occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) The range is primarily west of the Cascade-Sierra Nevada crest from south-central Washington and north-central Oregon (mainly west of Cascade crest) south through western Oregon and California to northern Baja California, including islands off southern California and northern Baja California (Stebbins 2003). Isolated populations exist east of the Sierra Nevada at Grant Lake, Mono County, California; Alabama Hills and Walker Pass, Kern County, California; Walker Creek near Olancha, Inyo County, California, and along the Mojave River, California; there is also an isolated occurrence at Sierra La Asamblea, Baja California Sur (Stebbins 2003). The species was introduced at Las Vegas, Nevada (Stebbins 2003). Unconfirmed sight record at Boulder Beach Campground, Clark County, Nevada (Stebbins 2003). DNA data suggest that the population on San Nicolas Island, California, may have been recently transported there (Mahoney et al. 2003). Elevational range is from sea level to around 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) (Stebbins 2003).
Distribution: USA (Washington, Oregon, California), Mexico (Baja California) ignava: San Martin Island, Baja California nana: Los Coronados Island, Baja California.
Type locality: South island, Los Coronados Island, Baja California. webbii: S California, N Baja California.
Type locality: “San Diego to El Paso”. Restrcited to San Diego, California, by SMITH & TAYLOR 1950.
Length: 43 cm
Catalog Number: USNM 9057
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Locality: No Further Locality Data, Oregon, United States, North America
- Holotype: Baird, S. F. & Girard, C. 1852. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 6: 176.
California Central Valley Grasslands Habitat
This taxon is found in the California Central Valley grasslands, which extend approximately 430 miles in central California, paralleling the Sierra Nevada Range to the east and the coastal ranges to the west (averaging 75 miles in longitudinal extent), and stopping abruptly at the Tehachapi Range in the south. Two rivers flow from opposite ends and join around the middle of the valley to form the extensive Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that flows into San Francisco Bay.
Perennial grasses that were adapted to cool-season growth once dominated the ecoregion. The deep-rooted Purple Needle Grass (Nassella pulchra) was particularly important, although Nodding Needle Grass (Stipa cernua), Wild Ryes (Elymus spp.), Lassen County Bluegrass (Poa limosa), Aristida spp., Crested Hair-grass (Koeleria pyramidata), Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens,), and Coast Range Melicgrass (Melica imperfecta) occurred in varying proportions. Most grass growth occurred in the late spring after winter rains and the onset of warmer and sunnier days. Interspersed among the bunchgrasses were a rich array of annual and perennial grasses and forbs, the latter creating extraordinary flowering displays during certain years. Some extensive mass flowerings of the California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Lupines (Lupinus spp.), and Exserted Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja exserta) are found in this grassland ecoregion.
Prehistoric grasslands here supported several herbivores including Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana), elk (including a valley subspecies, the Tule Elk, (Cervus elaphus nannodes), Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), California ground squirrels, gophers, mice, hare, rabbits, and kangaroo rats. Several rodents are endemics or near-endemics to southern valley habitats including the Fresno Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys nitratoides exilis), Tipton Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys nitratoides nitratoides), San Joaquin Pocket Mouse (Perognathus inornatus), and Giant Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ingens). Predators originally included grizzly bear, gray wolf, coyote, mountain lion, ringtail, bobcat, and the San Joaquin Valley Kit Fox (Vulpes velox), a near-endemic.
The valley and associated delta once supported enormous populations of wintering waterfowl in extensive freshwater marshes. Riparian woodlands acted as important migratory pathways and breeding areas for many neotropical migratory birds. Three species of bird are largely endemic to the Central Valley, surrounding foothills, and portions of the southern coast ranges, namely, the Yellow-billed Magpie (Pica nuttalli), the Tri-colored Blackbird (Agelaius tricolor EN), and Nuttall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii).
The valley contains a number of reptile species including several endemic or near-endemic species or subspecies such as the San Joaquin Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum ruddocki), the Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard (Gambelia sila EN), Gilbert’s Skink (Plestiodon gilberti) and the Sierra Garter Snake (Thamnophis couchii). Lizards present in the ecoregion include: Coast Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum NT); Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis); Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata); and the Northern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea).
There are only a few amphibian species present in the California Central Valley grasslands ecoregion. Special status anuran taxa found here are: Foothill Yellow-legged Frog (Rana boylii NT); Pacific Chorus Frog (Pseudacris regilla); and Western Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes). The Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) occurs within this ecoregion.
Although many endemic plant species are recognized, especially those associated with vernal pools, e.g. Prickly Spiralgrass (Tuctoria mucronata). A number of invertebrates are known to be restricted to California Central Valley habitats. These include the Delta Green Ground Beetle (Elaphrus viridis CR) known only from a single vernal pool site, and the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) found only in riparian woodlands of three California counties.
Vernal pool communities occur throughout the Central Valley in seasonally flooded depressions. Several types are recognized including valley pools in basin areas which are typically alkaline or saline, terrace pools on ancient flood terraces of higher ground, and pools on volcanic soils. Vernal pool vegetation is ancient and unique with many habitat and local endemic species. During wet springs, the rims of the pools are encircled by flowers that change in composition as the water recedes. Several aquatic invertebrates are restricted to these unique habitats including a species of fairy shrimp and tadpole shrimp.
- World Wildlife Fund & C. Michael Hogan. 2013."California Central Valley grasslands". Encyclopedia of Earth, National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington DC ed.Mark McGinley.
- Michael G.Barbour, Todd Keeler-Wolf and Allan A. Schoenherr. 2007. Terrestrial vegetation of California. 712 pages
Sierra de la Laguna Pine-oak Forests Habitat
This taxon is found in the Sierra de la Laguna pine-oak forest, a mountainous ecoregion which rises from the arid Baja California Sur, creating islands of unique vegetative communities. There are approximately 694 plant species, approximately 85 of which are endemic to this ecoregion. Overall species richness is low to moderate, with a total of only 231 vertebrate taxa. The ecoregion is classified in the Tropical and Subtropical Coniferous Forests biome. Much of the pine-oak association remains intact due to the inaccessibility of the rugged and inaccessible terrain.
The topographical features and geological events that gave rise to this particular region are responsible for the diversity of climates and vegetation in the same area. The highest strata of mountains, situated at 1600 to 2000 metres (m) in elevation, are composed of pine-oak forests that transform into oak-pine forests (1200 m) and oak forests (800 m) as elevation decreases. The climate is temperate sub-humid with summer rains and occasional winter rains.
These pine-oak forests constitute the wettest portions in the state of Baja California Sur (760 millimetres of precipitation annually). Slight variations in climatic conditions make up three different vegetation assemblages in the temperate forest. Pine forests at the highest elevations are dominated by Pinus cembroides ssp. lagunae, and understory taxa such as Muhlenbergia spp. and Festuca spp. Pine-oak forests dominated by associations of Pinus cembroides subsp. lagunae with Quercus devia, Arbutus peninsularis, and Quercus tuberculata, and a variety of trees of smaller stature such as Calliandra peninsularis and Mimosa tricephala, with associated shrubs to complement the landscape.
Some of the endemic reptiles are the Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) and the Yucca Night Lizard (Xantusia vigilis). Other reptilian taxa found in the Sierra de la Laguna pine-oak forests include the Baja California Rock Lizard (Petrosaurus thalassinus), Baja California Rattlesnake (Crotalus enyo) and the Baja California Brush Lizard (Urosaurus nigricaudus).
Only two amphibian taxa are found in the Sierra de la Laguna pine-oak forests. The Red-spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus) is one anuran found here. The widely distributed California Chorus Frog (Pseudacris cadaverina) is another resident of the ecoregion. One other anuran, Pseudacris regilla, was previously recognized in the ecoregion, but erecent DNA analysis has rendered this taxon of unclear distribution.
Of the approximately 30 mammalian species of mammals present, one of them (an endemic bat) lives only in pine-oak forests. The level of endemism is high, and this is well demonstrated by the proportion of endemic species with respect to total recorded species. More than ten percent of the mammalian species found at Sierra de la Laguna are endemic. One notable mammal found along the far west coast, including California and Baja, is the Ornate Shrew (Sorex ornatus). There are several threatened mammals found in the Sierra de la Laguna pine-oak forests, including: the Mexican Long-tongued Bat (Choeronycteris mexicana NT). The isolation of this region has contributed to the scarcity of predators, and to the poor competitive ability of some animals. Rodents and lagomorphs are virtually absent from the region
The avifauna inhabiting these pine-oak forests is important because half of the bird species breeding at Sierra de la Laguna only utilize pine-oak forests as breeding habitat. The endemic Baja Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium gnoma hoskinsii), along with the White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) and Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) are only a few of the avian species found in this ecoregion. Other notable birds in this and the Gulf of California xeric scrub ecoregion include the Xantus's Hummingbird (Hylocharis xantusii) and the endangered Peninsular Yellowthroat (Geothlypis beldingi EN)..
- C. Michael Hogan & World Wildlife Fund. 2013."Sierra de la Laguna pine-oak forests". Encyclopedia of Earth, National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington DC ed.Mark McGinley.
- A. Ortega and L. Arriaga. 1988. Consideraciones finales. Pages 229-237 in L. Arriaga, and A. Ortega, editors, La Sierra de la Laguna de Baja California Sur. Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas de Baja California Sur, México.
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Habitats are diverse and include grassland, chaparral, oak woodland, and open pine forest; in drier regions, the species most often occurs along streams or in other moist, vegetated areas (Stebbins 2003). Microhabitats include logs, thickets, rocks, and old woodpiles and trash heaps around houses (Stebbins 2003). This is a basically terrestrial lizard that sometimes climbs bushes and trees. Egg-laying sites include burrows or stable talus (Nussbaum et al. 1983).
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Comments: Eats a wide variety of invertebrates including: slugs, insects, centipedes, scorpions, and spiders. Also eats small vertebrates: lizards, small mammals, and occasionally eggs and young of birds (Stebbins 1985).
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: > 300
Comments: Known from hundreds of locations. Nussbaum et al. (1983) mapped about 90 localities in Washington and Oregon, and Lais (1976) mapped hundreds of collection sites throughout much of California.
100,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but surely exceeds 100,000.
Sometimes enters water to escape predators. Eurythermic during activity (J. Herpetol. 27:241-247).
Life History and Behavior
Comments: Inactive during the coldest weather, but active over a wide range of temperatures (body temperatures of about 9-34 C) (Kingsbury, 1994, Herpetologica 50:266-273). Primarily diurnal, except during warmer parts of the year when it may be partly nocturnal (Stebbins 1985).
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Lays 1-3 clutches May-July (Stebbins 1985). Clutch size varies with the size of the female but usually is 5-20. Hatchlings emerge around September or October (Nussbaum et al. 1983).
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable
Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)
Comments: The trend in extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, and abundance is likely relatively stable, with localized declines not posing a threat to the species.
Global Long Term Trend: Increase of 10-25% to decline of 30%
Degree of Threat: Medium
Comments: Commercial and residential development have caused localized declines, but many populations exist in remote areas, and the species is tolerant of a modest amount of habitat alteration.
Global Protection: Very many (>40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed
Southern Alligator Lizard
The Southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) is a lizard native to the Pacific coast of North America. It is common throughout Southern California and can be found in grasslands, chaparral, and forests as well as urban areas. In dry climates, it is likely to be found in moist areas or near streams. Three subspecies can be distinguished: the California alligator lizard (E. m. multicarinata), the San Diego alligator lizard (E. m. webbii), and the Oregon alligator lizard (E. m. scincicauda).
The southern alligator lizard has a long, somewhat prehensile tail, up to twice the length of its body. Like many lizards, however, it can drop its tail if attacked, possibly giving it a chance to flee; the tail will regenerate, but will never be as long or richly colored as the original. Individuals with intact tails can reach up to about 11in total length.
The lizards can frequently be found near human habitation and are notable for their fearless self-defense; they will often bite and defecate if handled. In the wild they eat small arthropods, slugs, lizards, small mammals and occasionally young birds and eggs.
Southern Alligator Lizard, Central Valley
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Elgaria multicarinata formerly was included in the genus Gerrhonotus (see Good 1988).
A molecular phylogeographic study of Feldman and Spicer (2006) failed to support currently recognized subspecies boundaries within E. multicarinata.
Populations along the central Baja California coast, formerly included in this species, were reassigned to E. paucicarinata (Grismer 1988). Some authors have suggested that E. multicarinata and E. paucicarinata should be considered conspecific; however, Good (1988) concluded that paucicarinata is more closely allied with E. kingii.
Five intergrading subspecies have been recently recognized: ingava, multicarinata, nana, scincicauda, and webbii).
Molecular data support recognition of the family Anniellidae and anguid subfamilies Gerrhonotinae and Anguinae as monophyletic groups (Macey et al. 1999).
See Good (1988) for taxonomic treatments of gerrhonotine lizards.