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Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) Fact Sheet: Physical Characteristics

Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata)

Physical Characteristics

Attribute Adult Hatchling
Snout-Vent Length
2.5-7 in (6.4-17.8 cm)*
34 mm (1.3 in)
Weight More than 30 g (1.1 oz) 0.55 g (0.02 oz)

*12 inches total length

Source: Stebbins, Robert C. 2003. Western Reptiles and Amphibians, 3rd Edition. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

General Appearance

  • Slender, snake-like body, short legs, large head with strong jaws, and a distinctive, slightly forked tongue (Lemm 2006)
  • General coloration on upper side: brown, gray, reddish or yellowish with dark vertical crossbars spotted with white
  • Tail length up to twice its body length

Sexual Dimorphism

  • Little difference between the sexes
    • Some males have heads a little wider than females
    • Males are not more than 10 % larger than females overall
    • Difficult for observers to determine sex by casual inspection

Other Characteristics

  • Like all members of the Anguid family, body covered with overlapping bony plates underneath the scales (Ditmars 1933)
  • Scales on belly are strongly keeled
  • A prominent skin fold runs down both sides the length of the body; this fold allows flexibility when lungs are expanded, when large volumes of prey consumed, and perhaps when eggs distend the body cavity (Stebbins 1966)
  • Yellow eyes (northern species have dark eyes)
  • Tongue slightly forked at tip
    • Aids in gathering air-borne scents
    • Odors are transferred to scent organ in roof of mouth (Ditmars 1933)

Body of Southern Alligator Lizard

Southern Alligator Lizard

Southern Alligator Lizards can be seen in a variety of coloration patterns.

Note how this lizard's tail is regrowing.

Image credit: Alan Schimerer via Flickr. Public domain.


Page Citations

Ditmars (1933)
Lemm (2006)
Stebbins (1966)
Wiens and Slingluff (2001)

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