EASTERN COLLARED LIZARD
The Collared Lizard can be distinguished from other Kansas lizards by having a large head, one or usually two dark bands around the neck, small smooth granular scales on the back and belly, ear opening on the sides of its head, and four limbs. The belly is white. The throat is orange to yellow in males, and males are also more brightly colored (greens and blues) and grow larger than females. During pregnancy, females (usually on shades of tan and brown) developed transverse orange bars along the sides of their body.
No reports of geographic variation appear in the literature, however males from the south central portion of the state (Meade to Harper counties) exhibit much more yellow coloration on the head copared to popultions elsewhere in the state.
No other lizards in Kansas is easily confused with the Collared Lizard. Its body form, patterns and colors, and behavior are all unique.
Common along rocky areas but may also substitute mammal burrows along canyons in the southwest and south central portions of the state (first reported by Tihen and Sprague, 1939). In northcentral Kansas, it is found in association with outcrops of the Cretaceous Grenhorn Limestone, Dakota Formation, and Niobrara Chalk (rarely). In south central Kansas is known from outcrops of Quaternary Ogallala, Cretaceous Kiowa Shale and Cheyenne Sandstone, and the various Permian groups. In southeastern Kansas (east of the Flint Hills, and south of the Kansas River) Eastern Collared Lizards have been found in assocation with outcrops of the Pennsylvanian Wabaunsee Group, Shawnee Group, Douglas Group, Lansing Group, Pleasanton Group, and the western edge of the Cherokee Group.
Records from Johnson, Kearney, and Stanton counties are in need of corroboration.
A specimen from McPherson County (KU 218857) exists, but is in need of corroboration, as subsequent visits to this site have failed to yield additional specimens. It is probably an escaped pet or release, and is not plotted.
Specimens exist for Hamilton County (KU 27746-8) but are only given to county and therefore not plotted.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences)
Allen (15), Anderson (100), Barber (80), Barton (1), Bourbon (47), Butler (13), Chase (144), Chautauqua (15), Cherokee (2), Clark (30), Clay (3), Cloud (1), Coffey (18), Comanche (20), Cowley (119), Crawford (54), Dickinson (15), Elk (34), Ellis (175), Ellsworth (20), Geary (29), Greenwood (85), Hamilton (3), Harper (28), Johnson (2), Kearney (1), Kiowa (25), Labette (21), Lincoln (20), Linn (5), Lyon (21), Marion (28), Marshall (3), McPherson (1), Meade (63), Mitchell (15), Montgomery (46), Morris (5), Neosho (7), Ness (1), Osborne (1), Ottawa (7), Pottawatomie (34), Riley (171), Rush (8), Russell (239), Saline (3), Seward (3), Shawnee (3), Stanton (1), Sumner (1), Trego (3), Wabaunsee (160), Washington (3), Wilson (46), Woodson (3)
Courtship and mating takes place in the spring following emergence from their winter dormancy, and depending on her body size, the female will lay 1-13 round, leathery shelled white eggs in burrows or tunnels under rocks during May and June. During a warm spring it is not uncommon for a female to lay two clutches of eggs up to one month apart. While incubating, the nest is vigorously defended by the female. The eggs hatch approximately ten weeks later in August and September. The 3-4 inch young resemble miniature adults, and begin fending for themselves immediately.
In those areas where they occur, you can see Eastern Collared Lizards perched atop large rocks during sunny warm days from late March to early November, when the air temperature reaches 70-90 degrees F. Like all other reptiles in the state, Eastern Collared Lizards are 'cold-blooded' and derive the energy necessary for their metabolic processes from the external environment. There is fierce competition among male Eastern Collared Lizards for the best rocks to occupy. This competition is generally non-violent, consisting of head-bobs and push-ups; however among two lizards similar in size, one may aggressively chase the other away.
They are active during the day, and at night retire to burrows or tunnels near or under their basking rocks where they sleep. In late October they retire deep into these same burrows to avoid freezing temperatures and await the arrival of warmer temperatures in late March to April.
Burt (1928) found that 95 percent of teh food of Kansas specimens consisted of grasshoppers and moths. The Eastern Collared Lizard is a wary predator, scaly and green with long claws, a strong tail, and a large powerful head for gripping and crushing live prey. These reptiles have excellent eyesight, and spend much time resting on perches above the surrounding landscape, examining everything that goes on below. When a meal is spotted, it is run down and swallowed whole. Occasionally, a moth is snatched out of the air as it flies near. The lizard then quickly returns to its rock perch to consume the insect. Collared Lizards aren’t picky eaters; the only two requirements for a potential meal are that it is moving and that it fits into the lizard's mouth. These small dinosaur look-alikes eat small mammals, all manner of arthropods, other lizards and snakes, and even small birds.
Predators and Defense:
They are preyed upon by larger birds, mammals, bigger Eastern Collared Lizards, and many snakes. Unlike most other lizard species in Kansas, the Eastern Collared Lizard is unable to regenerate its tail once lost. When cornered, this reptile will stand sideways high on its legs, curl its tail around to the front, and gape open its mouth, displaying a patch of black pigment inside. It may attempt to leap towards an aggressor and occasionally give a short hiss. It's almost comical to see such a bluff from a creature so small, but in the lizard's day-to-day life it must be a beneficial behavior.
Other than natural predators, Eastern Collared Lizards have few threats to their continued existence in the state. Due to differences in general habitat preference and use, interactions with humans are relatively infrequent when compared to many other species of reptiles in state. There seems to be little evidence to suggest that populations have changed much in number or geographic size over the past 50 years.
Growth and Longevity:
KU 84623, Chase County, Charles J. Cole, 27 August 1963, SVL 110 mm, total length 302 mm (12 inches), Collins (1993).
Eastern Collared Lizards are known to live 10-15 years in captivity when properly cared for, however in nature they would seldom reach that age. Male lizards are usually sexually mature by their first spring, although they seldom get to mate due to the competition from older and larger males. Males will have typically reached their maximum size by the age of three, while the smaller females will continue to grow slowly over their entire lives.
The most recent taxonomic appraisal for this group is by McQuire (1996). Only one form is found in Kansas.
Pleistocene fossil specimens are known from Meade County.
Eastern Collared Lizards can be difficult to capture. During cool weather, they can regularly be found snuggled up under rocks in a relatively torpid state where they are slow to move, and thus easy to pick up. However, during warm weather or sunny days, you’ll often need help; one person to lift a rock and the other to see which nearby rock it darted under. This process is repeated over and over (and typically involves lifting the same rocks several times) until one of you makes a successful lunge and pins the lizard against the ground. At this point, the collectors are either thankful for the leather gloves they’re wearing, or wishing that they would have thought ahead and put them on back at the car. The Collared Lizard is non-venomous and its teeth are actually quite small and of little consequence in its bite. The discomfort comes from the force of the bite; evolved to crush grasshoppers but effective at pinching unprotected fingers as well. Once controlled in hand, they can easily and safely be carried by grasping them around their body just behind the head. The lizard can then be placed temporarily in a pillow case or other cloth bag for further examination or released.
Eva Horne, assistant director of Konza Prairie, and instructor and research assistant for the Division of Biology at K-State, is studying the territorial behavior of reptiles at Konza Prairie.
1823. Say, Thomas in Edwin James. Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, Performed in the Years 1819 and '20. H. C. Carey and I. Lea, Philadelphia. Pp. 1783.
1939. Tihen, Joe A. and James M. Sprague. Amphibians, reptiles, and mammals of the Meade County State Parke Park. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science. 42: pp. 499-512.
1956. Fitch, Henry S. An ecological study of the collared lizard (Crotaphytus collaris). University of Kansas Publications, Museum of Natual History. 8(3): pp. 213-274.
1993. Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. Pp. 397.
2010. Collins, Joseph T., Suzanne L. Collins, and Travis W. Taggart. Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles of Kansas. Eagle Mountain Publishing., Provo, Utah. Pp. 400.