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Elgaria coerulea (WIEGMANN, 1828)

IUCN Red List - Elgaria coerulea - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaAnguidae (Gerrhonotinae), Diploglossa, Anguimorpha, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
SubspeciesElgaria coerulea coerulea (WIEGMANN 1828)
Elgaria coerulea palmeri (STEJNEGER 1893)
Elgaria coerulea principis BAIRD & GIRARD 1852
Elgaria coerulea shastensis (FITCH 1934) 
Common NamesNorthern Alligator Lizard
coerulea: San Francisco Alligator Lizard
palmeri: Sierra Alligator Lizard
principis: Northern Alligator Lizard
shastensis: Shasta Alligator Lizard 
SynonymGerrhonotus coeruleus WIEGMANN 1828: 380
Gerrhonotus burnetti GRAY 1831: 64 (fide SCHMIDT 1953)
Gerrhonotus caeruleus [sic] — BOULENGER 1885: 273
Gerrhonotus caeruleus [sic] — BOULENGER 1887: 346
Gerrhonotus burnetti — STEJNEGER 1893
Gerrhonotus coeruleus utahensis WOODBURY 1945
Gerrhonotus coeruleus — WERMUTH 1969: 15
Gerrhonotus coeruleus — STEBBINS 1985: 166
Elgaria coerulea — GOOD 1988: 74
Elgaria coerulea — CROTHER 2000
Elgaria coerulea coerulea — CROTHER et al. 2012

Elgaria coerulea palmeri (STEJNEGER 1893)
Gerrhonotus scincicauda palmeri STEJNEGER 1893: 196
Gerrhonotus coeruleus palmeri — FITCH 1938
Gerrhonotus coeruleus palmeri — WERMUTH 1969: 16
Elgaria coerulea palmeri — COLLINS & TAGGART 2009
Elgaria coerulea palmeri — CROTHER et al. 2012

Elgaria coerulea principis BAIRD & GIRARD 1852
Elgaria principis BAIRD & GIRARD 1852: 175
Gerrhonotus coeruleus principis — FITCH 1936
Gerrhonotus coeruleus principis — FITCH 1938
Gerrhonotus coeruleus principis — WERMUTH 1969: 16
Gerrhonotus coeruleus principis — VITT 1973
Gerrhonotus coeruleus principis — VITT 1974
Elgaria coerulea principis — COLLINS & TAGGART 2009
Elgaria coerulea principis — CROTHER et al. 2012
Elgaria coerulea princeps — LANGNER et al. 2019 (in error)

Elgaria coerulea shastensis (FITCH 1934)
Gerrhonotus coeruleus shastensis FITCH 1934: 6
Gerrhonotus coeruleus shastensis — FITCH 1936
Gerrhonotus coeruleus shastensis — FITCH 1938
Gerrhonotus coeruleus shastensis — WERMUTH 1969: 16
Elgaria coerulea shastensis — COLLINS & TAGGART 2009
Elgaria coerulea shastensis — CROTHER et al. 2012
Elgaria coerulea shastensis — LANGNER et al. 2019 
DistributionCanada (S British Columbia),
USA (Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Montana, California)

Type locality: “Brasilia” (in error); modified to “San Francisco, California” by STEJNEGER 1902.  
Reproductionovovivparous. There is evidence for maternal-fetal transfer of nutrients in this species (Blackburn 1994). 
TypesHolotype: ZMB 1163
Syntypes: USNM 3106 (3), 5134 [principis]
Holotype: USNM 18606, male [palmeri]
Holotype: MVZ 15047, adult male [shastensis] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (coerulea): A small species of Gerrhonotus (maximum snout-vent length about 135 mm., tail length about twice snout-vent length), with dorsal scales in fourteen to sixteen longitudinal· rows and the interoccipital plate often divided (once or twice). Dorsal scales on body and tail and lateral scales of the tail are heavily keeled. The gray, brown, or olive body may be unicolor, but more frequently is marked with dark blotches or irregular dark bands, often with white-tipped scales on the sides. The eyes are yellow, with varying amounts of dark pigment near the pupil. The venter is cream, white, or light gray, and often has longitudinal dark stripes aligned between scale rows. Young have a broad, bronze to gray or tan, longitudinal dorsal stripe (Lais 1976; see also Good 1988: 74).

Diagnosis (palmeri): A medium-sized subspecies (maximum snout-vent length about 120 mm.); ground color dull brown or olive; dorsal dark markings indistinct or almost absent; white-tipped scales, if present, scattered; dorsal scales in 16 longitudinal rows; dorsal, lateral, and temporal scales sharply keeled; all upper arm scales strongly keeled; interoccipital single; post-nasals four.

Diagnosis (principis): The smallest subspecies (maximum snout-vent length about 100 mm.); ground color brown or tan; body sometimes unmarked but more frequently blotched with black, mainly on the sides; frequently a lighter mid-dorsal longitudinal band; dorsal scales in 14 longitudinal rows, often with an extra half-scale row on each side; dorsal and lateral seales weakly keeled; temporals smooth; scales on upper arm smooth, or two to three rows weakly keeled; interoccipitals three; postnasals eight.

Diagnosis (shastensis): Ground color of head and neck distinctly different from and lighter than, that of body; temporal scales all smooth; scales of upp arm and forearm weakly keeled or smooth; ground color often obscured by heavy pigmentation on dorsal surface of head, body, and tail; anterior medial dorsal scales of neck weakly keeled or smooth and wider than scales of rows lateral to them, usually two pairs of postnasals on each side; azygous prefrontal large, in contact with postnasals on each side; limbs well developed; size large (in relation to the other subspecies, Gerrhonot coeruleus coeruleus, G. c. palmeri, and G. c. principis), head and body length from 90 to 128 mm. in adults (from Fitch 1934: 6). 
CommentSynonymy: partly after WERMUTH 1969.

Distribution: see map in Leavitt et al. 2017: Fig. 1, and Lavin et al. 2018: Fig. 2. 
  • Adams, Michael J.; West, Stephen D.; Kalmbach, Lorrie. 1999. Amphibian and reptile surveys of U.S. Navy lands on the Kitsap and Toandos Peninsulas, Washington. Northwestern Naturalist 80 (1):1-7 - get paper here
  • Baird, S.F. and Girard,C. 1852. Descriptions of new species of reptiles, collected by the U.S. exploring expedition under the command of Capt. Charles Wilkes, U.S.N. First part. - Including the species from the Western coast of America. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia 6: 174-177 - get paper here
  • Blackburn, D.G. 1994. Standardized criteria for the recognition of embryonic nutritional patterns in squamate reptiles. Copeia 1994 (4): 925-935 - get paper here
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1885. Catalogue of the lizards in the British Museum (Natural History). Vol. 2, Second edition. London, xiii+497 pp. - get paper here
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1887. On the affinity of the north-American lizard fauna. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (5) 20: 345-346 - get paper here
  • Cooper, W.E., Jr. 1990. Prey Odor Discrimination by anguid lizards. Herpetologica 46 (2): 183-190
  • Crother, B. I. (ed.) 2012. Standard Common and Current Scientific Names for North American Amphibians, Turtles, Reptiles, and Crocodilians, Seventh Edition. Herpetological Circular 39: 1-92
  • Espinoza, Robert E.;Carre±o, Carrie A.;Van Heest, Ronald W. 1999. Geographic distribution. Elgaria coerulea. Herpetological Review 30 (1): 51-52 - get paper here
  • Fitch, H. S. 1936. Amphibians and reptiles of the Rouge River Basin, Oregon. American Midland Naturalist 17: 634-652 - get paper here
  • Fitch, H.S. 1934. New Alligator lizards from the Pacific Coast. Copeia 1934 (1): 6-7 - get paper here
  • Fitch, H.S. 1938. A Systematic Account of the Alligator Lizards (Gerrhonotus) in the Western United States and Lower California. American Midland Naturalist 20: 381-424 - get paper here
  • Good, D.A. 1988. Phylogenetic relationships among gerrhonotine lizards; an analysis of external morphology. Univ. California Publ. Zool. 121: 139 pp. - get paper here
  • Good, David A. 1995. Cranial ossification in the northern alligator lizard, Elgaria coerulea (Squamata, Anguidae). Amphibia-Reptilia 16 (2): 157-166 - get paper here
  • Good, David A.; Bauer, Aaron M.;Günther, Rainer 1993. An Annotated Type Catalogue of the Anguimorph Lizards (Squamata: Anguidae, Helodermatidae, Varanidae, Xenosauridae) in the Zoological Museum, Berlin. Mitt. Zool. Mus. Berl. 69 (1): 45-56 - get paper here
  • Hardy, B.M., L., P.A. & McNear, N. 2017. Elgaria coerulea (Northern Alligator Lizard) Aquatic habitat use. Herpetological Review 48 (3): 642-643. - get paper here
  • Jones, L.L. & Lovich, R.E. 2009. Lizards of the American Southwest. A photographic field guide. Rio Nuevo Publishers, Tucson, AZ, 568 pp. [review in Reptilia 86: 84] - get paper here
  • Lais, P. Mike 1976. Gerrhonotus coeruleus. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (178): 1-4 - get paper here
  • Lambertz, Markus & Kerstin Graba 2011. Remarks on the northeasternmost distribution of Elgaria coerulea principis Baird & Girard, 1852 (Squamata: Anguidae) in British Columbia. Bonn zoological Bulletin 60 (2): 229-231 - get paper here
  • Langner, Ch.; R. Nixon & F. Colacicco 2019. Die nordamerikanischen Schleichen der Gattungen Gerrhonotus und Elgaria – Lebensweise, Haltung und Vermehrung im Terrarium. Reptilia (Münster) 24 (136): 32-41 - get paper here
  • Lavin BR, Wogan GOU, McGuire JA, Feldman CR 2018. Phylogeography of the Northern Alligator Lizard (Squamata, Anguidae): Hidden diversity in a western endemic. Zool Scr. 47 (4): 462-476 - get paper here
  • Leavitt, D.H., Marion, A.B., Hollingsworth, B.D., Reeder, T.W. 2017. Multilocus phylogeny of alligator lizards (Elgaria, Anguidae): Testing mtDNA introgression as the source of discordant molecular phylogenetic hypotheses. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution - get paper here
  • McBrayer, L.D. & R.A. Anderson 2007. Sexual Size Dimorphism and Bite Force in the Northern Alligator Lizard, Elgaria coerulea Journal of Herpetology 41 (4): 554-559. - get paper here
  • Nussbaum, R.A., Brodie, E.D., Jr., & Storm, R.M. 1983. Amphibians and reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. Univ. Press of Idaho, Moscow 332 pp.
  • Otvos, I.S. 1977. Observations on the food of three forest-dwelling lizards in California. Herpetological Review 8 (1): 6-7 - get paper here
  • Rutherford, P.L. & P.T. Gregory 2003. Habitat Use and Movement Patterns of Northern Alligator Lizards (Elgaria coerulea) and Western Skinks (Eumeces skiltonianus) in Southeastern British Columbia Journal of Herpetology 37 (1): 98-106. - get paper here
  • Rutherford, Pamela. 2012. Northern Alligator Lizard - Lezard-alligator Boreal (Elgaria coerulea principis). The Canadian Herpetologist 2 (2): 8-9
  • Stebbins,R.C. 1985. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin, Boston
  • Stejneger, L.H. 1893. Annotated list of the reptiles and batrachians collected by the Death Valley Expedition in 1891, with descriptions of new species. North American Fauna, No. 7: 159-228 (+ 14 plates + 4 maps) - get paper here
  • Stejneger,L. 1902. Gerrhonotus caeruleus vs. Gerrhonotus burnettii. Proc. Biol. Soc, Washington 15: 37 - get paper here
  • Vindum, Jens V.;Arnold, E. N. 1997. The Northern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea) from Nevada. Herpetological Review 28 (2): 100 - get paper here
  • Vitt, L.J. 1974. Body Temperatures of High Latitude Reptiles Copeia 1974 (1): 255-256. - get paper here
  • Wiegmann,A.F.A. 1828. Beyträge zur Amphibienkunde. Isis von Oken 21 (4): 364-383 - get paper here
  • Woodbury,A. M. 1945. A new Gerrhonotus lizard from Utah. Proc. Biol. Soc. Washington 58: 5-10 - get paper here
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