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Sightings arranged by: Taxonomy Location Date Scientific Name
Xantusia vigilis — Desert Night Lizard
These tiny lizards are theoretically plentiful under the bark of fallen Joshua Trees and other yuccas, but I'd looked for them on a variety of occasions over the past few years without seeing one. Eventually I caught a brief glimpse of one that had been under a rock, but it dashed off without stopping to pose. Finally, on this trip my luck changed and I saw many of them under many fallen Joshua Tree branches, though this is the only one I got a decent picture of.
These "night lizards" are misleadingly named. People used to think they were nocturnal, because they have big eyes and are very rarely seen during the day (or at night either, for that matter). Then people discovered that they're active during the day, but they're active in the dark areas under logs and occasionally rocks, hence the big eyes.
I saw several more of these elusive little guys under downed Joshua Tree branches in the late afternoon on a warm September day.
Another day in the Mojave desert, another night lizard under a fallen Joshua Tree branch. It might *look* like it's on a rock, but that's an optical illusion.
We took a long spring trip this year, and as we often do we spent the first night at Red Rock Canyon State Park as we headed out to the southern deserts. And as usual, it was easy to find night lizards under the fallen Joshua Trees.
I hadn't seen any Desert Night Lizards in over a decade, so when I saw a hillside covered with a healthy stand of Joshua Trees, and many of those Joshua Trees had dried, downed branches, I knew I needed to stop and take a look. It didn't take long to turn up this little cutie.
- Behler, J. L., King, F. W. 1979. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles & Amphibians
- Crother, B. I. (ed.) 2017. Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence in Our Understanding, Eighth Edition
- Miller, A. H., Stebbins, R. C. 1973. The Lives of Desert Animals in Joshua Tree National Monument
- Rogner, M. 1997. Lizards
- Schoenherr, A. A. 1992. A Natural History of California
- Smith, H. M. 1995. Handbook of Lizards: Lizards of the United States and Canada
- Smith, H. M., Brodie, E. D. Jr. 1982. Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification
- Stebbins, R. C. 2003. Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition
- Stoops, E. D., Wright, A. 1997. Snakes and other Reptiles of the Southwest, 4th Edition