Sceloporus woodiFlorida Scrub Lizard

Last updated:

Geographic Range

The general distribution of the Florida Scrub Lizard is restricted to Florida, specifically in Peninsular Florida. It is distributed in scattered sand pine and rosemary srcub areas from Marion and Putnam counties southward to Dade county (Carr 1959). The distribution of the Scrub Lizard is highly disjunct, probably due to the patchy distribution of suitable habitat. Most can be found in the extensive Sand Pine scrubs in the Ocala National Forest in north-central Florida. Atlantic coast populations can still be found in Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward Counties. Populations of Scrub Lizards along the southwestern Gulf Coast of Florida in Lee and Collier counties may still exist (Moler 1992).

Habitat

This "heliothermic" lizard prefers open sandy areas bordering Sand Pine scrub and sandhill associations. Sceloporus woodi could be described as a forest-edge species. A dense crown of Sand Pine comprises the 'overstory' of the scrub habitat. The 'understory' is composed primarily of scrub oaks (Quercus chapmanii , Q. myrtifolia , and Q. virginiana) , while much of the ground is covered with lichen and leaf litter. Sandhill habitats are dominated by Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) and Turkey Oak (Q. laevis) . Wiregrasses are characteristic of this plant association. Rosemary occurs in both types of habitats, especially where fire is uncommon. Both plant associations occur on well drained, deep sand soil (Moler 1992).

Physical Description

Sceloporous woodi is known by its rough, overlapping scales, which usually number 40 or more from the occiput to the base of the tail, and by its clear-cut dark lateral stripe. It also has fermoral pores which number from 14-20, and a brownish color, with a conspicuous dark band on the side from the neck to the base of the tail. On the back of the lizard is a series of 8-10 more or less distinct wavy bars. There is an unmarked mid-dorsal area. These vertical markings are stronger in females than in males. Males have a conspicuous blue patch bordered with black on each side of the throat, and a similar blue area with a less heavy black border on each side of the belly. Females are generally white on the ventral area except for weaker blue patches like those of males. Average Snout-Vent Length is about 1.75 inches (Carr 1959).

Reproduction

Females reach sexual maturity around 47mm SVL(snout-vent length). Male SVL is probably slightly smaller at maturity. Courtship and mating occur from late March through June. For females in their second reproductive season, vitellogenesis begins in March, and oviposition of the first clutch occurs around mid-April. Smaller females that are in their first reproductive season may begin to develop follicles somewhat later, in April or May. Females that have not reached maturity by March may mature and yolk a clutch in mid- to late summer. It has been estimated that the largest females could lay up to five clutches in a single reproductive season under optimal conditions; however three clutches in a season is more likely. No females are gravid after August. Average clutch size is four, and clutches range from 2-8 eggs. Hatching occurs from late June until early November. Hatchlings reach sexual maturity in 10-11 months (Moler 1992).

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

The Scrub Lizard requires quite high temperatures to reach the peak of their activity, at which the males bob their heads very frequently, moving them up and down with incredible speed. If a Scrub Lizard finds itself "bobbed at" in this way, it can react in a variety of ways. A weaker male will flee immediately, but a female usually holds her ground. If the bobbing male, seeking to mate, approaches an unreceptive female, she arches her back like a cat, distends her body, and hops to the side with little jumps. A male threatens a rival by turning broadside and flattening his body so as to present the greatest area and display most prominently the glowing blue of the belly. When a human approaches, the spiny lizard usually remains motionless until the human comes within the "flight distance" of the lizard; then it flees in an instant. Captured animals defend themselves by raising their spiny scales. If a person seizes them awkwardly, they are very likely to autotomize, or lose, their tails (Grzimak 1975).

Food Habits

The Florida Scrub Lizard is a "sit and wait" predator that eats ants, beetles, spiders, and other small arthropods.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Because this species consumes insects, spiders, etc. on a daily basis, it effectively keeps the population of these small arthropods "in check."

Conservation Status

An increase in urbanization and conservation of scrub patches to citrus groves has resulted in a loss of habitat for species which must make their homes in scrub areas to survive (Mosesso, 1996).

Other Comments

Very little is known about the demography, life history, ecology, and behavior of the Florida Scrub Lizard. There is extraodinarily little published on the habits and life history of this interesting species (Smith 1946). The large populations of lizards found in the Ocala National Forest offers excellent opportunities for research in these areas. Preservation of important scrub habitats would serve to protect a number of scrub species in addition to the Srcub Lizard. An immediate effort should be made to prevent the Gulf Coast population from going extinct (Moler 1992).

Sceloporus woodi has been referred to by many common names such as: the Pine Scrub Lizard, the Rosemary Lizard, the Scrub Lizard, as well as the Florida Scrub Lizard.

Contributors

Anna Liza Antonio (author), Cocoa Beach High School, Penny Mcdonald (editor), Cocoa Beach High School.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

chaparral

Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

threatened

The term is used in the 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Endangered (E), Vulnerable (V), Rare (R), Indeterminate (I), or Insufficiently Known (K) and in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), or Vulnerable (VU).

References

Carr, .., .. Goin. 1959. Reptiles, Amphibians, and Freshwater Fishes of Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Press.

Cowley, .. 1997-2000. "NSiS: Florida Wildlife - Iguanids" (On-line). Accessed "February 8, 2000" at http://www.nsis.org/wildlife/rept/liz-iguanid.html.

Grzimek, .. 1975. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

Moler, .. 1992. Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida (Vol.3). Gainesville: University of Florida Press.

Mosseso, J., T. Harlow. 23 October 1996. "National Biological Service Funds Study of Rare Florida Lizard" (On-line). Accessed March 5, 2000 at http://biology.usgs.gov/pr/1995/8-31a.html.

Pope, .. 1960. The Reptile World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Scheper, J. 1997-1999. "The Florida Scrub - Animal Gallery" (On-line). Accessed March 1, 2000 at http://www.floridata.com/tracks/scrub/animals/menu_ani.htm.

Smith, .. 1946. Handbook of Lizards. New York: Comstock Publishing Company.