In Iowa, there are five types of lizards that you might come across if you keep your eyes peeled and your curiosity piqued. From the Six-Lined Racerunner with its lightning-fast speed to the Great Plains Skink with its striking markings, these lizards bring a diverse range of colors and characteristics to the state. The Common Five-Lined Skink is known for its dedicated motherhood, while the Northern Prairie Skink has adapted to survive the harsh winter temperatures. Lastly, the Slender Glass Lizard stands out with its fragile tail and unique hunting methods. So, if you’re interested in learning about the reptilian inhabitants of Iowa, read on to discover the fascinating world of lizards in the Hawkeye State!
Five Types of Lizards Found in Iowa
1. Six-Lined Racerunner
The Six-Lined Racerunner is a common sight in Iowa. These lizards are small, measuring between 2.25 to 3.75 inches long from snout to vent. They have distinct markings, with dark brown or black “dark fields” between lighter stripes on their whiptails. The Six-Lined Racerunner has the widest range of all lizards in Iowa and can be found in various habitats, including grasslands, rocky areas, wooded regions, and floodplains. They are insectivores and primarily feed on termites, but they also consume beetles, ants, and spiders. These lizards are known for their incredible speed and agility, as they can reach speeds of up to 18 miles per hour!
2. Great Plains Skink
The Great Plains Skink is another lizard species found in Iowa. These lizards can grow up to 13 inches long and come in various colors, ranging from light gray or olive to tan with darker brown markings. They have distinct pale yellow or orange tails and feet, and their bellies are often marked with a salmon color. Great Plains Skinks are commonly found in prairie grasslands with low-growing plants, but they can also be found in woodland or semi-arid desert areas. These lizards are known for their aggressive nature and will bite if they feel threatened. They are skilled hunters and feed on a diet of insects, snails, spiders, and even other lizards.
3. Common Five-Lined Skink
The Common Five-Lined Skink is a fascinating lizard species found in Iowa. They can grow up to 8.75 inches long and have five stripes that are most apparent in hatchlings and fade as they grow. Males develop orange-red coloring on their jaws during the breeding season. These skinks are commonly found in wooded areas near rotting stumps, rock outcrops, and piles of boards or sawdust in southeastern Iowa. The Common Five-Lined Skink feeds on a variety of insects, including spiders, beetles, and crickets. One interesting behavior of these skinks is their maternal care. Females attend to their eggs throughout the incubation period, defending and caring for them until they hatch. They even roll the eggs to maintain humidity and eat any non-viable eggs.
4. Northern Prairie Skink
The Northern Prairie Skink is a hardy lizard species found in Iowa. These lizards can grow up to 9 inches long and have olive-brown coloring with light stripes bordered by dark brown. Some individuals have a single stripe in the middle of their back, while others have a pair of stripes. They are commonly found in open plains and along streambeds in Iowa. One fascinating adaptation of the Northern Prairie Skink is its ability to survive the harsh winters. They burrow below the frost line to stay warm enough not to freeze. There is some debate among scientists about whether the Northern Prairie Skink and the Southern Prairie Skink are subspecies or different species altogether, as they have different appearances and do not live in the same areas.
5. Slender Glass Lizard
The Slender Glass Lizard is a unique lizard species found in Iowa. These lizards are elongated, measuring between 22 to 47 inches long. They are generally brown to black in color, with whitish markings in the middle of their scales. Younger individuals have dark stripes along their back and sides, while older individuals develop faint crossbands. Slender Glass Lizards are commonly found in dry grasslands and open forests in southeastern Iowa. They feed on insects, spiders, small rodents, and small lizards. One interesting characteristic of Slender Glass Lizards is their fragile tails. Their tails can break off easily, even without being touched. As a result, it is rare to find a Slender Glass Lizard with its original tail intact. There are two subspecies of Slender Glass Lizard: Western Slender Glass Lizards have shorter tails, while Eastern Slender Glass Lizards have longer tails.
Field Guide Recommendation
If you’re interested in learning more about lizards and identifying different species, we recommend the Peterson Field Guides to Reptiles and Amphibians. This comprehensive field guide provides detailed information and illustrations to help you identify various species of lizards and other reptiles and amphibians.
Comment and Share
Have you encountered any of these lizard species in Iowa? We would love to hear about your experiences! Leave a comment below and share your encounters with these fascinating creatures. Also, feel free to share this article with your friends and family who may be interested in learning about the diverse lizard species found in Iowa. Happy lizard spotting!