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What is a Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)

The desert spiny lizard (Sceloporus magister) is a fascinating reptile found in the arid and semi-arid regions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Well-adapted to their harsh environment, these lizards showcase a range of intriguing behaviors and characteristics that make them a subject of interest for both scientists and nature enthusiasts alike.

A rare desert spiny lizard in the Sonoran desert of North America. He warming on some hot stone. 

What is a Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)

Desert spiny lizards are medium-sized reptiles belonging to the family Phrynosomatidae, known for their rough, spiny scales and impressive agility. They are diurnal creatures, basking in the sun during the day and seeking refuge in crevices or under rocks at night. These lizards exhibit remarkable color-changing abilities and are crucial components of their ecosystem, both as predators and prey.

Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister) Overview


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Suborder: Iguania
  • Family: Phrynosomatidae
  • Genus: Sceloporus
  • Species: S. magister

Related Article >> Reptiles

Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister) sitting on a rock in the Sonoran Desert, Arizona

Size and Body Description

Desert spiny lizards typically measure between 2.5 and 4.5 inches (6.5-11.5 cm) in snout-vent length, with males being slightly larger than females. Their body is covered in rough, keeled scales that vary in color from brown or gray to green, often with intricate patterns that serve as camouflage. Males are generally more colorful, displaying blue or green patches on their throat and belly.


These lizards are primarily insectivorous, feeding on a variety of insects, such as ants, beetles, and grasshoppers. They are also known to consume other arthropods, small vertebrates, and even plant matter on occasion.


Desert spiny lizards are oviparous, with females laying clutches of 3 to 12 eggs, usually between May and July. The eggs are buried in the soil, and after an incubation period of 50 to 75 days, the hatchlings emerge, ready to fend for themselves.

Where Found

Their natural habitat ranges from the southwestern United States, including California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, to northern Mexico. They inhabit a variety of arid and semi-arid ecosystems, such as deserts, scrublands, and rocky areas.

How Long do Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister) Live

Desert spiny lizards typically live for 3 to 5 years in the wild, although their lifespan can be extended in captivity with proper care.

The desert spiny lizard is an extraordinary species that has adapted remarkably well to its harsh, arid environment. Its unique features, such as its spiny scales and color-changing abilities, make it an intriguing subject of study for scientists and a fascinating sight for nature enthusiasts. As we continue to learn more about these resilient reptiles, we gain a greater appreciation for the complex ecosystem they inhabit and the delicate balance of life that exists within it.

What is a Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)