Where I discover an alligator (lizard) in my garden

California alligator lizard garden

If you garden long enough you may start to see some cool critters. We had an unusually wet winter and very hot, dry summer here in Davis, CA. Maybe it’s coincidence, but the range of creatures in my garden seems different. For instance, I’ve been seeing much bigger dragon flies this year and a lot more lizards.

California alligator lizard garden

A few days ago I saw a very unusual lizard (see above).

What a tail! What gene expression makes that unusual tail? The reddish color of the lizard was also striking.

As best as I can tell this is a California Alligator Lizard, but it could be another kind of alligator lizard as well as several types live in this part of California. Here’s a page on information and photos on California Alligator Lizards.

One of the cool things about lizards including alligator lizards is that they have regenerative potential far beyond that of us humans. For lizards, this regeneration often involves regrowing their tails that can come off as they pursued and grabbed by predators. This regeneration can involve stem cells (of course) and in some species regeneration invokes a unique regenerative structure called a blastema. I’ve written in the past about blastemas and regeneration. If only humans could regenerate this well, possibly via blastemas, right? But maybe not for growing us tails?

I imagine the particular alligator lizard I encountered in my garden hasn’t lost its tail given how amazingly long it is. I bet this “alligator” is eating lots of insects so I hope it and its future family stick around.

For more photos from my yard and elsewhere see here.

One of my favorite past set of photos is of praying mantises and spiders hunting bees on sunflowers in my garden.

3 Comments


  1. Wow! Don’t grab it by the tail…unless you want to try to make alligator lizard iPSCs or something like that. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to catch lizards as a child and ended up with a twitchy bit of tail!


    • For me as a kid it was catching snakes, fortunately non-poisonous ones. Unfortunately for the snakes, they couldn’t escape by dropping a tail, but I would let them go unharmed after playing with them for a while.

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