• Like its namesake the leopard, the long-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia wislizenii) is characterized by dark spots. However, unlike the leopard, this lizard can change its spots. A color-changing reptile, the long-nosed leopard lizard has a light coloration in which the spots are very visible, and a dark coloration in which the spots blend in and light, lacy lines become more visible. In addition, during breeding, females develop orange spots.

    The long-nosed leopard lizard shares another characteristic with the leopard. Both are ambush predators. However, instead of gazelle and deer, this large lizard preys on insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, and bees, as well as snakes, other lizards, and even small mammals. It lies waiting for its prey in the shadows beneath shrubs and bushes in arid and semiarid areas with low, scattered vegetation. Its spots and markings provide camouflage, and it attacks unsuspecting prey that venture near.

    Because the long-nosed leopard lizard prefers arid and semiarid climates, it is no surprise that its geographic range includes parts of the major North American deserts and their surrounding areas. These include the Chihuahuan Desert in Mexico and parts of Arizona and Texas; the Sonoran Desert in southwestern California and Arizona in the U.S., and Baja California and Sonora in Mexico; the Mojave Desert in parts of Nevada, California, and Utah; and the Great Basin Desert in parts of Utah, Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon, and Colorado.

    1. What are some other animals that can change their color?

      There are a number of other animals that can undergo a color change. The chameleon is a well-known example. Other examples include some types of spiders, octopuses, squid, and fish such as the peacock flounder.

    2. Both leopards and leopard lizards are ambush predators who stay still and wait for their prey to come close before attacking. Other animals are more active predators that stalk or chase their prey. What are some benefits and drawbacks of each of these styles of hunting?

      Ambush predators can conserve energy by lying in wait, which may enable them to survive on fewer calories. These predators are often camouflaged in some way, which allows them to not only hide from potential prey but also from predators that might feed on them. On the other hand, this strategy wouldn’t be as effective in areas where prey are not abundant and highly mobile. Active, or pursuit, predators tend to expend more energy, especially if they are solitary, rather than pack, hunters. As a result, they often need a higher intake of calories. If they are not successful in catching their prey, they may expend a lot of energy without being able to replenish it by eating. On the other hand, active predators typically have a larger range in which to find their prey.

    3. Long-nosed leopard lizards are reptiles. What are some characteristics of reptiles?

      Reptiles are vertebrates. They have scales but no hair or fur. Most are four-legged and have a three-chambered heart.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    ambush Verb

    to attack suddenly and by surprise.

    arid climate Noun

    (dry climate) region that receives 10 to 30 centimeters (4-12 inches) of rain each year.

    camouflage Verb

    to hide or disguise by blending in to surroundings. Also called cryptic coloration.

    geographic range Noun

    distance at which a specific light (such as that from a lighthouse) is visible to the naked eye.

    predator Noun

    animal that hunts other animals for food.

    prey Noun

    animal that is hunted and eaten by other animals.

    semiarid climate Noun

    (dry climate) region that receives between 25 and 50 centimeters (10-20 inches) of rainfall every year.