Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Spiny Lizards: Jeweled Swifts, Fence Lizards, Crevice Lizards, Blue-bellies

North American Swifts, Sceloporus sp.

©1995 Melissa Kaplan


The following is a partial listing of the species in Sceloporus:

Western US:
S. occidentalis spp. = Western Fence Lizard 2.25-3.5"
S. undulatus spp. = Eastern Fence Lizard 1.5-3.25"
S. virgatus = Striped Plateau Lizard
S. graciosus = Sagebrush Lizard
S. scalaris = Bunch Grass Lizard 1.5-2.5"
S. jarrovii = Mountain Spiny 2.25-4"
S. magister = Desert Spiny 3.25-5.5"
S. clarkii = Clark Spiny 2.75-5"
S. orcutti = Granite Spiny 3.25-4.5"

Eastern US:
S. viarabilis marmoratus = Rosebelly Lizard 3.75-5.5"
S. grammicus microlepidotus = Mesquite Lizard 4-6.75"
S. poinsettii poinsettii = Crevice Spiny Lizard 5-11.5"
S. serrifer cyanogenys = Blue Spiny Lizard 5-14.25"
S. magister bimaculosus = Twin-Spotted Spiny Lizard 7.5-13"
S. olivaceus = Texas Spiny Lizard 7.5-11"
S. undulatus = Fence Lizard 4-7.25" (3.5-7" - western subspecies of Prairie Lizard)
S. undulatus erythrocheilus = Red-lipped Prairie Lizard 4-7.5"
S. woodi = Florida Scrub Lizard 3.75-5.5"
S. g. graciosus = Northern Sagebrush Lizard 4.5-5.75"
S. g. arenicolous = Dunes Sagebrush Lizard 4.5-6"
S. merriami ssp = Canyon Lizard 4.5-6.25"

The many species of swifts come from very similar geographic areas: periods of hot weather, trees or rocks to bask on and crevices in which to hide. All are difficult to sneak up upon, are extremely quick, and difficult to dislodge from a crevice once they have scooted within. The various species vary in size but little in the way of captive care requirements. The following, written for the Western Swift, is applicable to most of the swifts in this genus; variations may be required depending on where the particular swift is from from (microclimate availability, seasonal temperatures and day/night fluctuation, etc.).

Western Swift, aka Blue-belly, is one of the most common of the western lizards. Found on fence posts, rocks, logs, piles of lumber, and sides of buildings, they inhabit a wide variety of habitats: grassland, chaparral, sagebrush, woodlands, open coniferous forest and farmlands. They are absent, however, from the harsh desert environments, staying up on the higher, moisture mountain elevations above the desert floor. Sometimes found climbing trees, these terrestrial lizards are generally found on the ground.

Insect eaters, they will also eat insect larvae and spiders and other arthropods.

The young have little or no blue on the throat; the blue belly markings are faint or absent; no orange or yellow on limbs. Most species are oviparous; some are viviparous.

Adult males have enlarged hemipenal bulges, and usually has a blue patch on throat; the patch may be divide and, in some cases, absent. The belly patches are blue or greenish and may be seen from the sides or above. Adult females have no blue or green above; dark crescents or bars on back. The blue patches on the bellies are less vivid or absent.


Captive Environment

Woodland species should be kept in a woodland terrarium:

  • A suitable substrate is peat soil mixed with sand (3:1) over gravel drainage.
  • Embed potted plants to help maintain humidity.
  • Slabs of bark and rocks for climbing and basking.
  • Daytime temperatures: mid 70s-mid 80s F during day with a warmer basking area to 90 F.
  • Nighttime temperatures: low 60s-mid 70s night.
  • UVB light: 12/12 cycle.

Desert species should be kept in a desert terrarium:

  • Substrate of clean playground sand.
  • Embed potted cacti to help maintain pockets of humidity.
  • Branches and rocks for climbing and basking.
  • Daytime temperatures: low to mid 80s during day with a warmer basking area to 100 F.
  • Nighttime temperatures: low 60s-mid 70s night.
  • UVB light 12/12 cycle.

Grassland species may be kept as woodland species but with sparse ground cover.


Gut loaded crickets, wild-caught spiders, moths, flies. May try insect larvae (maggots, meal worms) and pink mice.


Spray leaves or side of tank to produce droplets.


Keep tank securely covered - they are great jumpers if given the chance to get near enough to the top!



Breen, J. F. Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications. 1974.

Conant, R. and Collins, J. T. Peterson Field Guide: Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern/Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1991.

TIGR Reptile Database: Phrynosomatidae

Stebbins, R. C. Peterson Field Guide: Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1985.

Wynne, R. H. Lizards in Captivity. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications. 1981.


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