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Side-blotched lizards are lizards of the genus Uta. They are some of the most abundant and commonly observed lizards in the deserts of western North America. Their cycle among three colorized breeding patterns has achieved notoriety and is best described in the common side-blotched lizard. They commonly grow to six inches including the tail, with the males normally being the larger sex. Males often have bright throat colors.
These lizards are prey for many desert species. Snakes, larger lizards, and birds all make formidable predators to side-blotched lizards. Larger lizard species, such as collared, leopard, and spiny lizards, and roadrunners are the main predators. In turn, the side-blotched lizards eat arthropods, such as insects, spiders, and occasionally scorpions.
As a result of their high predation rate, these lizards are very prolific breeders. From April to June they breed, with the young emerging as early as late May. These inch-long young appear all through the summer, and into September.
Side-blotched lizards are notable for having the highest number of distinct male and female morphs or "genders" within a species: three male and two female.
Orange-throated males are "ultra-dominant, high testosterone", who establish large territories and control multiple females. Yellow stripe-throated males ("sneakers") do not defend territory at all, but cluster on the fringes of orange-throated lizard territories, and mate with their females while the orange-throat is absent, as the territory to defend is large. Blue-throated males are less aggressive and guard only one female; they can fend off the yellow stripe-throated males but cannot withstand attacks by orange-throated males. Orange-throated females lay many small eggs and are very territorial. Yellow-throated females lay fewer, larger eggs, and are more tolerant of each other.
The orange and blue-throated males will even boldly approach a human intruder, to give his female(s) a chance to escape. When she is safe, he will join her in a hole, or under a rock.
The systematics and phylogeny of the side-blotched lizards is very confusing, with many local forms and morphs having been described as full species. Following the 1997 review of Upton & Murphy which included new data from mtDNA cytochrome b and ATPase 6 sequences, the following species can be recognized pending further research:
- Eastern side-blotched lizard, U. stejnegeri - formerly included in U. stansburiana
- San Pedro Martir side-blotched lizard, U. palmeri
- Angel de la Guarda side-blotched lizard (undescribed species, formerly included in U. stansburiana)
- Salsipuedes side-blotched lizard, U. antiqua - formerly included in U. stansburiana
- Santa Catalina side-blotched lizard, U. squamata - sometimes included in U. stansburiana
- San Esteban side-blotched lizard (undescribed species, formerly included in U. stansburiana)
- San Pedro Nolasco side-blotched lizard, U. nolascensis
- Common side-blotched lizard, U. stansburiana
- Enchanted side-blotched lizard, U. encantadae - possibly belongs into U. stansburiana
- El Muerto side-blotched lizard, U. lowei - possibly belongs into U. stansburiana
- Swollen-nosed side-blotched lizard, U. tumidarostra - possibly belongs into U. stansburiana
- Socorro side-blotched lizard, U. auriculata - possibly belongs into U. stansburiana
- Clarion side-blotched lizard, U. clarionensis - possibly belongs into U. stansburiana
- Ornate side-blotched lizard, U. mannophora - possibly belongs into U. stansburiana
Uta stellata and U. concinna are now usually considered a subspecies of U. stansburiana. U. encantadae, U. lowei and U. tumidarostra might be subspecies of a distinct species (Las Encantadas side-blotched lizard), instead. Similarly, U. auriculata and U. clarionensis might be subspecies of a single species, the Revillagigedo side-blotched lizard.
- Sinervo, B.; C.M. Lively (1996). "The rock–paper–scissors game and the evolution of alternative male strategies". Nature 380 (6571): 240–243. doi:10.1038/380240a0.
- Pennock et al. (1968)
- Roughgarden, Joan (2004). Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24073-1 Especially chapter 6, Multiple Gender Families, pp. 90-93.
- See e.g. Oliver (1943)
- Collins, Joseph T. (1991): Viewpoint: a new taxonomic arrangement for some North American amphibians and reptiles. Herpetological Review 22(2): 42-43. PDF fulltext
- Grismer, L.L. (1994): Three new species of intertidal side-blotched lizards (Genus Uta) from the Gulf of California, Mexico. Herpetologica 50: 451–474.
- Murphy, Robert W. & Aguirre-León, Gustavo (2002): The Nonavian Reptiles: Origins and Evolution. In: Case, Ted & Cody, Martin (eds.): A New Island Biogeography of the Sea of Cortés: 181-220. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513346-3 PDF fulltext Appendices 2-4
- Oliver, James A. (1943): The Status of Uta ornata lateralis Boulenger. Copeia 1943(2): 97-107. doi:10.2307/1437774 (First page image)
- Pennock, Lewis A.; Tinkle, Donald W. & Shaw, Margery W. (1968): Chromosome Number in the Lizard Genus Uta (Family Iguanidae). Chromosoma 24(4): 467-476. doi:10.1007/BF00285020 PDF fulltext
- Upton, Darlene E. & Murphy, Robert W. (1997): Phylogeny of the side-blotched lizards (Phrynosomatidae: Uta) based on mtDNA sequences: support for midpeninsular seaway in Baja California. Mol. Phyl. Evol. 8(1): 104-113. doi:10.1006/mpev.1996.0392 PDF fulltext