45 Texas Lizards That Are Native to the Lone Star State (With Pictures!)

The “Lone Star State” ranks number one in the US for overall reptile diversity. It is home to 45 native lizard species.

Visitors to Texas have a unique opportunity to observe almost half of all US lizard species in one place!

Lizards are found everywhere in the state – from the swampy East to the arid West. They play an important role in the natural ecosystem.

Lizards – and reptiles in general – are subject to many misconceptions. Unfortunately, these can cause fear and often lead to persecution.

This article will provide all the information you need about Texas’ saurian residents, including:

  • Useful safety information
  • Species identification tips
  • Tips for coexisting with lizards
  • Habitat and range of each group
  • A list of all native species by family
  • Information about lizard conservation

In-Short

There are 45 lizard species native to Texas. Anoles, spiny lizards, and alligator lizards are among the most commonly encountered in the state.

None of Texas’ lizards are venomous or present any serious risk to humans or pets. Most will still bite if handled. It’s best to leave wild animals alone to prevent causing them stress or harm.

Many of Texas’ lizard species look similar. This guide will help you to identify species based on appearance, range, and habitat.

Texas lizards should not pose a problem to homeowners. Most species will eat pests such as spiders, cockroaches, and mice. They’re helpful to have around.

If you don’t want lizards to enter your home, you can block possible entry points. Removing sources of food may also help.

Are Texas Lizards Dangerous to Humans or Pets?

Short answer: No

Most lizards will defensively bite if handled. Lizard bites can be painful but are not usually serious. There are no venomous lizard species found in Texas.

Texas lizards are mostly predatory but small in size. They pose no risk to dogs or cats.

Most Common Texas Lizards

Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)

Green anoles are common throughout the eastern and southern parts of Texas. They are small, active, and arboreal (tree-dwelling) lizards. Anoles often inhabit urban areas.

They are slender and range from five to eight inches in length.

Despite their name, they can be green or brown.

Males possess a bright pink “dewlap – or “throat fan.” Male anoles use their dewlap to intimidate rivals or attract mates.

Fun Fact: Anoles can change color like chameleons!

Green Anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis) showing off his bright
An adult male green anole (Anolis carolinensis) with characteristic green coloration and pink dewlap.

Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei)

Brown anoles are an invasive species, but live throughout Texas. They’re originally native to Cuba and the Bahamas.

Scientific studies indicate that the brown anole may negatively impact populations of native species, such as spiny lizards.

Brown anoles are similar in shape to green anoles. They can change color slightly but always remain brown or beige – never green. They also possess an orange dewlap (males only) and a stark pattern of bars or stripes.

Macro closeup shot of a brown anole lizard perched on a slim branch during day time
An adult male brown anole (Anolis sagrei) displaying its orange dewlap.

Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloperus olivaceus)

The Texas spiny lizard is common throughout most of Texas.

Like other members of the genus Sceloperus, it is a medium-sized lizard with distinctive “spiny” scales. Texas spiny lizards are usually grey. They possess a blotchy pattern that allows them to camouflage themselves against tree bark. Males also exhibit blue patches on their bellies.

Adults range from seven inches to a foot in length.

These lizards can often be found basking on trees or telephone poles and will usually retreat upwards if approached.

Males often engage in “push-up contests.” Texas spiny lizards may use this behavior to compete for territory and/or mates.

Camouflaged Texas Spiny Lizard ( Sceloporus olivaceus) on a Live Oak
Texas spiny lizards (Sceloperus olivaceus), like this one, often camouflage themselves against tree bark.

Texas Alligator Lizard (Gerrhonotus infernalis)

Texas alligator lizards are the state’s second-largest species. They are a common sight in parts of Central Texas – especially around Austin and San Antonio.

Alligator lizards are identifiable by their long, serpentine body, tiny legs, and checkered scales.

We advise you to avoid handling this species. Though it is harmless to humans, its strong jaws can deliver a painful bite.

Texas alligator lizard (Gerrhonotus infernalis)
A Texas alligator lizard (Gerrhonotus infernalis)

All Native Lizards (By Family)

Some lizard species are distinctive and easy to identify. Others can be difficult to distinguish from their closest relatives.

The following list contains all individual species currently described in the state. It will help you easily identify genera (groups of closely related species) and species wherever possible.

Legless and Alligator Lizards (Anguidae)

Alligator Lizards (Genus: Gerrhonotus)

Range: Central Texas (from Austin area to Big Bend N.P. and into Mexico)

Total Length: Up to 2 feet

Description: Elongated with short legs. Large, checkered scales on upper (dorsal) surface. Long, triangular head. Fold of skin across each flank, separating upper and lower body scales.

Habitat: Rocky hillsides

Species:

  • Texas Alligator Lizard (Gerrhonotus infernalis)

Fun Fact: Alligator lizards’ namesake – the American alligator – is also found in Texas. Alligators are more closely related to birds than to lizards. They can be found in Eastern parts of the state

Glass Lizards (Genus: Ophisaurus)

Range: Central Texas (from Austin area to Big Bend National Park)

Total Length: Up to 3 feet

Description: Elongated and serpentine. Legless with indistinct head and pointed snout. Usually brown or yellowish with stripes along back. Tail often missing. Possess eyelids.

Habitat: Woodland and prairie.

Species:

  • Slender Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus attenuatus)

Fun Fact: The Latin name “Ophisaurus” means “snake-lizard” as glass lizards are often mistaken for snakes. Members of this genus are known as “glass-lizards” due to their tails breaking off readily. This defense mechanism helps the lizard to evade predators.

Slender Glass Lizard
Slender glass lizards (Ophisaurus attenuatus), like this one, look very similar to snakes.

Anoles (Dactyloidae)

Range: East Texas

Total Length: Up to 8 inches

Description: Slender, agile lizards with long pointed heads. Range from brown to green. May possess whitish stripe along back (usually females). Males possess extendable throat fan (dewlap), which is bright pink or red. Female dewlap smaller and less vivid.

Habitat: Arboreal. Found in urban areas and forest edges – often associated with bushy foliage.

Species:

  • Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)

Collared and Leopard Lizards (Crotaphytidae)

Collared Lizards (Genus: Crotaphytus)

Range: Central and West Texas

Total Length: Up to 10 inches

Description: Medium-sized lizards with broad head and distinctive black “collar”. Elongated hind legs. Usually brown or tan with spots and/or blotches.

Habitat: Arid and semi-arid areas

Species:

  • Eastern Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris) – Central and Northwest Texas. May possess vivid colors – blue, turquoise, yellow, or orange.
  • Reticulate Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus reticulatus) – Southwest Texas. Usually tan or brown with brownish spots and stark black dorsal blotches.
yellow-headed collared lizard
Eastern collared lizards (Crotaphytus collaris) are among the most colorful lizards in North America.

Leopard Lizards (Genus: Gambelia)

Range: Southwest Texas near Mexico and New Mexico borders

Total Length: Up to 12 inches

Description: Medium-sized, slender lizards with long tail. Usually tan with leopard-like spots.

Habitat: Arid and semi-arid areas

Species:

  • Long-nosed Leopard Lizard (Gambelia wislizenii)

Eyelid Geckos (Eublepharidae)

Banded Geckos (Genus: Coleonyx)

Range: Southwest Texas (along Mexican border)

Total Length: Up to 6 inches

Description: Broad, triangular head. Prominent eyes with moveable lids. “Velvety” appearance due to small scales. May be yellow, pinkish, or tan with spots or crossbands.

Habitat: Arid desert

Species:

  • Texas Banded Gecko (Coleonyx brevis) – Along Mexican border. Often possesses distinct crossbands of black or yellow.
  • Reticulated Gecko (Coleonyx reticulatus) – Most often sighted in and around Big Bend National Park. Usually pinkish with faint spots.
A Texas Banded Gecko - Coleonyx Brevis
A Texas banded gecko (Coleonyx brevis) cleaning its eye.

Horned Lizards and Allies (Phrynosomatidae)

Earless Lizards (Genera: Cophosaurus and Holbrookia)

Range: Most of the state, excluding East Texas

Total Length: 3 to 7 inches

Description: Medium-sized lizards lacking visible ear openings. Usually greyish with orange and/or yellow speckles. Males possess distinctive black stripe on flanks – in front of hind legs. Females possess black stripe behind each thigh.

Habitat: Desert

Species:

  • Lesser Earless Lizard (Holbrookia maculata) Limited to Northwest Texas
  • Keeled Earless Lizard (Holbrookia propinqua)Limited to Southern Texas
  • Greater Earless Lizard (Cophosaurus texanus) – Found throughout most of Texas
  • Spot-tailed Earless Lizard (Holbrookia lacerata) – Found in South and Southwest Texas

Fun Fact: Earless lizards can hear reasonably well, despite their lack of ear openings.

Horned Lizards (Genus: Phrynosoma)

Range: Central, South, and West Texas

Total Length: Up to around 6 inches

Description: Extremely round and flattened body with spines at fringes. Spiny crest at rear of head. Brownish coloration varies with species. Can be beige or dark brown with a range of different patterns.

Habitat: Predominantly desert and prairie

Species:

  • Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) – Found throughout western half of the state
  • Greater Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma hernandesi) – Extreme western areas only (near Mexico/New Mexico borders)
  • Round-tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma modestum) – Far West Texas (along Mexico/New Mexico borders and as far north as Amarillo)
A Horned Texas Lizard - Phrynosoma Cornutum
Horned lizards, like this Texas horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum), are easily identified by their squat, spiny bodies and head crest.

Side-blotched Lizards (Genus: Uta)

Range: West Texas

Total Length: Up to 5 inches

Description: Small lizards with highly variable coloration. Identified by the presence of a single dark blotch on either side of the body (just behind their front limbs).

Habitat: Arid areas

Species:

  • Common Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana)
Side-blotched Lizard on a Rock
Note the dark blotch just behind the front limb of this common side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana)

Tree Lizards (Genus: Urosaurus)

Range: Central and West Texas

Total Length: Up to around 10 inches.

Description: Small lizards with slim bodies and lengthy tails. Highly variable coloration. Males possess dewlap and turquoise patches on abdomen.

Habitat: Usually associated with trees and bushes, particularly riparian forest areas.

Species:

  • Ornate Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus)

Spiny Lizards (Genus: Sceloperus)

Range: Statewide

Total Length: Up to 8 inches

Description: Stocky bodied. Overlapping scales on upper surface – resulting in spiny” appearance. Short, blunt head and slender tail. Brown, grey, or tan with variable pattern of spots and crossbands. Patterns may include black collar. Males may possess vivid blue patches on flanks, throat, and belly.

Habitat: Wide range, including urban areas. Usually seen basking out in the open.

Species:

  • Canyon Lizard (Sceloporus merriami)
  • Mesquite Lizard (Sceloporus grammicus)
  • Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus)
  • Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
  • Rose-bellied Lizard (Sceloporus variabilis)
  • Blue Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus cyanogenys)
  • Crevice Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus poinsetti)
  • Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus)
  • SouthwesternFence Lizard (Sceloporus cowlesi)
  • Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus)

Skinks (Scincidae)

Range: Statewide

Total Length: Up to 8 inches

Description: Serpentine with large, glossy scales. Moves with serpentine motion but possesses legs. Variable coloration (brown, grey, red, and black) and pattern. Notable patterns include longitudinal yellow stripes and vibrant blue tail, or brown coloration with red head.

Habitat: Scrub and grassland

Species:

  • Coal Skink (Plestiodon anthracinus) – Eastern Texas
  • Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) – Eastern Texas
  • Broad-headed Skink (Plestiodon laticeps) – Eastern Texas
  • Many-lined Skink (Plestiodon multivirgatus) – Western Texas
  • Great Plains Skink (Plestiodon obsoletus) – All but Eastern Texas
  • Ground Skink (Scincella lateralis) – Eastern and Southeastern Texas
  • Prairie Skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis) – Central and Northern Texas
  • Four-lined Skink (Plestiodon tetragrammus) – Mostly observed in Central and Southwestern Texas
Broadhead skink (Plestiodon laticeps)
Broad-headed skinks (Plestiodon laticeps) are common in Eastern Texas.

Whiptails (Teiidae)

Range: Statewide

Total Length: Up to around 9 inches (< 3 inches without tail).

Description: Slim with notably long, slender tail. Fairly long limbs. Triangular head with large, plate-like scales. Tail vibrant blue in juveniles. Usually tan or brown. May possess longitudinal stripes.

Habitat: Desert and other arid areas

Species:

  • Marbled Whiptail (Aspidoscelis marmorata) – Western Texas
  • Little Striped Whiptail (Aspidoscelis inornata) – Western Texas
  • Texas Spotted Whiptail (Aspidoscelis gularis) – Virtually statewide
  • Rusty-rumped Whiptail (Aspidoscelis septemvittata) Western Texas
  • New Mexico Whiptail (Aspidoscelis neomexicana) – El Paso area (Unisexual)
  • Six-lined Racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineata) – Virtually statewide, excluding Western Texas
  • Gray Checkered Whiptail (Aspidoscelis dixoni) – Northern and Western Texas (Unisexual)
  • Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail (Aspidoscelis exsanguis) – Far Western Texas (Unisexual)
  • Laredo Striped Whiptail (Aspidoscelis laredoensis) – Far Southern Texas (Unisexual)
  • Common Checkered Whiptail (Aspidoscelis tesselata) – Northern and Western Texas (Unisexual)

Fun Fact: Around half of Texas’ whiptail species are “unisexual” – meaning that all members of the species are female!

Non-Native Species

Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei)

Range: Eastern and Southern Texas

Total Length: Up to around 8 inches

Description: Slender, agile lizards. Usually brown with darker markings on back and tan markings along sides. Males possess orange and yellow dewlap.

Habitat: Usually associated with urban areas

House Geckos (Various species)

Range: Statewide

Total Length: Up to around 6 inches

Description: Small lizards with somewhat flattened body. Triangular head with large eyes. Padded toes. Grey, tan, or pinkish coloration.

Habitat: Usually associated with urban areas. Often found inside of houses and other buildings. Excellent climbers.

Common Questions About Texas Lizards (With Answers)

Where Do Lizards Go During the Texas Winter?

When the weather becomes too cool, lizards and other reptiles enter a state known as “brumation.”

This means that they become sluggish and inactive until things warm up again.

Most reptiles retreat underground during this time. This behavior helps to protect them from the winter weather, as well as from predators.

One significant difference between brumation and hibernation is that brumating reptiles become active as soon as the weather warms up. Hibernating animals will remain dormant until spring.

Why Are Lizards Important in Texas?

An ecosystem is an interconnected “web” of organisms, processes, and environments that interact with one another.

Like a machine made up of tiny parts, the loss of one species can prevent an ecosystem from functioning properly.

Lizards play many essential roles in Texan ecosystems, such as:

  • Controlling insect populations
  • Providing a food source for larger predators, such as birds and snakes

By controlling the population of “pest” species – such as termites, ants, and cockroaches, lizards can benefit us all!

The Decline of the Texas Horned Lizard

Horned lizards (or “horny toads”) are by far the most iconic reptiles in the Lone Star state.

They are delightfully unusual little creatures, loved by Texans young and old. One species – the Texas horned lizard – has even earned “state reptile” status!

Texas horned lizards are found throughout much of the South-Central US. Unfortunately, populations in Texas and Oklahoma have been declining for several years.

Numbers have continued to dwindle even since Texas introduced protective measures. The species now seems to have disappeared entirely from most of East Texas.

Scientists believe that several factors could be driving the loss of our lizards.

Habitat loss is the single biggest cause of decline for species around the world. Horned lizards may be losing their homes as land is developed for agriculture, construction, or energy extraction.

Another important factor could be the loss of the lizard’s favorite food: harvester ants.

These insects make up most of the lizard’s diet, causing their fates to be intertwined.

Harvester ants are under threat from fire ants  (their invasive cousins). This may, in turn, be driving horned lizard declines.

Widespread use of chemical insecticides may help keep fire ant numbers down, but at a cost to Texas’s state reptile.

Pesticide chemicals can build up in water, soil, and living tissues – leading to pollution and poisoning. This can have consequences for the entire ecosystem.

Removing individuals from the wild also harms the lizard’s survival. Always leave wild lizards in their natural habitat.

Texas conservationists are working together to save the Texas horned lizard. San Antonio Zoo launched a project in 2017 to restore populations in Central Texas through captive breeding.

Researchers are still working to identify the cause of their decline.

This 1998 paper by researchers at Texas A & M University offers guidelines to help members of the public to protect horned lizards and their habitat.

Coexisting With Lizards in Texas

Like most US states, Texas has no venomous lizard species.

There truly is nothing to fear about these harmless animals!

They are an important part of the natural ecosystem and feed on pests such as cockroaches. As a result, most people are grateful to have them around.

Lizards can also be entertaining to watch – particularly charismatic species such as spiny lizards and anoles.

The best way to coexist with lizards is to leave them alone. Avoid handling them (like any wild animal) and observe them calmly from a distance.

When you avoid stressing them, it allows you to observe their interesting behaviors!

What if I Don’t Want Lizards in My Home?

Sometimes, lizards may end up in your home. This is as true in Texas as it is anywhere else.

If you would like to keep lizards away, you can:

  • Block possible entry points
  • Remove insects and attractants (such as food debris) around your home.

Note: Traps, particularly glue traps, can be extremely inhumane. Glue traps can inadvertently kill lizards and other harmless vertebrates. Avoid using glue traps wherever possible.

Can I Keep a Lizard as a Pet?

Lizards are wild animals and should remain in their natural habitat.

Some Texas species can be kept in captivity. The green anole is one of the best lizards for beginner reptile keepers.

Remember: Taking on any pet is a BIG commitment.

To learn more about US lizard diversity, check out our guides to California lizards and Florida lizards.

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