lizard pairs, 2011

April 4, 2012

Before 2011 I had never captured a photo of a male-female pair of lizards together.  Then in the spring of 2011 I happened to be able to to this—3 different times.

I do not know whether the females shown below were finished mating for the season, or not.  My guess is they had mated, their fertilized ova were developing, and egg-laying was not far off.  If that’s true, then it’s somewhat interesting that these males are sticking around.  (Why–evolutionarily–would they?)

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late May 2011, pair western fence liz, Confusions

late May 2011, male-female adult pair of western fence liz (Sceloporus occidentalis), Confusion Range, Millard Co, UT

In the Confusion Range in late May, while stepping down a slope I saw this pair of western fence lizards basking together, on a W-facing area of a rock outcrop in late afternoon.  This is the species of lizard I find easiest to photograph.  If you simply approach slowly, they will often watch you but not flee.  The male is on the left.  The female is the chubby one on the right.

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late May 2011, pair western fence liz, male profile, Confusions

late May 2011, male-female adult pair of western fence liz (Sceloporus occidentalis), male’s profile, Confusion Range, Millard Co, UT

Here is the male.  This species is variable in color and pattern.  Males can show more blue spangles on the dorsum than this one.

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late May 2011, pair western fence liz, male display, Confusions

late May 2011, male-female adult pair of western fence liz (Sceloporus occidentalis), male displaying, Confusion Range, Millard Co, UT

Here, the male is doing something I’ve never noticed at other times with this species.  He briefly extended the blue “dewlap” of his throat in a display.  He did so while bobbing his anterior up and down—“doing pushups.”  I believe this was a behavior he showed toward me because the female was so close.  At other times when a female was not so close, males have bobbed at me but without extension of a blue throat like this.

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late May 2011, western fence liz pair's habitat, Confusions

late May 2011, habitat of male-female adult pair of western fence liz (Sceloporus occidentalis), Confusion Range, Millard Co, UT

This is a view of that pair’s habitat—a N-facing slope.

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early June 2011, pair western fence liz, W Oquirrhs

early June 2011, male-female adult pair of western fence liz (Sceloporus occidentalis), W Oquirrh Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

Then in early June, one week later, during early evening I noticed this pair of western fence lizards together in the Oquirrhs, absorbing heat from the sun.  They were on a W-facing slope.

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early June 2011, pair western fence liz, W Oquirrhs, close-up

early June 2011, male-female adult pair of western fence liz (Sceloporus occidentalis), close-up, W Oquirrh Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

I crept up slowly, and they kept the same position.  The male is on the right.

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early June 2011, western fence liz pair's habitat, W Oquirrhs

early June 2011, habitat of male-female adult pair of western fence liz (Sceloporus occidentalis), W Oquirrh Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

This is a view of this Oquirrhs pair’s habitat.  They are here but hard to make out from this far away.

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mid June 2011, great basin collared liz habitat, Fish Springs

mid June 2011, habitat of male-female adult pair of great basin collared liz (Crotaphytus bicintores), foothills of Fish Springs Range, Juab Co, UT

I’ll devote the most photos & comments to the third pair.  In this habitat, along a dry wash in the foothills of Juab County’s Fish Springs Range, I found my third interacting pair of lizards during 2011.  I took this shot to record the blooming cactus (Escobaria vivipara), but it’s my best record of the habitat for the shots that follow.

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mid June 2011, female of pair, great basin collared liz, Fish Spring

mid June 2011, female of male-female adult pair of great basin collared liz (Crotaphytus bicintores), foothills of Fish Springs Range, Juab Co, UT

First, I noticed this female great basin collared lizard.  She was more confident than adult females usually seem, and she allowed me to get close enough for this shot.

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mid June 2011, interacting pair, great basin collared liz, Fish Springs (a)

mid June 2011, interacting male-female adult pair of great basin collared liz (Crotaphytus bicintores) (a), foothills of Fish Springs Range, Juab Co, UT

Then this boldly-patterned male entered the scene, and inserted himself between the female and me.  This male lacked the bright yellow on his forelegs that I’ve sometimes seen in boldly-patterned adult males of this species.

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mid June 2011, interacting pair, great basin collared liz, Fish Springs (b)

mid June 2011, interacting male-female adult pair of great basin collared liz (Crotaphytus bicintores) (b), foothills of Fish Springs Range, Juab Co, UT

The female seemed agitated and proud, and came closer to me, with her throat extended, here.

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mid June 2011, interacting pair, great basin collared liz, Fish Springs (c)

mid June 2011, interacting male-female adult pair of great basin collared liz (Crotaphytus bicintores) (c), foothills of Fish Springs Range, Juab Co, UT

When she came this close to the male, and after she had lightly touched him, the male turned (smitten with her overwhelming closeness?), and began an advance.

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mid June 2011, interacting pair, great basin collared liz, Fish Springs (d)

mid June 2011, interacting male-female adult pair of great basin collared liz (Crotaphytus bicintores) (d), foothills of Fish Springs Range, Juab Co, UT

But she did not appreciate that, and twisted away, exposing her underside.

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mid June 2011, interacting pair, great basin collared liz, Fish Springs (e)

mid June 2011, interacting male-female adult pair of great basin collared liz (Crotaphytus bicintores) (e), foothills of Fish Springs Range, Juab Co, UT

She swooped out from under him, and then jumped up and down on top of him, several times quickly, as shown.

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Her jumping up and down on his back may have resulted in what she desired, for after that the male stopped pursuing her.

I think each probably showed behavior influenced by my presence.  I think they each felt defensive toward me, and that enhanced the level of defensiveness & assertiveness they showed and absorbed from each other–? I was a distraction to both as I leaned toward them for these shots. In any case, within 2 minutes of jumping on each other, they calmed down long enough for a couple of nicely posed family shots:

mid June 2011, interacting pair, great basin collared liz, Fish Springs (f)

mid June 2011, interacting male-female adult pair of great basin collared liz (Crotaphytus bicintores) (f), foothills of Fish Springs Range, Juab Co, UT

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mid June 2011, interacting pair, great basin collared liz, Fish Springs (g)

mid June 2011, interacting male-female adult pair of great basin collared liz (Crotaphytus bicintores) (g), foothills of Fish Springs Range, Juab Co, UT

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One Response to “lizard pairs, 2011”

  1. Brian Nielsen said

    Mark those shots and account of the collared lizard pair is awesome. I especially enjoyed the final two shots. Amazing, thanks for sharing those.

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