Mating Texas spiny lizards

You saw it here first (probably): Spiny lizards having sex. We’re not sure whether to warn everyone that this video is a quite graphic or shout to the rooftops that it’s extraordinary. I think we’ll go with shouting.

Texas spiny lizards are quite common around here – though, as with many other species, we don’t see as many as we used to, and we actually hear them more often than we see them. In the summer, when we’re outside, they will rustle away from us in the undergrowth or skitter up the nearest tree, their immensely long claws making little ticking sounds on the bark. Many people, locally, call them “tree lizards”.

The adult spiny lizards we see in our backyard are typically about 10” (25 cm) from nose to tail-tip, and a lot of that length is tail – they have very long, thin, tails. Their variegated gray, white, black, and brown scales are perfect camouflage against the live oaks and they can be hard to spot when they’re not moving. We have a video clip of a wren almost landing on a spiny lizard who was sunning herself on a live oak stump.

Spiny lizards eat bugs – insects, spiders, and any other creepy crawlies they can find. They are carnivores, like most lizard species.

Female spiny lizards lay up to 4 clutches of eggs each summer, as many as 30 eggs at a time, in holes that they dig out of soft earth and then invisibly cover over. The eggs hatch after about 60 days (our reference from the Texas Master Naturalists says 43 – 83 days; we don’t know what accounts for the surprisingly wide range).

This video shows a mating pair of spiny lizards. The truly extraordinary thing to watch for is the male’s genitalia, which extrude from his lower abdomen during sex, looking worryingly visceral, and then slowly retract once the lizards have parted.

We feel very, very lucky to have been able to capture this remarkable event with one of our tree stump den cameras.

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2 Comments

  1. What an amazing film capture! I have a gorgeous and very pregnant female Texas Spiny Lizard residing in my backyard. She’ll occasionally come hang out on the deck with me. I am super excited for the possibility of baby spinys running around the backyard!! Was researching the birth process when I came across your video. Thank you for sharing this rare and fascinating footage. Very educational and cool!

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