General Description: The Prairie Lizard is a small lizard ranging 4–7 inches (10.2–17.8 cm) in total length, with their tail being over half of the total length. The background color is light brown or light gray and individuals have a wide gray dorsal stripe. A pale cream or whitish 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. Scales on the Prairie Lizard are large, keeled, and overlapping, giving it a rough, spiny appearance and texture. The Prairie Lizard is similar in appearance to the Sagebrush Lizard but can be differentiated by the presence of keeled, overlapping scales on the thigh, posterior to the femoral pores (Sagebrush Lizards have small, non-keeled, non-overlapping scales). Males are easily differentiated from females by having two bright blue patches on their underside that females lack. Both males and females will have a row of femoral pores on the underside of each thigh that are enlarged in adult males. Juveniles are similar in appearance to adults, but juvenile males lack these blue patches which they get as they reach sexual maturity.
Behavior: The Prairie Lizard is diurnal and generally active during the day basking in the sun on rocks, wood piles, and fence posts. Males are territorial and will display bright blue patches on their undersides, head bob, and do push-ups to ward off other males. Home ranges for adults males is typically from 47–61 m2. Prairie Lizards are insectivores, feeding on most invertebrates and arthropods. These lizards are extremely fast and when startled will often seek refuge in nearby vegetation or burrows. Like skinks, the Prairie Lizard can drop its tail in order to escape predators that can be regenerated later.
Reproduction: 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. Females demonstrate no parental care unlike that observed in Many-lined Skinks and Prairie Skinks.
Habitat: This species can be found in grasslands with sparse vegetation and sandy soils. Additionally, in more rocky regions they can be found in rock outcrops and crevices. Typically, this species is terrestrial but can climb up logs, fence posts, and other vertical surfaces.
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 Range: This species is only found in south-central South Dakota where the Sandhills extend into South Dakota.
South Dakota Status: This species is listed on the South Dakota Natural Heritage Program. Any sightings of this species should be reported to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (report observation).
Account written by Drew R. Davis and Zachary A. Lukes