Lizard

C & E Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica 



S. virgatus

Striped Plateau Lizard

USA (Arizona), Mexico (Sonora)



S. woodi

Florida Scrub Lizard, Scrub Pine Lizard

USA (Florida) 



S. zosteromus

Baja California Spiny Lizard, San Lucan Spiny Lizard

Mexico (Baja California) 

SVL 13cm

Scalation details: parietals wider than occipital, which is not wider than long; auricular scales much longer than those adjacent; femoral pores >10. Coloration: male; above bright olivaceous, with reddish longitudinal dorsolateral band crossed medially by numerous indistinct brown bars, often obsolete; under surfaces and sides of tail yellowish; anterior face of femur, groin, large spot anterior to brachium, broad band connecting latter with former, and latter of each side, across posterior gular region, black, shading into blue on sides and throat; chin light green; brachium black anteriorly. [SOURCE: Boulenger]


A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, R Conant and J T Collins, Peterson Field Guides, Houghton Mifflin, Boston/New York 1998.

Swifts and Spiny Lizards, Ray Hunziker, TFH 1997. Until recently this was the only dedicated care guide (at least in English) of Sceloporus and the South American Liolaemus, although it by no means covered all the species but rather a selected few most likely to turn up in the pet trade. While I cannot vouch for the usefulness or accuracy of the care information given therein, having never kept any of these lizards, this did not seem too bad for a TFH volume.

Green Iguanas and other Iguanids, Dr Hubert Bosch and Heiko Werning, TFH 1996 (originally published in German, 1991, as Leguane). See Iguanid page for recommendation of this book.

Amphibians and Reptiles of Baja California, Grismer, L Lee Grismer, University of California Press, 2002. Impressive guide to the herpetofauna of the region.

"Turtles and Lizards from Northern Mexico", Kenneth L Williams, Hobart M Smith and Peter S Chrapliwy, Transactions of the Illinois State Academy of Science, Vol 53, Nos. 1 and 2, 1960. Gives details of S. m. australis as a new subspecies, as well as range records of other reptiles in SE Chihuahua, SW Coahuila and NE Durango.

"A New Lizard of the Genus Sceloporus from Southern Mexico", Hobart M Smith, American Museum Novitates Number 892, November 3 1936. Describes S. pictus (now considered S. megalepidurus pictus).

"A New Subspecies of the Iguanid Lizard Sceloporus serrifer from Tamaulipas, Mexico", Paul S Martin, Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, October 22 1952. Gives details of subspecies S. serrifer cariniceps, later to become S. s. cyanogenys.

"Notulae Herpetologicae Chaipasiase IV", Hobart M Smith and Miguel álvarez del Toro, Herpetologica Vol 19 No 2, July 3 1963.

"Geographic Variation in Sceloporus variabilis, and Its Relationship to S. teapensis (Sauria: Iguanidae)", Jack W Sites Jr and James R Dixon, Copeia 1982(1).

"Descriptions of two new Scelopori," J Paul Jones, Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan Number 186, June 30 1927. Gives details of S. cozumalae and S. schmidti: the latter was later synonymised with S. smaragdinus.

I have not read the following, but they would appear to be useful for a more in-depth look at the genus or individual species:

"Taxonomy and Biogeography of the Sceloporus magister complex (Squamata: Phrynosomatidae) in Baja California, Mexico", Herpetologica 52(3):416-427, Grismer, L L and J A McGurie. 1996.

Stachelleguane. Lebensweise - Pflege - Zucht, Gunther Köhler and Peter Heimes, Herpeton Verlag 2002. At least one of the authors has been publishing books on the herpetology of Central America for a few years, and Köhler is also a veterinarian. The drawback for most English speakers is that the text is in German.


Catalogue of Life on Sceloporus (compiled from EMBL reptile database)

Herpetological Education & Research Project (H.E.R.P) common names for iguanid lizard species

San Diego Natural History Museum's Checklist of Reptiles of Baja California.

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