Uma is named after Fort Yuma located in Yuma, Arizona, a location that served as a shipping point for natural history specimens back in the 1800s. The name notata refers to the dorsal color pattern of ocelli.
The Desert Fringe-toed Lizard measures almost five inches (snout-vent length). It has a flattened profile with a shovel-shaped nose.
This lizard's dorsal pattern mimics the color and texture of sand. The dorsal side of the body is marked with slightly connected ocelli that form a series of fine stripes. Each side of the white ventral surface has an orange band with a large central black spot. This is especially pronounced in mature males.
Subspecies: There are two subspecies: the Sonoran Desert Fringe-toed Lizard (U. n. notata) and the Sonoran Fringe-toed Lizard (U. n. rufopunctata). Only the Sonoran Desert Fringe-toed Lizard occurs within our region.
Range and Habitat
Their range covers southeast California and southwest Arizona, and extends into northwest Sonora and northeast Baja California. The Sonoran Desert Fringe-toed Lizard lives in desert sand dunes, especially at the fringes where some vegetation has been established.
The lizard's sand-like pattern makes them cryptic, which allows them to avoid predators. Its prey consists of insects and other arthropods, but also includes plants.
The Sonoran Desert Fringe-toed Lizard can run with remarkable speed and skill on the dunes, and it is equally adept at "swimming" through sand. These feats are possible because of these adaptations:
A parietal eye located on top of the head alerts the lizard to take shelter when solar radiation becomes excessive.
The Sonoran Desert Fringe-toed Lizard is currently a Federal Special Concern species (FSC) and a California Special Concern species (DFG-CSC). In desert communities with active development, the preferred habitat of the fringe-toed lizards is under attack. The closely related Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard is endangered. In areas without disturbance, fringe-toed lizards appear healthy and stable.