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Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) Fact Sheet: Summary

Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata)

Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) Fact Sheet

Southern Alligator Lizard

Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata)

Image credit: © Jerry Kirkhart via Flickr. Some rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Family: Anguidae

Genus: Elgaria

Species: Elgaria multicarinata - Southern Alligator LIzard

Subspecies: E. m. webbi (San Diego Alligator Lizard)
Subspecies: E. m. multicarinata (California Alligator Lizard)
Subspecies: E. m. scincicauda (Oregon Alligator Lizard)
Subspecies: E. m. nana (Los Coronados Alligator Lizard)
Subspecies: E. m. ignava (San Martin Alligator Lizard)

Brown, gray, reddish or yellowish with dark vertical crossbars spotted with white on top side.

Adult Length
Snout-vent: 2.5-7 in (6.4-17.8 cm)

Adult Weight
More than 30 g

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Washington State, USA, to northern Baja California, west of the Cascade-Sierra Nevada crest

Coastal sage, chaparral, grasslands, oak woodlands, pinon-juniper woodlands, some pine woodlands, and forests.

IUCN Status
Least Concern (2007 assessment)

CITES Appendix
Not listed (UNEP 2019)

Population in Wild
Not thoroughly investigated. Thought to exceed 100,000.

Snake-like movement on the ground. Spends time in trees. Good swimmer.

Activity Cycle
Active during the day, dawn, and dusk. Has ability to be active during cooler periods.

Carnivorous, generalist predators. Eat insects, snails, other reptiles.

Snakes, loggerhead shrikes, red-tailed hawks, domestic cats

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Mating in the spring, hatching through summer/early fall.

Clutch size
5-20 eggs

Up to 55 days

Typical Life Span
Not well known; perhaps 10 to 15 years

Feature Facts

  • Much still to be learned about this common species.
  • Tail is slightly prehensile; hold onto branches when climbing
  • Eat tadpoles
  • Intimidate predators by opening mouth and showing teeth
  • Losing a tail is energetically costly; may result in a missed reproductive season
  • Can maintain activity with body temperature down to 11°C
  • Population trend is decreasing. Contributing factors are roads crossing pathways, habitat destruction, fire and predation by introduced species such as dogs and cats

About This Fact Sheet

© 2008-2016 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Minor updates 2016. Minor updates 2019.

How to cite: Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) Fact Sheet. c2008-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. southernalligatorlizard
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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