California Alligator Lizard


The world is full of unique and extraordinary creatures that have strange behaviors and even stranger morphologies. Elgaria ceorulea is one such creature of this caliber. This species was chosen because of the characteristics and the relationships it has with other animals it possesses. Even the name of this reptile has a curiosity sparking ring to it: Alligator lizard. One’s first impression based on the name alone might produce the image of a terrifying monster out of a science fiction movie. In reality however, this reptile is not nearly as intimidating or dangerous as it sounds, but it does have several interesting characteristics. Imagine if one was being pursued by a hungry predator with nowhere to hide and all that was needed to be done to escape was simply pop off a limb? Not as farfetched as it sounds; in fact, the California Alligator lizard is a reptile that can pop off its own tail on command.Mouth open (National Park Service 2014). This is done in order to distract a predator by giving it something to eat so that the lizard can continue to run away. The only drawback to this strategy is that the regeneration of the tail can take up a lot of energy, so hopefully the lizard will have found a safe haven to rest and The tail of the California Alligator lizard also provides some anatomical advantages that might seem counter intuitive. It has been found that lizards without tails are actually slower than those who have lost their tail (San Diego Zoo 2008). When the lizard is moving it moves in a serpentine fashion and the tail is used to assist in propelling the reptile forward during the process. The loss of this vital muscular structure makes the lizard more vulnerable to attack and thus those that have lost their tails tend to stay in hiding. The tail also is able to grab onto objects and allow the creature to climb limbs to find food or evade danger (San Diego Zoo 2008). Another interesting morphology of Elgaria lizards is the cast iron stomachs they possess. This species is carnivorous, but the range of animals that are consumed is very diverse. Alligator lizards mostly eat invertebrates but from time to time they will poacUndersideh a small mammal or bird. One amazing feat in this department is the lizard’s ability to digest black widow spiders and the spider eggs without being harmed (National Park Service 2014). Even with this vast array of food choices there are times when food might not be available, which is not a problem for the Alligator lizard because they have a tendency to become cannibalistic when the going gets tough (King 1931). Elgaria ceorulea, has two other Elgaria relatives: the southern species and the panamint species (San Diego Zoo 2008). The three species of Elgaria lizards behave and appear very much alike with only minor variations in coloration. The main difference between the species is in the habitat each one calls home, while E. coerulea, lives in the northern part of Monterey Bay and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, E. multicarinata is found throughout most of California and lastly E. panamintina lives only in remote desert locations (californiaherps 2014). The California Alligator lizard is a reptile that has unique traits that allow it to evade predation, find shelter, and consume prey. While it is not a monstrous creature, Elgaria ceorulea uses its tail and palate in extraordinary ways to ensure the survival of the species. The relatives to this species are very similar and together the three species of Elgaria lizards compose a triumvirate of truly interesting organisms.