Western Fence Lizard and More

In my humble enjoyment of wild creatures across the planet, I am reminded on this hot summer day of one of my favorite creatures on earth: lizards.

They can thermoregulate their body temperature and gather energy from the sun. Let go of their tail if it is clenched in the jaws of a predator and grow another.

Many have not two, but three eyes. Located on the back of the head, the third eye is used for regulating hormone production and detecting predators.

Our local lizard, the western fence lizard, possesses all these features and more. They are commonly found in California and many of the western states; and classified as Sceloporus occidentalis in the order Squamata and suborder Iguania.

With the current high temperatures lately, I have had the pleasure of watching them skitter around me every day.

They are small lizards, could fit into your hand. But good luck trying to get them into your hand because they’re lightning fast.

Males have a blue underside; you can see it here.

This one (below) has a small circle of pale blue on his throat.

This photo below highlights his many scales.

The scales overlap and are made of keratin. They provide protection from the environment as well as preventing water loss.

Lizards eat the mosquitoes that would otherwise bite me. This is a gift, pure and simple. They hop up and snatch the insect so fast that you can’t even see their tongue at work.

I love to sit outside at the end of a summer day watching the lizards. As opposed to the morning when they are sluggish and still storing the sun’s energy, late in the day they are super fast, like on steroids, after soaking up the sun all day long.

In addition to all this, Sceloporus occidentalis have a feature so extra special that it has become the subject of many scientific studies. They have the ability to neutralize the deer tick bacterium that transmits to humans, thereby curtailing the transmission of Lyme’s Disease.

Deer ticks are the primary carriers of Lyme disease. A protein in the blood of western fence lizards kills the bacterium in these ticks when they attach themselves to a lizard and ingest the lizard’s blood.

Numerous studies have determined that Lyme disease effects less people in California than in the eastern U.S., due to our most common lizard’s neutralizing abilities. That’s a gift too.

More western fence lizard info:

Western Fence Lizard Wikipedia and Northwestern Fence Lizard CaliforniaHerpes.com

This is a photo of another of our common lizards, the alligator lizard.

These photos, below, are some of my favorite lizards from other parts of the world, starting with the small ones and working up to very large lizards.

These last two, the marine and land iguanas, are gloriously huge.

If you are squeamish about Squamata, I hope this lizard love fest has warmed you to these magnificent creatures.

Written by Jet Eliot.

All photos in the wild by Athena Alexander.


71 thoughts on “Western Fence Lizard and More

  1. Thanks for all the info and the photographs. It’s better than the biology lessons we had at school ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Wishing you a happy weekend.
    With love from the much too hot coast of North Norfolk
    The Fab Four of Cley
    ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Educational and filled with interesting photos, as usual, Jet! I wonder if your Western Fence Lizard, could be transplanted to our region. The abundance of deer and Lyme disease here is getting worse every year. A family I know had to move to California because the wife was severely affected by Lyme disease. We need the Western Fence Lizard to become the Eastern Fence Lizard.

    • Yes, Lyme Disease is truly awful, which makes the Western Fence Lizard a remarkable creature. I hope your friend has a better time of it in Calif. Thanks very much, Hien.

  3. They are cool and prehistoric looking the lizard. I hope that’s true about the Western Fence Lizard and Lyme Disease. Oddly enough I just had a doctors appointment yesterday to check on a bug bite that I thought might have been a tick bite. Fortunately it isn’t!! Also it was great reminder that I need to spray myself before I go birding! I haven’t been.

    The images and variety of lizards in this post are amazing!

  4. Wonderful post of lizard, ! Three eyes, Wow! Good to know their neutralizing abilities.
    These photos of lizards around the world are incredible. Thank you for sharig!
    I saw the green Anole yesterday, and was able to capture a couple photos. They are fast!

    • I liked hearing about your green anole adventures, Amy. That green anole with the orange dewlap was snapped in your state, in a park near Houston. Sam Houston Jones State Park. Wonderful to see you, thank you. Keep on snapping!

  5. What a wonderful warm post celebrating lizards! They are all pretty special, but I think I prefer them in smaller to larger form – I have fond memories of living in warmer places and seeing them scamper along walls and fences.
    Thanks, Jet!

    • Yes, the warmer places are where you get a good look at local lizards. I’m glad you’ve had fond memories, pc. And I’m really glad to see you today. Big smiles to you and Mrs. PC.

  6. Who doesn’t love a lizard? Well, lots of people, I suspect, but they’re all wrong! Great photos, and fascinating text. The Lyme Disease connection sounds like something out of science fiction. Makes you wonder what’s still out there, waiting for us to discover.

  7. I did not know that lizards were a defeater of Lyme Disease! That makes them an immediate ally for me. Besides I’ve always admired them anyway ๐Ÿ™‚ Great pics.

    • Yes, and I wish we could share some of the western fence lizard’s wizardry with your side of the country. Thank you, Eliza, always a joy to have you stop by.

  8. Hi Jet, I so appreciate the photos and the information. Living in the northeast, I don’t see many lizards. And, I agree with many of the other comments that neutralizing lyme disease is an awesome super-power!

    • Yes, the warmer climates are the place for lizards. But then it’s great I could bring you a nice string of them today, Mark. Thank you for your visit today, I enjoyed it.

  9. Oy! You are taking us to the age of the large reptiles, are they to represent the great dinosaurs? Quite interesting, my dear friend. I like it! Thank you so much for sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I enjoyed your comment, H.J., and I’m smiling as I type from your fun words. I’m glad you liked the lizard post today, it was really fun to put together. My warmest thanks, H.J., dear friend.

  10. Any creature that can offer hope for a cure or at least vaccine for lyme disease is a fine creature indeed.

    I have serious lizard envy. We have no lizards here in WMass and the only ones are skinks found in a small part of Vermont. Nice post in support of our lizard friends, Jet.

    • I can never get enough of the lizards, Steve, so I fully understand your lizard envy. I’m glad I could bring you some of these lovelies today. Wonderful to hear from you.

  11. Some lovely colors on some of these and I really like the anti-Lyme disease bit! There are some really large iguanas, aren’t there? We have a couple of small lizards of some sort in our backyard and they can really move! Hope you have a lovely weekend.


    • Oh yes, how the little lizards can move! And those large iguanas were a joy, fun to share here, too. One time we were snorkeling in the Galapagos with that big marine iguana. It was submerged in the water, eating algae off the rocks. Pretty funny to be underwater with a lizard! Always a joy, Janet, thank you.

  12. Land of lizards! ๐Ÿ™‚ Very cool shots, I laughed when I saw the Gold Dust Day Gecko with that look of surprise. hehe Whoa, I did not know lizards had a third eye, that explains why they are hard to get close to to photograph!

    • I’m happy you liked that gecko photo at the end, Donna, and the emotion I intended…just brings an instant smile to the face. I enjoyed your comment and visit so much, thank you.

  13. I love the expressions and the body language of lizards. Each one unique. Interesting that they have an effect on the “Lyme disease tick situation.” Wonderful post, Jet and Athena.

    • Yes, geckos seem friendly, especially those colorful Gold Dust Day geckos in their tropical brightness. I find all lizards so very interesting, and am glad you stopped by, Bill, to enjoy them today.

  14. I love reptiles of all kinds. Iโ€™ve written a few into one of my works in progress, but Iโ€™m guessing โ€œchicken of the treesโ€ isnโ€™t how you want to remember them.

  15. Learned a few things about the many lizards that roam our area
    from your excellent post today. The photos are always so delightful.
    They add a great feeling to the whole post! Enjoy your day and your
    continued adventures Jet!

    • I am thrilled to share some lizard info with you, Eddie, and glad you enjoyed the post. Florida’s tropical climate yields many lizard species. I was just now wondering how many lizard species you have in FL and the quick google answer was 15 native and 34 exotic species. Leaping Lizards that’s a lot! thanks and smiles to you, dear friend.

  16. We have absolutely gobs of fence lizards around our house. Youโ€™re right, they are lightning fast! The only other lizard we see sometimes is the plateau-striped whiptail. They reproduce asexually and are all female clones.

    • I loved hearing about the lizards you see at home, Eilene. And loved hearing about the plateau-striped whiptail clones. Another cool lizard fact. Thanks so much.

  17. I need to get here more often….because your posts never fail to fascinate and amaze me. I love lizards, but had no idea just how clever and amazing they an be. Three eyes…..an ability to stop Lyme’s disease and getting rid of mosquitos….(how wonderful is that:). I do hope that you are settling into your new home and getting to know all the critters that live there….:). Thank you Jet.

    • Thanks so much, Janet. I’m smiling from your comment right now, happy that I could share the beauty of lizards with you today. Yes, settling into our new home, and thrilled to have all surrounding trees alive and green, it makes such a difference. Wonderful to “see” you, Janet, and sending my best wishes to you for healthy and pleasant days.

  18. I enjoyed reading about and seeing the photos of the robust and almost stocky looking Western Fence Lizard and then your colourful alligator lizard, but then I was amazed at the diversity of lizards in the photos that followed. What a remarkable collection of sightings and photographs. I have looked through the fascinating photos several times.

    • My warmest thanks for your lovely visit and comment, Carol. I am so pleased that you took the time to enjoy all the lizards and found them fascinating and remarkable. I feel so lucky to have seen all these beautiful lizards, and am happy I could share them with you. Many thanks.

  19. I now recognize the green anole! I am fascinated by lizards and I must say that resistance to Lyme Disease is incredibly intriguing. One of our past poodles actually got Lyme disease and that really messed up his joints. We definitely keep an eye out for the tiny deer ticks out in our neck of the woods and make sure we get those off as soon as possible. I will say, as an avid watcher of the “Kings of Pain” I will be keeping my distance from a few of those species – yikes. Thanks for sharing a wonderful collection of “walking snakes” as my wife puts it (not a fan ha).

    • I am happy you and I share a fascination for lizards, Brian. Some of earth’s most incredible creatures, and helping stem Lyme disease is just another amazing fact. Many thanks for your visit and comment, always a joy.

  20. What a delightful post, Jet. Of course we don’t have lizards here in MI but I love watching them when I visit places like Costa Rica and Mexico. My mother-in-law lived in FL and still does half the year. I love visiting her and seeing the little lizards scurrying around everywhere! That was so interesting about the deer ticks and this little lizard. What a blessing this little fellow is.

    • I liked hearing about your joy of lizard watching, LuAnne, and appreciation, and I’m delighted I could share our western fence lizard with you. Thanks so much for your lovely words today, much appreciated.

  21. I did not know that some lizards have third eyes – that is the new thing I learned today. When I lived in Bangkok dozens of small lizards would come out at night and feast on little insects. They stayed mostly on the ceiling and one of our cats would watch them for hours, hoping they’d get low enough for him to pounce. We lived above a canal there and huge monitor lizards would swim by and occasionally I’d see them out on the street. Thanks for sharing a great post.

    • It was great to hear about your time in Bangkok, Jeff, with the lizards (geckos?) on the ceiling. And I especially liked hearing about the huge monitor lizards swimming by in the canal. Wonderful to “see” you, Jeff, thank you.

  22. As kids visiting our grandparents in Redding, my brother and I spent a lot of fruitless hours chasing these little buggers. I don’t recall that we ever captured one, but it kept us entertained… I did manage to snag a baby garter snake in the back yard though, which sent my poor grandmother into hysterics and earned me a spanking.

    That might have put some kids off, but even at eight years old I figured that if you were annoying the establishment to that degree, you were probably on the right track. 40 years later, I’m still at it.

    Here in the Bitterroot Mountains, my favorite lizard is the western skink, particularly the juviniles with their bright blue tails. Thanks for the memories!

    • Great to hear about your adventures and reverence for the lizards, AJ. And I’m happy you’re still enjoying them 40 years later. I, too, really like the western skink. Many thanks.

  23. How did I manage to miss your lizards, Jet? These are awesome. I love being able to see the details, like the blue on the throat of the fence lizard. I chuckled when I came to the part where you mentioned your “favorite lizards.” Not many people use that word combination. What an incredible collection of favorites, most of which the majority of us will never see, like the Galapagos iguanas. Here in Virginia, I am fortunate when I manage to see an occasional skink. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I am so pleased to be able to bring you these reptile photos, Mike. The Galapagos iguanas were very special to see, because it is not often in life we see lizards as big as a dog. One of the things I love about blogging is sharing the creatures of the world, so it is very gratifying to share the lizards with you, while you continue to enlighten me on dragonflies. Thanks very much.

      • People blog for all kinds of reasons. It always has struck me that our motivations are quite similar, i.e. sharing our experiences in nature with others by giving them glimpses of what we are seeing and feeling as we wander the world.

  24. Sometimes, getting behind with my reading and commenting is a plus. Since reading this the first time, I’ve discovered there’s an Eastern Fence Lizard, too — and that Texas has it’s own version of the Western Fence Lizard. Apart from their marvelous habit of eating mosquitos and such, they’re all so entertaining to watch. My favorites are our Anoles, with their occasionally unbelievable green, and their lightning fast ability to pluck up lunch.

    The blue bits on yours are familiar from Steve Schwartzman’s photos of one in an area of Texas far west from me, and I’m sure that I’ve mentioned to you before that I never can read the words “alligator lizard” without hearing “Ventura Highway” in my mind!

    • I so enjoyed your visit and comment, Linda, thanks so much. Yes, your eastern fence lizard occupies all of Texas, and there are several subspecies in TX. There’s a nice range map on Wikipedia, link below. Interestingly, fire ants, that ferocious TX species that terrorizes residents of your state, also terrorizes the eastern fence lizard. I read there have been many studies about this lizard in relation to the fire ants. You might enjoy it. As for the anoles, oh yes, I too love your anoles in TX. Many thanks, Linda, always a joy to “see” you. Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_fence_lizard

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