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Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding

Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata)

Diet

  • Carnivorous. Feed on wide variety of prey, anything they can catch and swallow; non-selective (Behler and King 1979)
  • Commonly take as prey: (Cunningham 2006)
    • Insects and their larvae, especially ground beetles, grasshopper, crickets, ichneumon wasps
    • Other arthropods, such as spiders (including black widow spiders), centipedes, scorpions, sow bugs
    • Pulmonata snails
    • Frog tadpoles
  • Also consume larger food items such as other lizards, especially Western Skinks
    • Feeding on other lizards may be common because the alligator lizard can be active when other kinds of lizards need to rest
    • May eat animals close to or greater than their own body length
  • Some reports suggest bird eggs eaten; other studies question this (Cunningham 1956)
  • Observation by naturalist: adult female in managed care consumed 20 grasshoppers, 11 katydid, 7 shield bugs and stink bug, and 3 spiders at a single feeding (King 1931)

Feeding

  • Movement of prey helps to stimulate feeding behavior, but non-moving food consumed too such as spider egg contents, dead lizards, baby mice, and insects (Cunningham 1956)
  • Edible objects approached and inspected with the eyes (lizard moves head up and down, side-to side, or in small circles to judge size and distance away), then inspects with the tongue if possible
  • Ready to strike, the lizard arches its back upward, straightens the front limbs, bends the head and neck downwards, and attacks with a swift downward stroke (Cunningham 1956)
  • Cannibalism not uncommon
    • Adults eat young
    • Adult males and females eat each other

Page Citations

Behler and King (1979)
Cunningham (1956)
King (1931)
Lemm (2006)

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