Eastern Fence Lizard
Occurs statewide and is the only spiny lizard in TN.
Description: A medium-sized (4.0 to 7.25 inches in length), wide-bodied grayish to brown lizard with keeled, pointed scales. Females are larger than males and have dark, wavy lines across the back, while males are more uniformly colored. Adult males have bright blue patches, bordered with black, along the throat and belly.
Similar Species: None.
Habitat: Found in many habitats, but usually found in dry, open forests or forest edges. Commonly found on trees, fallen trees, stumps, fences, firewood piles, and rock piles.
Diet: Primarily insects such as ants, beetles, and spiders; occasionally snails.
Breeding information: Adults court and breed in spring and summer. Males attract mates by flashing their blue patches. Males defend territories aggressively with head-bobbing and push-ups; occasionally with fighting. Females lay 3-16 eggs in rotting wood piles or under loose soil. Juveniles hatch in late summer appearing as small adults.
Status in Tennessee: Common across TN. This species is relatively tolerant to habitat disturbance.
- Fence lizards like to bask in the sun.
- One of our most arboreal lizards, dashing up trees and hiding on opposite side to escape predation.
Best places to see in Tennessee: Any dry, woodland habitat across state; especially fallen wood piles.
For more information:
Atlas of the Reptiles of Tennessee
The Lizards of Tennessee web site
Conant, R. and Collins, J. 1998. Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians (Eastern/Central North America). Houghton Mifflin Company, New York. 616pp.
Jensen, J. B., Camp C. D., Gibbons, W., and Elliot, M. J. 2008. Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia, University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 575pp.
Johnson, T.R. 2006. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, MO.