Southern Alligator Lizard Care
The 67 species of alligator lizards range throughout the world. The ones common to North America, Elgaria and Gerrhonotus, includes 8 species ranging from southern Canada down through Central America.
Members of the family Anguidae (and thus related to the Old and New World legless lizards), they look similar to the Gerrhosaurus, the plated lizards in the family Cordylidae, native to southern and eastern Africa. The different species range through a variety of habitats, generally frequenting moist areas of foothills and mountains, but also found ranging down into the drier grasslands, staying near rivers and streams. Secretive in nature, they hide under windfall, undergrowth, and in rocky crevices. Pugnacious when caught, they will thrash around, often delivering a painful bite.
Alligator lizards sport a flat, wedge-shaped head. There is little neck definition, with the body about the same width as the head. The legs are small, thin, and end in five fine toes. Notable is a distinct lateral fold running along their lower sides from the corner of their mouth to their tail. Their scales are large, slightly keeled, and shingled. Ground color is pale to medium brown with darker crossbands. They shed in one piece, like a snake.
Keep in a semi-moist terrarium with ample low climbing facilities and hiding places. Potting soil lightened with cypress mulch or orchid bark, with scattered coverings of sphagnum moss and plants, bark slabs and branches. Keep one area of substrate damp. Provide water bowl easy for lizard to get in and out of.
Daytime temperatures should range from 70-80 F (21-26 C), with a basking area of 85-90 F (29-32 C). Nighttime temperatures should drop to 65-75 F (18-24 C). UVB lighting required, or regular access to unfiltered sunlight.
Insectivores, they feed mainly on arthropods, snails, and occasionally eggs. In captivity, larger animals may feed on mice. Diet must be supplemented with multivitamins and calcium.
Most species are egg layers, with females guarding their eggs. G. coeruleus (Northern Alligator lizard) and some montane species are ovoviviparous.
Elgaria coerulea (formerly Gerrhontus coeruleus) Northern Alligator Lizard.
Northwestern US to southwestern Cananda. Four subspecies. To 14 inches (35 cm). Tail almost twice snout-vent...
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