Greater Earless Lizards (Cophosaurus texanus) are found in rocky desert and upland areas in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico. Here in the Sonoran Desert, these lizards are especially fond of sandy washes with large rocks. This male Greater Earless Lizard was perched on a rock in Tucson's Sabino Canyon on a sweltering August day. Sun-loving Greater Earless Lizards are active during the daytime, even on hot days, but you will often see them resting with a straight-legged stance to elevate themselves above the baking heat of the rocks.
Greater Earless Lizards are medium-sized and gray to tan in color above with cream, brown, peach, or orange spots, a dark banded tail that is boldly banded with black and white below, and two distinctive dark bands on their sides near their back legs. These dark side bands can be faint on the females, but they are a bold black on the males and edged with orange and turquoise, making the sexes easy to distinguish. Greater Earless Lizards get their common name from their lack of external ear openings.
When fleeing potential predators, a Greater Earless Lizard will often tail-wag and run with its tail curled over its back, revealing the bold black and white banding under the tail. The similar Zebra-tailed Lizard (Callisaurus draconoides) will also wag its black and white-banded tail when fleeing predators, but if you can manage more than just a fleeting glimpse of it, this lizard can easily be distinguished from a Greater Earless Lizard because its two dark side bands are just behind its front legs. Unlike the elusive and speedy Zebra-tailed Lizards, Greater Earless Lizards are easier to photograph because you can often find them perched quietly on rocks like this one.