Fence Lizard Sceloporus undulatus

Adult female from Floyd County

Identification

Fence Lizards are unique among Indiana lizards in that they have rough, spiny scales as opposed to the shinier, smoother scales of Indiana’s other lizards. They are also unique in their form, being a relatively flat, but broad-bodied lizard. Fence Lizards are brown-gray dorsally with dark lines or chevrons horizontally extending from the sides to the back. During the breeding season, males have bright blue coloration on their underside and both males and females have blue under their throats. Adult Fence Lizards grow to around six inches (15 cm) long.

Adult female from Floyd County
Adult male in breeding colors from Brown County
Juvenile from Floyd County

The body form and rough/spiny scales separates this lizard from the few other species in the state. The blue coloration that adults display is also unique.

Ecology and Conservation

The Fence Lizard acquired its name from its love of basking on rail fences. They can be found basking on anything from logs, trees, and rocks, to rusted cars and old buildings. An inhabitant of the forest floor, the Fence Lizard is strictly diurnal and seeks cover under wood, rocks, bark, or even rubbish when it isn’t basking. They generally hibernate in holes in trees, logs, or fence posts from approximately November to April.

Forest edge in Brown County
Shalestone glade in Floyd County

Distribution

The Fence Lizard is found from extreme southeastern New York west through eastern Kansas, south to northern South Carolina, central Alabama, and eastern Texas. In the Midwest, the Fence Lizard is found in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.

Fence Lizards occur only in southern Indiana where they frequent edges and openings in oak-hickory woodlands. This sun-loving lizard is most abundant around rock outcrops and rocky glades. Most of their Indiana range is within the south-central unglaciated hills, but scattered populations occur in southeastern and southwestern Indiana.

Taxonomy

This species was once considered to be more widespread, but some populations are now described as unique species. Fence Lizards in Indiana are sometimes considered to belong to the Northern Fence Lizard (S. u. hyacinthinus) subspecies, although Miles et al. (2002) argued against its recognition.

Literature Cited

Conant, R. and J. T. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY.

Miles, D. B., R. Noecker, W. M. Roosenburg, and M. M. White. 2002. Genetic relationships among populations of Sceloporus undulatus fail to support present subspecific designations. Herpetologica, 58:277-292.

Minton, S. A. 2001. Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science.

Websites:

UM Museum of Zoology: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/sceloporus/s._undulatus_hyacinthinus$narrative.html

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus)
Photographs