Lizards of Wisconsin
Lizards, like snakes, are covered with dry scaly skin. Scales help reduce water loss and increase a lizard's ability to take in solar heat. The two species of skinks in Wisconsin both have shiny, similar-sized overlapping scales covering their bodies. The prairie racerunner has small body scales and large, rectangular belly scales that are like those found on snakes. The slender glass lizard has small scales containing bony plates. This gives extra protection to its limbless body.
Most lizards have patterns that help them to blend in with their surroundings. Some species, such as the common five-lined skink, undergo a change in pattern as they mature.
Many male lizards undergo color changes on parts of their bodies during the breeding season. In Wisconsin, male common five-lined skinks develop orange-red colored heads; male prairie skinks develop bright orange throats, lips, and chins; and male six-lined racerunners turn a bluish color on their chins and bellies. It's all a way to draw attention. These bright colors are used to warn other males that a breeding territory is taken and to attract females. Some lizards, like chameleons and anoles are known for their rapid color-changing abilities.
Lizards shed their skin periodically during the active season. Slender glass lizards often shed their skin in one piece, like snakes, but most lizards shed their skin in patches. A lizard may rub itself against objects to loosen the old skin, and some lizards eat their shed skin for its nutrients. The new skin is vividly colored, but in time the color fades and eventually the old skin cracks in spots. This signals the start of a new shed cycle.
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