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Photo credit: Wayne van Devender

Spot-tailed earless lizard (Holbrookia lacerata) | ESA status: petitioned for listing

Spot-tailed earless lizard

The spot-tailed earless lizard’s dark spots, located under its tail, differentiate it from its other earless brethren. It has disappeared from part of its historic range and is rarely spotted in the rest.

Spot-tailed earless lizard facts

Despite its name, the spot-tailed earless lizard has ears; just no external ear openings. This is an advantage when burrowing in the soil and under logs and other debris, as the lizard likes to do. By covering its ears, it keeps them clean and dirt-free. Lizards lay their eggs underground, laying two batches in the spring and summer months.

Spot-tailed earless lizard diet

Spot-tailed earless lizards eat small invertebrates, including ants. But recently the tables have turned: the red fire ant, a voracious invasive species, can swarm and overwhelm not only the hapless earless lizard but also turtles, snakes, and alligators.

Spot-tailed earless lizard habitat

The spot-tailed earless lizard lives in central and southern Texas, in open meadows or prairie savannah with low grass and shrubs and patches of bare ground. Historically, it ranged from Comanche County, Oklahoma, across central and southern Texas and down through the Mexican states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas, but today it has disappeared from Oklahoma and is rarely seen in the rest of its range.

What are the threats to the spot-tailed earless lizard?

Fire ant abundance increases when native habitat is disturbed; conversion of the lizard’s habitat to cropland and non-native grasses for livestock is thus doubly threatening. But the lizard’s biggest concern is agricultural pesticides and herbicides. Pollutants like these are likely a threat to reptiles around the world. For example, Carbaryl—among the most widely used pesticides in the United States—negatively affects locomotion, energy use, and overall fitness of terrestrial lizards. Atrazine, another popular pesticide, is believed to be an endocrine disruptor in reptiles.

What WildEarth Guardians is doing to protect the spot-tailed earless lizard

Since 2011, we have been pressing the federal government to list the spot-tailed earless lizard under the Endangered Species Act. We’re working tirelessly to make sure we don’t lose these small denizens of the grasslands.

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