Eastern collared lizard (Crotaphytus collaris)

The eastern collared lizard (Crotaphytus collaris), also called common collared lizard, Oklahoma collared lizard or collared lizard, is a North American lizard that can reach 8–14 inches (20–36 cm) in length (including the tail), with a large head and powerful jaws. They are well known for the ability to run on their hind legs, looking like small theropod dinosaurs. Chiefly found in dry, open regions of Mexico and the south-central United States including Missouri, Texas, Arizona, and Kansas, the full extent of its habitat in the United States ranges from the Ozark Mountains to southern California. The collared lizard is the state reptile of Oklahoma, where it is known as the mountain boomer.

The name “collared lizard” comes from the lizard’s distinct coloration, which includes bands of black around the neck and shoulders that look like a collar. It is a member of the collared lizard family.

The origin of the name “mountain boomer” is not clear, but it may be traceable to settlers traveling west during the Gold Rush. One theory is that settlers mistook the sound of wind in canyons for the call of an animal in an area where the collared lizard was abundant. In reality, collared lizards are silent.

These reptiles are often tamed and kept as pets. When born in captivity, they are quite docile and tolerant of interaction with humans. They are very active and predatory lizards, requiring a large amount of space to run. They prefer high temperatures, up to 105–110 °F (41–43 °C) at their basking spot and 80 °F (27 °C) elsewhere in their habitat during the day. Some collared lizards eat small amounts of fruits or vegetables, but most are entirely insectivorous. They will also consume vertebrate prey, including small mammals and other lizards. Like many reptiles, in captivity they must be provided a diet supplemented with extra calcium and a light source with a UVB radiation to reduce the risk of bone disorders.

Like many other lizards, including the frilled lizard and basilisk, collared lizards can run on their hind legs, and are relatively fast sprinters. Record speeds have been around 16 miles per hour (26 km/h), much slower than the world record for lizards (21.5 mph or 34.6 km/h) attained by the larger-bodied Costa Rican spiny-tailed iguana, Ctenosaura similis.

Collared lizards in the wild have been the subject of a number of studies of sexual selection. In captivity if two males are placed in the same cage they will fight to the death. Males have a blue-green body with a light brown head. Females have a light brown head and body.

 

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Photograph is available under a Creative Commons License from J.N. Stuart.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.

Leave a Comment