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Reptiles - Lizards

Long-nosed Leopard Lizard

Gambelia wislizenii

Family: Phrynosomatidae Order: Squamata Class: Reptilia


The long-nosed leopard lizard is widely distributed in the Southeastern Great Basin, Mojave, Sonoran and Colorado deserts of California and at the southern end of the Central Valley in Santa Barbara and eastern Kern cos. Frequents a variety of desert woodland and scrub habitats up to 1830 m (6000 ft) (Stebbins 1985). Prefers sandy or gravelly flats and plains, and is less common in rocky areas. The greatest densities have been observed in creosote flats. Becomes active later in the spring than do other lizards, usually not until mid-April, and is not found after mid-August (Stebbins 1954, McCoy 1967, Montanucci 1967, Parker and Pianka 1976, Tollestrup 1979, 1983).


This lizard eats insects (grasshoppers, beetles, etc.), lizards (Callisaurus, Cnemidophorus, Phrynosoma, etc.) and occasionally some plant material (Stebbins 1954, Dixon 1967, Tollestrup 1979).

This species excavates its own burrows in sandy and friable soils and probably uses rodent burrows.

This lizard requires adequate food supplies for reproduction.

Not required.

This lizard occupies desert flats and woodlands with sandy or gravelly substrates.


Activity Patterns:
Adults are active from mid-April to mid-August. This lizard is diurnal and can be active all day when the weather is mild to warm. In hotter weather it is active early and late in the day, and in the hottest months only in the mornings. It emerges in mid-April and is active until August. Young emerge in August, when adults are ceasing activity. This may prevent cannibalism (Tollestrup 1979).

Seasonal Movements/Migration:

Home Range:
This species has home ranges as large as several ha.

This lizard is not known to defend a territory.

Courtship occurs in late April to mid-May. Nesting occurs from May to June and the young appear in August. Average clutch size is 5-6 with a range of 2-11, and occasionally two clutches are produced (Parker and Pianka 1976, Tollestrup 1983). In those years when rainfall is inadequate to support plant growth for insects and, indirectly, other insect-eating lizards, the long-nosed leopard lizard does not reproduce (Tollestrup 1983).

This lizard is probably preyed upon by Crotalus cerastes, Masticophis, roadrunners and other avian predators. Loggerhead shrikes take young lizards and an attack by a prairie falcon has been observed. A lack of rainfall can cause the failure of reproduction (Tollestrup 1983).

CDFW California Wildlife Habitat Relationships. Accessed [N/A]

Long-nosed Leopard Lizard


Size: The Long-nosed Leopard Lizard is a relatively large lizard with a large head, long snout, and long, round tail. This species is sexually dimorphic, with large females measuring about 5.8 inches (144 mm) snout-vent length, and small males, about 4.8 inches (119 mm) snout-vent length.

Coloration: This species has a white, cream, or gray ground color with irregular brown or dark gray spots covering the head and body. Occasionally, dark dorsal bars cross the back. The tail also has dark transverse bars giving the appearance of banding.

Additional notes:

Behavior: The Long-nosed Leopard Lizard is often seen basking on small rocks along the roadside. When threatened, it exhibits "freeze" behavior: it runs underneath a bush, flattens its body against the ground, and remains motionless. In extreme cases, such as capture, it is capable of caudal autonomy (tail separation).

Prey and Predators: Like all members of the family, the Long-nosed Leopard Lizard preys on small lizards (termed saurophagus), in addition to insects and sometimes rodents. This species is also cannibalistic, eating smaller Leopard Lizards when the opportunity arises. Its long snout presumably makes the jaw action quicker and better for catching vertebrate prey. This species is an ambush predator. It hides in the shadows underneath a bush waiting for its prey to come within range. It then pounces, attacking the unsuspecting animal.

Predators of Long-nosed Leopard Lizards include a number of predatory birds, snakes, coyotes, badgers, and kit fox.

Breeding: The female Long-nosed Leopard Lizard is larger than the male, and no coloration differences exist between the sexes except for the bright red or orange breeding coloration exhibited by females during the breeding season. This species lacks territoriality, and both sexes have widely overlapping home ranges. The lack of territorial defense in this species is attributed to their diet and mode of foraging (Tollestrup, 1983).

Because of their diet, leopard lizards travel long distances to find vertebrate prey. They also rely on camouflage to capture their prey. These lizards live in regions with low visibility, with many rocks and bushes, which would make monitoring a territory difficult. These are some factors that likely influenced the loss of territoriality in this species. The lack of territorial aggression presumably contributes also to large-sized females, which is associated with greater reproductive output. However, similar selective pressures are not imposed on males (Lappin and Swinney, 1999).
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