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Gambelia wislizenii

(Long-nosed Leopard Lizard)


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Common Names

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Common Names in Dutch:


Common Names in English:

Long-nosed Leopard Lizard, Long nosed Leopard Lizard, Longnose Leopard Lizard

Common Names in Finnish:


Common Names in Spanish:

Lagartija-Leopardo Narigona


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Gambalia wislizenii inhabits a variety of desert woodland and scrub habitats such as semiarid plains grown to bunch grass , alkali bush , sagebrush, creosote bush, or other scattered low plants . It prefers sandy or gravelly flats and plains, or hardpan . The greatest densities of this species have been observed in creosote flats (Zeiner et al. 1988). It is less common in rocky areas and it avoids dense grass or brush (Stebbins 1985; Zeiner et al. 1988).

Ecology: Habitat includes desert and semi-desert areas with scattered shrubs or other low plants (e.g. , creosote bush , sagebrush), especially areas with abundant rodent burrows (Nussbaum et al. 1983, Hammerson 1999, Grismer 2002, Stebbins 2003). The species is basically ground dwelling, but sometimes individuals climb into bushes. When threatened, leopard lizards typically run to the base of a shrub and remain motionless there. When inactive , they occupy burrows Eggs are laid in burrows.[1].

List of Habitats:


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The primary diet of G. wislizenii consists of insects and lizards such as termites, crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, spiders, Callisaurus, Cnemidophorus, Phrynosoma, and it also cannibalizes members of its own species (McCoy 1967; Stebbins 1985). Southern populations tend to consume a larger quantity of lizards in their diet, while northern populations eat primarily grasshoppers (Parker and Pianka 1976). The leopard lizard occasionally consumes some plant material (leaves, blossoms , and berries ) or small rodents such as pocket mice (Stebbins 1954, 1985; Dixon 1967; Tollestrup 1979). Water is not required, necessary moisture is gleaned from food.

G. wislizenii utilizes stalking (following prey ) and ambush feeding strategies, usually waiting for insect or lizard prey in the shade of a bush , where its spotted pattern blends in (Stebbins 1985). Pietruszka (1986) demonstrated that there is a seasonal shift in hunting strategies in G. wislizenii. The shift is from active hunting or stalking which is utilized early in the season to ambush strategy used late in the season.


Soon after the adults emerge , courtship begins (late April to mid-May). No pair bond is formed between adults. From May to June, adults lay an average of 5-6 eggs per clutch (range : 2-11). Typically one clutch is produced per season , although occasionally a second clutch is produced (Parker and Pianka 1976; Tollestrup 1983). Birthing/egg-laying occurs in an underground burrow/den, although no nest structure is formed. McCoy (1967) found a correlation between lizard size and clutch size in the small sample that he studied. Egg incubation is estimated to be between five and seven weeks (McCoy 1967). Young emerge in August, when adult activity is coming to an end. Tollestrup (1979) suggests that the timing of the juvenile emergence coinciding with the cessation of adult activity may aid in the prevention of cannibalism .

Southern populations exhibit testicular regression earlier in the season than northern populations, but breeding season length is similar in both areas (Parker and Pianka 1976). Both sexes reach sexual maturity at about 2 years old (Montanucci 167; McCoy 1967). Parker and Pianka (1976) estimated maturity at about 22 months for a population in Utah.

Without adequate food supplies, this species lacks the physiological energies to reproduce. Tollestrup (1979) noted that when inadequate rainfall fails to support plant growth for insects and, indirectly, other insect-eating lizards, the long-nosed leopard lizard does not reproduce.


G. wislizenii is a wide-ranging, predatory lizard of the desert flatlands. It is diurnal and has the potential to be active all day when the weather is mild to warm. The daily activity cycle starts relatively early (0530-0830; variation depends on location), and after a period of basking , long-nosed leopard lizards begin active hunting and feeding (McCoy 1967). Activity is restricted to the mornings and afternoons during hot weather, and to mornings only, during the hottest weather. It excavates burrows in sandy and friable soils and uses rodent burrows for refuge as well. Adults use the same burrow on many successive nights, and habitually use certain nearby basking stations (McCoy 1967).

Annual activity begins later than many other lizards, usually not until mid-April, and G. wislizenii is not found after mid-August (Stebbins 1954; Montanucci 1967; McCoy 1967; Parker and Pianka 1976; Tollestrup 1979, 1983). Studies have demonstrated that adult leopard lizard activity decreases over the course of the season with marked differences between the sexes (Montanucci 1965; Pietruszka 1986). Females have been found to remain active longer than males throughout the season. Montanucci (1967) suggests that this has a physiological basis. “Presumably, the thermal threshold for daily activity rises with the decreasing physiological need for food,” which results from increased storage of paired fat bodies later in the season (Montanucci 1965). Much of the female food intake has been used for egg development, leaving them with little stored fat. Such females remain active late in the season, until sufficient fat has accumulated to raise the thermal threshold to the level effecting inactivity (Montanucci 1967). Males, having accumulated fat more quickly than females, succumb to the decreasing need for food.

Survival: Survivorship in juveniles is estimated to be 5-40%; in adults approximately 50% survivorship (Parker and Pianka 1976; Tollestrup 1982).

McCoy (1967) reports that leopard lizards are remarkably unwary, and when stalked they usually only flatten themselves against the ground , most often in the shade of a bush and remain immobile. Additionally, he observed that when startled in the open, they do not run any great distance , but simply dash to the cover of a nearby bush and freeze.

The color pattern of hatchling leopard lizards is strikingly different from adults. The vividly contrasting head pattern (black and white bars cover the head) is the most conspicuous feature of hatchlings and is thought to function as camouflage (McCoy 1967).

Socio-Spatial Behavior: The home range of this lizard can be as large as several ha., but it is not known to defend a territory (Zeiner et al. 1988). Parker and Pianka (1976) suggest that the sexually dimorphic size difference in G. wislizenii, females being the larger sex, may be related to the apparent lack of territoriality in the species. Densities vary from 5 to 19 individuals per ha. Parker and Pianka (1976) indicate both male and female biased sex ratios at different populations. McCoy (1967) reports observations of adult leopard lizards acting oblivious to each other except during the courtship and mating season. In one instance, he observed a large female and two smaller males within one foot of each other under a sage bush at East Monument Canyon on 26 July 1962. Each lizard was individually noosed and captured without alarming the remaining lizards. Additionally, no social interaction (other than mating) was observed during three seasons of study. Pietruska (1986) suggests that there is a temporal component to the degree of disparity between foraging movements of Cnemidophorus and G. wislizenii. He observed a great similarity between the two early in the season, both actively foraging, but G. wislizenii became sedentary late in the season.


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Crotaphytus fasciatus Hallowell 1852: 206 • Crotaphytus fasciatus MOCQUARD 1899< /i> (Non Hallowell) • Crotaphytus fasciolatus MOCQUARD 1903< /i> (Nom. Nov. Pro C. Fasciatus) • Crotaphytus gambelii Baird & Girard 1852: 126 • Crotaphytus wislezenii Boulenger 1885: 204 • Crotaphytus wislezenii [sic] — Boulenger 1885: 204 • Crotaphytus wislizenii Baird & Girard 1852: 340 • Crotaphytus wislizenii Baird 1859: 7 • Crotaphytus wislizenii — Burt 1935 • Crotaphytus< /i> (Gambelia) Wislizenii — Baird 1859: 7 • Gambelia wislizenii — Conant & Collins 1991: 97 • Gambelia wislizenii — Smith & Taylor 1950: 94 • Gambelia wislizenii — Stebbins 1985: 123 • Gambelia wisllizenii [sic] — Liner 2007


Name Status: Accepted Name .

Comment: Holotype: USNM 2770 Holotype: CAS 79872 [neseotes] Synonymy after SMITH and TAYLOR 1950. Subspecies after LINER 1994. Named after Frederick Adolph Wislizenius (1810-1889), German-born physician who received his MD at Zurich (Switzerland) after he fled Germany to escape political unrest. After 1835 he lived in the US and worked there as surgeon.

This species formerly was included in the genus Crotaphytus. Gambelia copeii and G. sila formerly were included in this species (see McGuire 1996). McGuire (1996) pointed out that nominal subspecies exhibit broad zones of intergradation and that dorsal pattern classes of the nominal subspecies occur sporatically throughout the range of the species; hence subspecies punctata (or punctatus) and maculosa (or maculosus) were synonymized under G. wislizenii, the species thus being monotypic.

Orange et al. (1999) examined mtDNA data for range-wide samples and identified two major clades: western (Mojave, Great Basin , and Colorado Plateau deserts) and eastern (Chihuahuan Desert). A third, more divergent lineage with unknown geographic distribution was represented by a single haplotype from southwestern Arizona. The phylogeographic breaks were consistent with a model of late Pliocene/early Pleistocene vicariance.[1].

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Gambelia

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 4 species and subspecies in this genus:

G. copeii (Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard) · G. sila (Blunt-Nosed Leopard Lizard) · G. wislizenii (Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard) · G. wislizenii wislizenii (Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal February 27, 2008:



  1. Hammerson, G.A. 2007. Gambelia wislizenii. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <>. Downloaded on 01 February 2012. [back]
Last Revised: 2015-01-30