Description: The adult Prairie Lizard ranges from 4–7 inches (10–18 cm) in total length. The tail is over half of the total length of individuals. The background color is light brown or light gray, and individuals have a wide gray middorsal stripe. A pale cream or white dorsolateral stripe runs from the neck to the base of the tail and is typically bordered by a rust-colored stripe with variable black or white markings. Sides are reddish-brown. Scales are large, keeled, and overlapping, giving it a rough, spiny appearance and texture. Although similar in appearance to the Common Sagebrush Lizard, the Prairie Lizard has keeled, overlapping scales on the thigh, posterior to the femoral pores (Common Sagebrush Lizards have small, non-keeled, non-overlapping scales here). Adult males are easily differentiated from females by two bright blue patches on the underside that females lack. Both males and females have a row of femoral pores on the underside of each thigh, which are enlarged in adult males. Juveniles are similar in appearance to adults, but juvenile males lack the blue patches that they acquire with sexual maturity.
Habitat: This species can be found in grasslands with sparse vegetation, yuccas, and sandy soils. Additionally, sandy regions with large areas of sand prairie and sand dunes are used by Prairie Lizards. Generally, this species is terrestrial but can climb logs, fence posts, and other vertical surfaces.
Natural History: The Prairie Lizard is diurnal, basking in the sun on rocks, wood piles, and fence posts. Activity peaks at temperatures above 70°F (21°C), but individuals generally avoid hot midday temperatures by seeking shelter under vegetation or in burrows. Males are territorial and will display bright blue patches on their undersides, head bob, and do push-ups to ward off other males. Prairie Lizards are insectivores, eating most terrestrial arthropods. These lizards are extremely fast. When startled, they will often seek refuge in nearby vegetation or burrows. Like skinks, the Prairie Lizard can drop its tail to escape predators. The tail can be regenerated, but regenerated tails are a slightly different color and usually shorter than the original tail. Prairie Lizards overwinter underground in burrows. Mating typically takes place in May as temperatures begin to warm. Males will court females by bobbing their heads and extending up on their limbs to show off bright blue patches on their undersides. Females can lay 3–13 eggs, potentially up to twice each season. Eggs typically hatch after two months. Females demonstrate no parental care, unlike that observed in Many-lined Skinks and Prairie Skinks.
Species Range: This species occurs throughout much of the Great Plains, from Texas and New Mexico north to South Dakota and east to Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois.
South Dakota Distribution: This species is found only in south-central and southwestern South Dakota where suitable habitats exist. Records in South Dakota are few, and additional surveys may better document the species distribution in the region.
South Dakota Status: This species is monitored by the South Dakota Natural Heritage Program. Any observations of this species should be reported to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (report observation).