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Night Lizards: Xantusiidae

Desert Night Lizard (xantusia Vigilis): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Among the smallest species in this family, the desert night lizards grow to only 1.5 inches (3.7 centimeters) long from the tip of the snout to the vent. Like other night lizards, they have no working eyelids. This lizard usually has dark spots on its brown back, although in some areas, the back may have a green, yellow, or orange tint. Its skin is typically wrinkly on the neck and along the sides of the body.

Geographic range: This species makes its home in small areas within the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.

Habitat: The desert night lizard also goes by the common name yucca night lizard, because it spends much of its time in clumps of Desert night lizards like to stay hidden in yucca or agave plants. (Illustration by John Megahan. Reproduced by permission.) rotting yucca (YUCK-uh) plants. It also lives in old, dead agave (uh-GA-vee) plants.

Diet: The desert night lizard eats ants and beetles and occasionally some other insects that it finds in the plants where it lives.

Behavior and reproduction: This lizard likes to stay hidden in yucca or agave plants. Males and females mate in late spring, and about three months later, the females have their young. The typical brood includes one to three baby lizards. Sometimes, if the weather is especially dry, females may skip a year between births.

Desert night lizards and people: Although desert night lizards can be very numerous in some places, with twelve thousand individuals in an area of just one square mile (or four thousand in a square-kilometer area), people rarely see this shy lizard. Humans can, however, harm the lizard populations by cutting down and removing yucca and agave plants, which often happens when they clear land to make way for houses.

Conservation status: This species is not considered endangered or threatened. ∎



Alvarez del Toro, M. Los reptiles de Chiapas. 3rd edition. Chiapas, Mexico: Instituto de Historia Natural, Tuxtla Gutierrez, 1982.

Behler, John, and F. Wayne King. "Night Lizards Family (Xantusidae)" National Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.

Campbell, J. A. Amphibians and Reptiles of Northern Guatemala, the Yucatan, and Belize. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.

Estes, R. Sauria terrestria, Amphisbaenia. Vol. 10A, Handbuch der Palaeoherpetologie. Stuttgart: Gustav Fisher Verlag, 1983.

Halliday, Tim, and Kraig Adler. The Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Facts on File, 1986.

Mattison, Chris. Lizards of the World. New York: Facts on File, 1989.

Mautz, W. J. "Ecology and Energetics of the Island Night Lizard, Xantusia riversiana, on San Clemente Island." In Third California Islands Symposium: Recent Advances in Research on the California Islands, edited by F. G. Hochberg. Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, 1993.

Web sites:

"Family Xantusiidae (Night Lizards)." Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/classification/Xantusiidae.html (accessed on November 15, 2004).

"Granite Night Lizard." Western Ecological Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources Division. http://www.werc.usgs.gov/fieldguide/xahe.htm (accessed on November 15, 2004).

"Island Night Lizard." eNature. http://www.enature.com/fieldguide/showSpeciesSH.asp?curGroupID=7&shapeID=1059&curPageNum=50&recnum=AR0662 (accessed on November 16, 2004).

"Night Lizard." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xantusiidae (accessed on November 15, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesNight Lizards: Xantusiidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Desert Night Lizard (xantusia Vigilis): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, NIGHT LIZARDS AND PEOPLE