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Lizards are reptiles. They regulate their body temperature by basking in the sun or cooling off in the shade. They have sleek, smooth-scaled bodies and reproduce by laying eggs, or in the case of the short-horned lizard, give birth to live young. Lizards have external ear openings, unlike snakes which have no openings at all. Sagebrush lizards and prairie skinks have a unique escape mechanism in that their tail breaks away when grabbed by a predator. While the predator is amused with the twitching tail, the lizard escapes unharmed. The tail will grow back over a period of time.

Short-Horned Lizard

(Phrynosoma douglassi )

Short-horned lizards found in North Dakota are often referred to as horned toads. This is a mistake since short-horned lizards are reptiles, not amphibians. Their bodies are flattened and covered with protective horns and spikes. When pursued they will stop and flatten their bodies against the ground and virtually disappear. The horned lizard has a defense mechanism that allows it to squirt blood from the corner of its eyes. This mechanism, made possible by an ability to increase blood pressure in the head, is used when the lizard is threatened. These are relatively small lizards, obtaining lengths of three to four inches. This is amazing considering that these lizards give birth to live young.

They are common in certain areas of the badlands and subsist on a diet of ants, spiders, and sowbugs.

Sagebrush Lizards

(Sceloporus graciosus )

Sagebrush lizards are small, reclusive, and extremely quick. This may account for the scarcity of sightings in North Dakota. They have been collected in the badlands near Medora and southward. They seem to prefer rocky areas near water and adjacent areas of sandy soil and sagebrush.

Local residents sometime refer to these lizards as "bluebellies" because of the bright blue patches on their undersides.

Sagebrush lizards eat a wide variety of insects.

Northern Prairie Skink

(Eumeces septentrionalis )

Prairie skinks are also known as black-banded skinks. They have smooth, shiny scales and grow up to seven inches in length, with bands of brown and black along the length of the back. Juvenile skinks are easily identified by their bright blue tails.

Prairie skinks are active during the summer, and are found in sandy areas such as the sand dunes and grasslands in eastern and northern North Dakota. Their diet includes grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, caterpillars, and spiders.

More Reptiles and Amphibians.

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Last modified June 12 1995