At this year’s BioBlitz in Rocky Mountain National Park, NG Young Explorer Neil Losin set off on a mission to confirm the identity of a near-mythical beast. For years, visitors have reported sightings of a small lizard species, but its identity remained unknown. Early Friday morning, Neil set out to change that.
Climbing up Lumpy Ridge where some of the earlier sightings had been made, he brought his fishing pole fitted with a mini-lasso and a camera, and set out to catch some lizards. He was successful and the next day returned with more equipment and other photographers from the Meet Your Neighbors project to make a complete study of the critters, but was still unsure of their identity.
He recently wrote with this update, solving the mini-mystery for good:
“I got some confirmation of our lizards’ ID, thanks to some helpful herpetologists from Colorado University and the University of Northern Colorado. My initial identification was correct, in one sense — Sceloporus undulatus erythrocheilus *is* the designation used for this species in the most recent field guide to the herps of Colorado.
“The situation is a bit more complex, however.
“The taxonomy of Sceloporus has been revised substantially in the last 10 years, thanks mostly to the work of Adam Leache at the University of Washington. Dr. Leache’s taxonomy (which is based on DNA sequences, not just morphology) places S. u. erythrocheilus into its own species, called Sceloporus tristichus.
“Dr. Leache has confirmed to me that this is the most likely species in this area of Colorado. The accepted English name for S. tristichus is “plateau fence lizard”. So, that’s the name I’d use for any image captions or announcements: plateau fence lizard (Sceloporus tristichus).”
In the gallery above, get to know this beautiful little lizard for yourself.