Northern alligator lizard

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Northern alligator lizard
Northern alligator lizard.jpg
Elgaria coerulea
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Anguidae
Genus: Elgaria
E. coerulea
Binomial name
Elgaria coerulea
(Wiegmann, 1828)
Synonyms [1]
  • Gerrhonotus coeruleus
    Wiegmann, 1828
  • Gerrhonotus cæruleus [sic]
    Boulenger, 1885
  • Elgaria coerulea
    Crother, 2000

The northern alligator lizard (Elgaria coerulea) is a species of medium-sized lizard in the family Anguidae. The species is endemic to the North American west coast.



The northern alligator lizard was formerly known by the scientific name of Gerrhonotus coeruleus Wiegmann, 1828, but more recently has been assigned to the genus Elgaria.


Four subspecies are recognized as being valid, including the nominotypical subspecies. [1]

A trinomial authority in parentheses indicates that the subspecies was originally described in a genus other than Elgaria.

The subspecies E. c. principis is one of five species of lizards in Canada.


The subspecific name, palmeri, is in honor of American zoologist Theodore Sherman Palmer. [2]


The northern alligator lizard is a medium-sized slender lizard. Adults reach a snout-to-vent length(SVL) of about 10 cm (3.9 in) and a total length (including tail) of roughly 27.5 cm (10.8 in). It has a distinct skin fold on each side, separating the keeled scales on the back from the smooth ventral scales. The skin varies in color, but can be brown and white or greenish yellow and brown. Dorsally, E. coerulea is brownish in color and often has dark blotches that sometimes blend together into bands. The throat and mouth area of some young individuals can be yellow. The belly is light gray. The eyes are dark.


The typical diet of E. coerulea includes crickets, slugs, beetles, spiders, and moths, but it will also take larger prey, such as small lizards, and will even eat small baby mice if given the opportunity.


The northern alligator lizard is live-bearing, producing up to 15 young (typically 4–5), between June and September. [3] During the spring breeding season, a male lizard grasps the head of a female with his mouth until she is ready to let him mate with her. They can remain attached this way for many hours, almost oblivious to their surroundings. Besides keeping her from running off to mate with another male, this probably shows her how strong and suitable a mate he is. [4]

Shasta Alligator Lizard.jpg
E. coerulea shastensis
Elgaria coerulea coerulea07.jpg
E. coerulea coerulea
Elgaria coerulea.jpg
E. coerulea


Elgaria coerulea range.png Ranges of
  •   E. c. coerulea,
  •   E. c. palmeri,
  •   E. c. principis, and
  •   E. c. shastensis.

The northern alligator lizard occurs along the Pacific Coast and in the Rocky Mountains from southern British Columbia through Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana south through Oregon to the coastal range and the Sierra Nevada in central California. As the map shows, the different subspecies have quite different geographic ranges, with E. c. principis being the most widely distributed, whereas E. c. coerulea occurs mainly around the San Francisco area but is also found farther north into Humboldt County.

The species is widely distributed along the Pacific coast and can be found from sea level up to elevation of about 3,350 m (10,990 ft). It is found in a variety of forested habitats and montane chaparral.

See also

Related Research Articles

Anguidae Family of lizards

Anguidae refers to a large and diverse family of lizards native to the Northern Hemisphere. Common characteristics of this group include a reduced supratemporal arch, striations on the medial faces of tooth crowns, osteoderms, and a lateral fold in the skin of most taxa. The group includes the slowworms, glass lizards, and alligator lizards, among others. The family is divided into three subfamilies, and contains about 100 species in 10 genera.

<i>Abronia</i> (lizard) Genus of lizards, family of Anguidae

Abronia is a genus of lizards in the family Anguidae that are endemic to Mexico and northern Central America. Lizards of the genus Abronia are almost exclusively arboreal. These lizards possess intriguing traits, like an olive-green color and many scales over its body. A species may occur in the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes of Guatemala, despite it being identified as a Mesaspis species as of 2016.

<i>Elgaria</i> Genus of lizards

Elgaria is a genus of New World lizards in the family Anguidae. Their common name is western alligator lizards.

<i>Gerrhonotus</i> Genus of lizards

Gerrhonotus is a genus of anguid lizards that are commonly referred to as alligator lizards, due to a vague resemblance to the alligator. Along with glass lizards (Ophisaurus) and many other lizards, alligator lizards have the ability to regrow their tail.

<i>Gerrhosaurus</i> Genus of lizards

Gerrhosaurus is a genus of lizards native to southern and eastern Africa.

Southern alligator lizard Species of lizard

The southern alligator lizard is a common species of lizard in the family Anguidae. The species is native to the Pacific coast of North America. It ranges from Baja California to the state of Washington and lives in a variety of habitats including grasslands, chaparral, forests, and even urban areas. In dry climates, it is likely to be found in moist areas or near streams. There are five recognized subspecies.

Arend Friedrich August Wiegmann

Arend Friedrich August Wiegmann was a German zoologist and herpetologist born in Braunschweig.

An alligator lizard is any one of various species of lizards in the family Anguidae that have some shared characteristics. The term may specifically refer to:

Texas alligator lizard Species of lizard

The Texas alligator lizard is a species of lizard in the subfamily Gerrhonotinae of the family Anguidae. The species is endemic to the central region of the American state of Texas, and south into adjacent northern Mexico.

Mexican alligator lizard Species of lizard

The Mexican alligator lizard, also known as the green arboreal alligator lizard, is an endangered species of lizard endemic to the Sierra Madre Oriental highlands of Mexico. It can be found in the states of Puebla, Veracruz, and Oaxaca. It was originally described under the genus Gerrhonotus as Gerrhonotus gramineus by Edward D. Cope in 1864.

Panamint alligator lizard Species of lizard

The Panamint alligator lizard is a species of lizard in the Anguidae family.

<i>Abronia deppii</i> Species of lizard

Abronia deppii is an endangered species of arboreal alligator lizard in the family Anguidae. The species was described in 1828 by Arend Friedrich August Wiegmann, and it is endemic to Mexico.

<i>Abronia ochoterenai</i> Species of lizard

Abronia ochoterenai is a species of arboreal alligator lizard in the family Anguidae. The species, which is native to extreme southern Mexico, was described in 1939 by Rafael Martín del Campo.

The isthmian alligator lizard is a species of lizard of the Anguidae family. G. rhombifer is found in both Costa Rica and Panama. Unlike many lizards near its habitat, individuals have lateral folds. They give birth to live young. Gerrhonotus rhombifer had not been seen for fifty years, prior to being rediscovered in 2000 near Golfito, and is one of the rarest species of lizard in Costa Rica.

<i>Abronia moreletii</i> Species of lizard

Abronia moreletii, commonly known as Morelet's alligator lizard, is a species of lizard in the family Anguidae. The species is endemic to Central America.

Cope's arboreal alligator lizard is a species of lizard found in two isolated locations in Guatemala, one in the Alta Verapaz Department and one in the Jalapa Department. These lizard are found only in high altitudes of 2,000 to 2,600 feet above sea level, on the west and south sides of the mountain ranges. This lizard is one of 28 species of alligator lizards, most being arboreal, meaning they live in trees. These omnivores are considered endangered because of their small population size and they face extinction due to habitat degradation and from pressures of the pet trade.

Madrean alligator lizard Species of lizard

The Madrean alligator lizard is a species of lizard in the family Anguidae. The species is endemic to the southwestern United States and adjacent northwestern Mexico.

<i>Gerrhonotus parvus</i> Species of lizard

Gerrhonotus parvus is a species of lizard in the subfamily Gerrhonotinae. It is endemic to the state of Nuevo León, Mexico. The name parvus is from the latin word for small because it is the species of smallest adult size recognized in the genus Gerrhonotus. It lives in dry forests transitioning to scrub at elevations of 900–1,650 m (2,950–5,410 ft) above sea level. They are usually found among dead leaves of yuccas in open wood areas. It seems to prefer dry limestone canyons. It is a relatively small species, with the maximum reported snout–vent length at 76 mm (3.0 in). It is oviparous and has a litter size of 4–6 eggs. Its head is glossy and smooth, grayish brown in color with scattered dark spots. The lips are peppered with pigment and the chin and throat are white in color.


  1. 1 2 Species Elgaria coerulea at The Reptile Database .
  2. Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN   978-1-4214-0135-5. (Elgaria coerulea palmeri, p. 200).
  3. Stebbins RC (2003). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition. The Peterson Field Guide Series ®. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. xiii + 533 pp. ISBN   978-0-395-98272-3. (Elgaria coerulea, pp. 332-333 + Plate 41 + Map 126).
  4. "Northwestern Alligator Lizard - Elgaria coerulea principis". Retrieved 2020-01-19.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

Further reading