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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California







Aberrant Lizards

 










observation link

 



These are lizards that do not conform to the typical appearance of their species in color, pigmentation, pattern, or other physical characteristics.
Some of them are not really aberrant, but they are unusual.

Spiny Lizards - Sceloporus
       
Great Basin Fence Lizard Great Basin Fence Lizard Coast Range Fence Lizard Coast Range Fence Lizard
Adult Great Basin Fence Lizard, Riverside County with unusually bright white scales. © Cody Merylees © Patrick Briggs
Unusual striped Great Basin Fence Lizard from San Bernardino County, where a striped form occurs among populations of normally-patterned fence lizards.
Adult female Coast Range Fence Lizard with unusually bright orange coloring,
Marin County, © Rosey Rosenke.
Coast Range Fence Lizard Coast Range Fence Lizard Coast Range Fence Lizard Coast Range Fence Lizard
Albino hatchling Coast Range Fence Lizard found in late September,
Santa Clara County © Amanda Law
Hypomelanistic juvenile
Coast Range Fence Lizard
,
Marin County © Emile Bado
Hypomelanistic juvenile
Coast Range Fence Lizard
,
Marin County © Adam Gitmed
lizard skin lizard skin Coast Range Fence Lizard
This unusual pale yellow, possibly hypomelanistic, Great Basin Fence Lizard was photographed in a yard in
San Diego County in early May.  © Rosanne
Tiny hatchling albino Coast Range Fence Lizard missing part of its tail, Alameda County. (From a 1976 Polaroid.)
Great Basin Fence Lizard Great Basin Fence Lizard Great Basin Fence Lizard
This unusually pale adult Great Basin Fence Lizard found in Orange County appears to be missing some of the typical dark pigment. (That's a San Diego Alligator Lizard behind it sharing its territory.) © Jacob H. Lloyd Davies  This is the same lizard shown to the left, photographed about 5 weeks later. It looks even paler now. The lack of color appears to be genetic on this individual, but it would be leucistic, not albino, since the eyes are dark. © Jacob H. Lloyd Davies 
Coast Range Fence Lizard  
Most adult male Western Fence Lizards have pale coloring on the throat and venter around the patches of blue, but some are black like this male Coast Range Fence Lizards found in southern Napa County during the breeding season. His blue coloring is also very intense. © Ryne Starling    
The Mystery of Spiny Lizards with Rusty-Orange or Yellow Coloring

I have been sent several pictures of spiny lizards with similar rusty-orange coloration, most of which are Great Basin Fence Lizards, most likely because they are common lizards that live among humans in the most populated areas of the state. Living among humans makes them more likely to become contaminated with human-made substances, if that is the cause of the coloring, though some of these lizards were found in undeveloped open space where that is not a likely cause. I don't know exactly what causes the unusual color, or if all lizards got the coloring it in the same way, or why there are several different colors. It could be a naturally-occuring aberrant coloration, but it looks more like it was artificially added somehow, possibly from something the lizards encountered in the area where they take shelter, especially over winter. It appears to be painted on which suggests it might be paint or a chemical or rust. A very interesting theory for one of the lizards is that it might be covered with bright yellow fungal spores. If it is color added to the lizard's skin it should go away when the skin is shed. To help to solve a part of the mystery, someone would have to watch one of these orange lizards until it sheds its skin to find out if the color remains when the old skin is gone.

A similarly-colored orange alligator was seen in South Carolina. It was suggested that it might have overwintered in a rusty culvert pipe where the rust gave it the color, but again, that was just one theory. USA Today 2/10/17.

Northwestern Fence Lizard Northwestern Fence Lizard Northwestern Fence Lizard Northwestern Fence Lizard
This unusually-colored Great Basin Fence Lizard was found in May in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles County. © Michael DeMarquette.

This is another apparent Great Basin Fence Lizard with a rusty-orange coloration that was found in late February in the Santa Monica Mountains of Los Angeles County. © Dana Duncan
lizard skin lizard skin lizard skin Northwestern Fence Lizard
This unusually-colored adult Coast Range Fence Lizard was photographed in February in Contra Costa County.
© Alice Castellanos
This is another Great Basin Fence Lizard from Los Angeles County with rusty coloring, photographed in mid February
© Max Roberts
lizard skin lizard skin lizard skin lizard skin
This adult Yellow-backed Spiny Lizard with orange coloring was photographed in Churchill County, Nevada in mid July. © Teresa Pena
Northwestern Fence Lizard lizard skin lizard skin
This rusty-colored adult Great Basin Fence Lizard was found in the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles County in late March. © James Hess © Elysia Hodges
This adult Great Basin Fence Lizard was found in Orange County. It's not orange or yellowish like the others, it has some sort of white substance on much of its body. You can see some skin shedding from the nose, and part of the head is the normal color where the skin that was painted white has been shed. In a picture taken a few days earlier the lizard's head was completely white.
© Christine Porter
This unnaturally white Great Basin Fence Lizard was found in Orange County in early March.
Great Basin Fence Lizard Great Basin Fence Lizard Great Basin Fence Lizard
© Roger Hatton
This bright orange Great Basin Fence Lizard was observed in Los Angeles County in late March. The person who reported it knows and has handled fence lizards and describes the color as the color of the skin, not a color that was added. If the color is part of the skin itself then the unusual appearance might be due to piebaldism - scattered normal and abnormal pigment areas, which would explain the dark head and the other dark areas. That would make it a more natural aberration that what appears to he happening with most of the other lizards here, but the cause of the coloring is still not known.
© Roger Hatton
Two weeks later the lizard shown to the left appears a bit duller in color and a little "dustier" looking when in the shade, which might indicate that it is indeed covered with some substance that gives it the orange color. We can also see that he is a male, and now during the breeding season he has been observed interacting with females who apparently don't mind his unusual appearance.
lizard skin lizard skin    
Adult Great Basin Fence Lizard observed in mid March on a trail in Orange County. © Austin Xu

A herpetologist suggested that this lizard might have been covered in fungal spores. It's not clear if he was talking about Yellow Fungus Disease (aka CANV) which sometimes afflicts captive lizards, but this lizard and the others in this section all appear to be in good health and living in clean habitats, which makes that disease an unlikely cause of the unusual coloring. Nevertheless it's an interesting theory for the color.
You can read more comments about this lizard at its observation page on iNaturalist.
© Peggy Wu
You can read about this partially-yellow Great Basin Fence Lizard that was photographed at the L.A. Zoo in L.A. County on iNaturalist. It looks like some of the other lizards on this page, but only on a small part of its body. Maybe the rest of the body was yellow but when the lizard shed its skin the yellow patch of skin did not get removed. Or maybe only that part was colored. There's no way to know.
   
       
Alligator Lizards - Elgaria
San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard
Adult San Francisco Alligator Lizard with an atypical well-defined dark stripe on the back, San Mateo County © Zach Lim Adult Woodland Alligator Lizard, Los Angeles County with a large forked tail. © Joshua Nyhus Adult Woodland Alligator Lizard, Placer County, with  a forked regenerated tail.
© Sara Walhovd
San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard
Patternless adult (probably amelanistic) San Francisco Alligator Lizard Santa Clara County. © Nick Esquivel
A patternless adult San Francisco Alligator Lizard from Santa Cruz County. © Scott Peden
Shasta Alligator Lizard Shasta Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard
An interestingly-colored adult Shasta Alligator Lizard, Colusa County.
© Sam Cartwright
Adult Forest (California) Alligator Lizard with no black on the back and lots of orange coloring, Santa Clara County
California Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard
This nearly patternless and colorless adult Forest (California) Alligator Lizard was photographed in Sonoma County. The eyes are the normal color, which rules out albinism, so this might be a leucistic lizard. © Lilith Schauer Very dark adult Forest (California) Alligator Lizard from Sacramento County.
San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard
Adult Woodland (San Diego) Alligator Lizard. This lizard apparently suffered an injury to its tail (which was partly regenerated already), but the tail did not break off at the point of injury. The injury healed irregularly as you can see here. Adult San Francisco Alligator Lizard with no brown coloring.
San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard
Melanistic adult male Woodland (San Diego) Alligator Lizard, coastal Los Angeles County. © Jean Taves Young adult Woodland (San Diego) Alligator Lizard with high-contrast pattern, coastal Los Angeles County
© Don Huffman
Young adult Woodland (San Diego) Alligator Lizard with few markings, coastal Los Angeles County
© Don Huffman
San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard
This melanistic adult Woodland (San Diego) Alligator Lizard from Orange County has a lot of black pigment, but
does not compeltely lack other pigments since the feet are still yellow. © Stacy Schenkel
A juvenile Woodland (San Diego) Alligator Lizardwith very little pattern from San Diego County.
© Richard Cazares
San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard
An amelanistic (without black pigment) Woodland (San Diego) Alligator Lizard observed in Los Angeles County with a very long tail. © Amy Jaecker-Jones
California Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard
This unusually-colored Woodland (San Diego) Alligator Lizard found on a San Luis Obispo County beach is probaby anerythristic, or lacking any red pigment. © Ryan Sikola This adult Woodland (San Diego) Alligator Lizard was found in a backyard in Huntington Beach in Orange County. It appears to be Anerythristic - missing the red or orange pigment that would give it the red or brown coloring typical of the species.
San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard Shasta Alligator Lizards Shasta Alligator Lizard
An almost patternless amelanistic without black pigment) adult
Woodland (San Diego) Alligator Lizard from Riverside County
© Adam Helbert
Dark (melanistic) adult Shasta Alligator Lizard with normal-colored adult above, Humboldt County.
© Joe Eastham
Underside of melanistic adult Shasta Alligtor Lizard seen to the left, Humboldt County. © Joe Eastham
San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard Sierra Alligator Lizard Sierra Alligator Lizard
This adult Woodland (San Diego) Alligator Lizard found in Ventura appears to be amelanistic (without black pigment) © Rosy This very dark sub-adult Sierra Alligator Lizard was found at about 8,100 ft. elevation in the Sierra Nevada mountains in El Dorado County. © Jorah Wyer
San Diego Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard
The male (top) of this courting pair has an unusually bright pattern. © Tim Ball Very dark adult Forest (Calfornia) Alligator Lizard with regrown tail, Marin County © Anonymous
       
Side-blotched Lizards - Uta
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
Patternless adult Western Side-blotched Lizard, San Joaquin County.
© Chad M. Lane
Patternless adult Western Side-blotched Lizard, Riverside County
© Nick Barrientos
Patternless adult female Western Side-blotched Lizard,
Riverside County © Adam Helbert
Riverside County patternless gravid adult female Western Side-blotched Lizard in center with a normally-patterned adult female on the left and a normally-patterned adult male on the right. © Adam Helbert
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard
Adult male with bright orange on sides, San Diego County Adult male with bright yellow on the sides, San Diego County.
© Jeffrey Belotti
This bright orange and yellow adult male was photographed in early April on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Los Angeles County. © Sarah Ainsworth Photography
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard    
Western Side-blotched Lizards are occasionally found with well-defined stripes like we see on this adult female from San Bernardino County
© Guntram Deichsel
Striped gravid female Western Side-blotched Lizard, Riverside County
© Jim Brock
   
     
Whiptails - Aspidoscelis
Coastal Whiptail Coastal Whiptail Coastal Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail
Albino juvenile San Diegan Tiger Whiptail, Riverside County © Cooper Bailey This Great Basin Whiptail from Riverside County has an abnormal forked tail, probably resulting from an injury. © Dan Schroeter
       
Miscellaneous Aberrant Lizards
Southern Desert Horned Lizard Desert Banded Gecko Desert Night Lizards Desert Night Lizard
Southern Desert Horned Lizards don't usually have a striped pattern, but this Kern County adult does.
© Todd Battey
Spotted adult Desert Banded Gecko - with no bands, Imperial County.
© Stuart Young
Unusually pale adult female
Desert Night Lizard
, Mono County
© Adam G. Clause
Unusually pale adult female
Desert Night Lizard
with orange highlights, Mono County
© Adam G. Clause
Great Basin Collared Lizard      
Hypomelanistic adult
Common Chuckwalla
,
Riverside County © Brody Trent
     
 

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