Fringe Toed Lizard Fringe-toed Lizard
Uma notata


5-7" (12.7-17.9 cm). Comb like fringe of pointed scales on trailing edge of toes (photo on right). Flattened body covered with velvety granular scales. Dark bands under tail. Gray to white with dark eyelike spots, rough lines over shoulder, diagonal lines on throat. Black blotch on each side of belly. Orange or pink on sides.

Species Desert (U. m. notata) orange patch on side of belly; extreme s. California and adjacent n. Baja. Sonoran (U. n. rufopunctata), no orange belly patch; extreme sw. Arizona and adjacent Mexico


Clutch of 1-5 eggs, average 2, is laid every 4-6 weeks through summer.


Arid stretches of windblown dunes.


Se. California, sw. Arizona and adjacent Mexico.

Fringe Toed Lizard


Diurnal. It would be hard to find a worse place for a home than the windswept sand dunes of the Southwest. The heat, the cold, the sand -- perfect for a certain lizard best known for its toes.

That would be the Fringe-toed Lizard, which takes its name from the special scales on its feet that, like snowshoes, increase traction and keep the lizard from sinking in the porous terrain. And if it can't outrun a predator, the Fringe-toed Lizard burrows into the sand and disappears. Its shovel-like snout and muscular neck make such quick maneuvers possible.

Once beneath the surface, the lizard can relax. Thanks to flaps that cover its ears, eyelids that lock shut, and valves in its nostrils, there's little chance that the sand will irritate the lizard or suffocate it. In fact, the Fringe-toed Lizard is so fond of sand that it sometimes buries itself just to cool off.

This species is well adapted to living in sand. The toe fringes act like "snowshoes" to stop the feet from sinking. Fringe-toed Lizards "swim" into the sand to avoid capture, also to avoid extreme heat or cold. The setback jaw, scaly flaps over the ear, overlapping eyelids, and valves in the nostrils all serve to keep out sand while the lizard is burrowing.