Have you ever wondered about the different types of lizards you can find in South Dakota? Well, you’re in for a treat! This article introduces six fascinating species of lizards that call South Dakota home. From the lightning-fast Six-Lined Racerunner to the camouflaged Common Lesser Earless Lizard, each lizard has its own unique characteristics and habitat preferences. So, if you’re curious about these scaly creatures, read on to discover the incredible diversity of lizards found in South Dakota!
The Six-Lined Racerunner, scientifically known as Aspidoscelis sexlineata, is a small lizard species that measures approximately 2.25 to 3.75 inches in length from snout to vent, excluding the tail. These lizards feature “dark fields,” which are broad stripes between lighter stripes on their bodies. The color of these dark fields can range from brown to black. They also have 6 to 8 light stripes that vary in color from white or yellow to gray-blue. In males, the coloring is much brighter, with greens on the back and light turquoise on the belly.
The Six-Lined Racerunner can be found in various habitats in South Dakota, including grasslands, rocky terrains, wooded areas, and even floodplains. They are versatile and adaptable, which allows them to thrive in different environments. As long as one is within their range, they have a good chance of spotting this fast and agile lizard.
Six-Lined Racerunners are insectivores, with termites being their primary food source. However, they also feed on a variety of other insects such as beetles, ants, and spiders. This makes them beneficial to have around, especially if there is a pest problem. Their diet contributes to the natural pest control of their habitat.
True to their name, Six-Lined Racerunners are known for their incredible speed. Clocking in at speeds of up to 18 miles per hour, they are one of the fastest lizards in South Dakota. This agility allows them to outmaneuver predators and swiftly escape when confronted by humans. Despite their small size, they possess remarkable athleticism.
The Prairie Lizard, scientifically named Sceloporus consobrinus, is a medium-sized lizard species that measures about 3.5 to 7.5 inches in length from snout to vent, excluding the tail. These lizards have coloring that is light reddish-brown with a light brown stripe down their spine. Some individuals may also exhibit orange or red coloring on their lips and chin.
Prairie Lizards can be typically found in the far southern regions of South Dakota. They prefer habitats that offer plenty of perching spots, such as open forests, tall grass fields, or even dunes. These lizards are well-adapted to climbing and spend most of their time off the ground, perched on trees, fences, or even sunflowers.
Insects and spiders make up the diet of Prairie Lizards. They possess the ability to subdue these prey easily. Feeding on a variety of smaller creatures contributes to the ecological balance of their environment by controlling insect populations.
Prairie Lizards are both skilled climbers and exceptionally fast runners. Their ability to swiftly navigate their surroundings allows them to evade capture and avoid direct contact with individuals attempting to approach them. As such, observation from a distance is often the best way to appreciate these fascinating creatures.
Many-Lined Skinks, scientifically known as Plestiodon multivirgatus, are medium-sized lizards that can grow up to 7.5 inches in length. One distinguishing feature of these skinks is their relatively long tail, which is usually one to one-and-a-half times the length of their body. They have light and dark stripes running the length of their bodies. Male Many-Lined Skinks may develop orange or red lips during the breeding season.
Many-Lined Skinks in southwestern South Dakota prefer areas with an ample water source or moist soil. They can adapt to various habitats, ranging from mountainous areas to vacant lots and even city dumps. This versatility enables them to thrive in both natural and human-altered environments.
Ant larvae and other insects form the primary food source for Many-Lined Skinks. These skinks play an essential role in controlling ant populations and maintaining the overall balance of their ecosystem. Additionally, young Many-Lined Skinks possess bright blue tails, which serve as a defensive strategy to divert predators’ attention away from their bodies.
If threatened, Many-Lined Skinks have a fascinating defense mechanism. They can detach their tail if a predator tries to bite or grab them, allowing them to escape. Regeneration of the tail is also possible, making it an effective survival strategy. The two subspecies of Many-Lined Skinks, Northern Many-Lined Skink (P.m. multivirgatus) and Variable Skink (P.m. epipleurotus), exhibit slight variations in appearance and behavior.
Northern Prairie Skink
Northern Prairie Skinks, scientifically named Plestiodon septentrionalis, are relatively larger lizards that can reach lengths of up to 9 inches. They have olive-brown coloring with multiple light stripes bordered with dark brown. Some individuals may have a single stripe down the middle of their back, while others have a pair of stripes. The belly of Northern Prairie Skinks is generally lighter in color than their back, and the color is uniform throughout.
Northern Prairie Skinks can be found in open plains and along streambeds in eastern South Dakota. They are known for their resilience and ability to withstand extremely cold temperatures. During winter, these skinks burrow below the frost line to keep warm and prevent freezing. Their adaptation to colder climates is remarkable.
The diet of Northern Prairie Skinks primarily consists of insects. Their ability to survive in harsh environments indicates their effectiveness in finding food sources even in challenging conditions. These skinks contribute to the overall biodiversity of their habitat by helping control insect populations.
Northern Prairie Skinks and Southern Prairie Skinks are considered subspecies by some scientists due to their differences in appearance and habitat range. However, they are generally recognized as two distinct species. Their unique ability to burrow below freezing temperatures is impressive and showcases their remarkable adaptability.
Greater Short-Horned Lizard
The Greater Short-Horned Lizard, scientifically known as Phrynosoma hernandesi, is a small to medium-sized lizard species. They typically measure between 1.75 to 4.75 inches in length from snout to vent, excluding the tail. These lizards have beige, tan, or reddish coloring, speckled with white. They also have noticeable large brown blotches on their neck and sides. One distinguishing feature is the short and stubby horns located on the back of their head and each side.
Greater Short-Horned Lizards are found in western South Dakota, specifically in shortgrass prairies and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. They inhabit semi-arid regions with a climate characterized by long dry spells and occasional heavy rain. Their adaptation to these environments makes them well-suited to survive in arid conditions.
Ants are the primary food source for Greater Short-Horned Lizards. However, they also consume a wide range of other insects, including grasshoppers, beetles, wasps, caterpillars, spiders, and even snails. Their varied diet allows them to thrive in their habitat and fulfill their nutritional needs.
One remarkable trait of the Greater Short-Horned Lizard is its ability to give birth to live young, making it one of only two horned lizard species in South Dakota with this reproductive strategy. During reproduction, a single female can produce up to 48 babies in one birth, demonstrating their significant contribution to the species’ propagation.
Common Lesser Earless Lizard
The Common Lesser Earless Lizard, scientifically named Holbrookia maculata, is a small lizard species measuring up to 2.75 inches in length from snout to vent and 4 to 5.25 inches in total length. Their coloration ranges from tan to brown, with pale stripes running along their back. Males have pairs of black bars behind their arms, which females typically lack. Gravid (pregnant) females develop pink, yellow, or orange coloring on their backs.
Common Lesser Earless Lizards can be found in the far southern regions of South Dakota, particularly in tallgrass prairies with sandy soil. These lizards have excellent camouflage abilities, making it challenging to spot them on the ground unless they are in motion. Their preferred habitats provide the ideal conditions for burrowing and thriving.
The diet of Common Lesser Earless Lizards primarily consists of insects. They help maintain the balance of their ecosystem by contributing to the control of insect populations. The presence of these lizards serves to control the abundance of their prey and prevent overpopulation.
One unique characteristic of Common Lesser Earless Lizards is their lack of ear openings, unlike other lizards. This adaptation allows them to spend most of their lives burrowed under loose soil, utilizing it as protection and shelter. The various subspecies of Lesser Earless Lizard require further research and investigation to determine their distinct characteristics.
Field Guide for Identifying Lizards
Identifying lizard species can be an exciting and engaging activity, especially for nature enthusiasts and researchers. South Dakota is home to a diverse range of lizard species, each with its unique characteristics and adaptations. A field guide can be an invaluable resource for accurately identifying these lizards and learning more about their behavior, habitat, and food sources.
Benefits of Using a Field Guide
Field guides provide a comprehensive and organized reference for identifying lizards. They offer detailed descriptions of each species, including distinguishing features, size measurements, and coloration patterns. Photographs or illustrations accompany the descriptions, enhancing visual identification and aiding in species recognition.
Using a field guide increases one’s understanding and appreciation of South Dakota’s lizard diversity. It allows individuals to contribute valuable data to scientific research and conservation efforts by accurately identifying and documenting lizard species’ occurrences and distributions.
A field guide can also enhance outdoor experiences, as it encourages exploration and observation of the natural world. It serves as a tool for individuals of all ages to engage with nature, deepen their knowledge, and foster a sense of connection to the environment.
Other Lizard Species in South Dakota
While this article focuses on lizards, South Dakota is home to various other reptile species, including frogs, turtles, and snakes.
Frogs Found in South Dakota
South Dakota boasts a range of frog species, each with its unique characteristics and natural history. Some common frog species found in the state include the American Bullfrog, Northern Leopard Frog, and Wood Frog. These amphibians play vital roles in their ecosystems, contributing to pest control and acting as indicators of environmental health.
Turtles Found in South Dakota
Turtles are another group of reptiles found in South Dakota. Species such as the Painted Turtle, Snapping Turtle, and Ornate Box Turtle inhabit various aquatic and terrestrial environments throughout the state. Turtles contribute to ecosystem balance and are intriguing subjects for study and observation.
Snakes Found in South Dakota
South Dakota is home to a diverse range of snake species, including both venomous and non-venomous varieties. Species such as the Prairie Rattlesnake, Western Hognose Snake, and Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer can be found in different habitats across the state. Snakes play essential roles in controlling rodent populations and maintaining biodiversity.
South Dakota provides a rich and diverse habitat for lizard species. The Six-Lined Racerunner, Prairie Lizard, Many-Lined Skink, Northern Prairie Skink, Greater Short-Horned Lizard, and Common Lesser Earless Lizard each bring unique characteristics, behaviors, and adaptations to their respective ecosystems.
By accurately identifying and appreciating these lizard species, individuals can enhance their understanding of South Dakota’s natural heritage. The use of field guides supports learning and facilitates meaningful connections with the environment.
Have you encountered any of these lizard species in South Dakota? Share your experiences in the comments below! Additionally, be sure to explore other identification guides to deepen your knowledge of the region’s wildlife.