Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Greater earless lizard

with 35 comments

As we began leaving the sandy area by the river in Pedernales Falls State Park on March 4th for the climb back uphill to the parking lot, Eve called my attention to a lizard alongside the path. I stopped, swapped out the 24–105mm lens that was on the camera for my 100–400mm telephoto, and used it at its maximum zoom to begin photographing the lizard (see above). In my experience most lizards quickly scamper away from people who move; this one, however, showed no inclination to budge as I gradually worked my way forward, taking pictures as I did so. Soon I reached the lens’s close-focusing limit, so I slowly backed up to my camera bag, put on a 100mm macro lens, worked my way back to the complacent lizard, and eventually got so close that the far end of the lens was within inches of it (see below). Only then did it finally move away. My herpetologically inclined friend Ed Acuña tells me it’s a greater earless lizard, Cophosaurus texanus. He says it’s more common in west Texas than in our area, which explains why I don’t remember seeing one before. Oops: memory is fallible, and I see now that I did show one of these lizards in 2015.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 17, 2021 at 4:38 AM

35 Responses

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  1. That touch of green on the underside looks interesting.


    March 17, 2021 at 4:43 AM

  2. Great close ups, it almost has a quizzical look in the 2nd shot. Perhaps the weather was on the cool side for this creature, and it just wanted to stay “herpetologically inclined” on its warm rock.

    Robert Parker

    March 17, 2021 at 5:29 AM

    • Though sitting straight up now, I’m inclined to say you did well in playing with the two senses of inclined. And you may be anthropomorphically inclined to see the merely physical as quizzical.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2021 at 5:48 AM

  3. The lizard really blends well with the background rocks – maybe it felt invisible! (Apart from that little bit of green.)

    Ann Mackay

    March 17, 2021 at 7:28 AM

  4. It looks quite regal, and I love that little spot of green showing on its belly! Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day!


    March 17, 2021 at 7:30 AM

  5. I bet the lizard wanted his portrait taken and published on your blog, Steve. That explains his patience to let you change the lenses twice before scampering away.

    Peter Klopp

    March 17, 2021 at 8:44 AM

  6. Nice shots and your close-up is as sharp as a knife.


    March 17, 2021 at 9:01 AM

    • It is for the head and upper arm, which are foremost in the portrait. The other parts, which are not so important, gradually go out of focus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2021 at 9:39 AM

  7. I read that the Texas earless lizard has a background color ranging from brown to tan to gray, depending on the soil on which it lives. The darker the soil, the darker the coloration. Also, I think you have a boy lizard. See those sharp, dark bands on the underside? I suspect this is the explanation — for those, and also for the green:

    “The ventral side displays two parallel black stripes projecting from in front of the hind limbs and slightly into the dorsal area. The males’ stripes are known to be darker and more distinct, while the females’ stripes appear faint. Surrounding the dark stripes, the lizard has blue- and green-colored scales. The males display bright and vibrant scale colors as the females show drabber colors.”


    March 17, 2021 at 9:36 AM

    • Thanks for finding an article that clearly differentiates the sexes. While at Pedernales Falls, all my time with the lizard went to getting pictures; I never even wondered whether it was male or female. It occurs to me now that somebody would do well to dress up as one of these lizards for Halloween, although anyone who did might leave himself open to accusations of reptilian appropriation and speciesism.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2021 at 9:55 AM

  8. Exceptional specimen and photographic resolution!

    Alessandra Chaves

    March 17, 2021 at 1:20 PM

    • Thanks. The specimen is nature’s. The resolution comes from a large Canon sensor (50 megapixels) and L-Series lenses.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2021 at 2:27 PM

  9. A handsome chap. I don’t think ears are needed on that fella. Love his little green belly stripes!


    March 17, 2021 at 1:23 PM

    • Maybe we’d all be better off with green belly stripes, or we could display different colors to suit the occasion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2021 at 2:29 PM

  10. I also like taking photos of lizards, but I don’t recall having encountered one quite as complacent and cooperative as your earless variety. (S)he is very handsome.


    March 17, 2021 at 4:44 PM

    • That complacency worked in my photographic favor. Linda (three comments back) offered evidence that this lizard is a he.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2021 at 6:28 PM

  11. Handsome lizard, love the green side bars. The closeup with the cocked head looks like he is saying, “Who are you looking at?”

    Eliza Waters

    March 17, 2021 at 5:05 PM

    • If the lizard didn’t know by then, after all the pictures I’d already taken by the time I got to that closeup, that I was looking at it, it was never going to know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2021 at 6:30 PM

  12. What a handsome poser this fella is! I am very thankful when a lizard or snake will hold still while I photograph it. Most of the time they’ll disappear in the blink of an eye!


    March 18, 2021 at 8:33 AM

    • Of all the lizards I’ve photographed in the wild, this may be the one that stayed put the longest, for which I was grateful. As you said, most of them quickly run away.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 18, 2021 at 10:21 AM

  13. Can you hear me now? Not much around here for lizards which is a shame but, of course, our winters probably would not be favorable and that would be a long migration on those short legs/

    Steve Gingold

    March 19, 2021 at 4:22 PM

  14. I’m aware of legless lizards, which are often mistaken for snakes, but I was intrigued by the common name of these, being unable to recall seeing a lizard with obvious ears–but a bit of research shows that these have no external ear openings, which presumably serves to prevent sand from entering their bodies as they dig. How special that this one allowed such a close encounter, and that you were ready and able to make the best of it.


    March 20, 2021 at 3:47 AM

    • Yes, a close encounter of the lizardian kind, as Schwartzman played Spielberg for a little while, and with a still camera rather than a motion picture camera. Your research shows that these lizards developed a way to avoid getting an earful, be it of sand or from irate neighbors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 20, 2021 at 4:38 AM

  15. What an expression on the close-up! ‘What’s up dude?’


    March 24, 2021 at 11:03 AM

    • Another commenter interpreted it in a similar way. I was so busy taking pictures I didn’t even consider a possible expression on the lizard’s face.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2021 at 3:19 PM

  16. Particularly handsome lad with a gorgeous tummy


    March 24, 2021 at 2:03 PM

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