Home | Breeding | Lizard Breeding Made Easy – The Live Bearing Swifts or Spiny Lizards – Part 1

Lizard Breeding Made Easy – The Live Bearing Swifts or Spiny Lizards – Part 1

Swift Lizard I often recommend live-bearing species to folks interested in getting started on breeding reptiles and amphibians.  If given the proper environment, live-bearing moms take care of the hard work of incubation, leaving us to enjoy the offspring.  But livebearers are certainly not for beginners only (nor are they all “easy”…sorry!) – in North and Central America’s Swifts, also known as Spiny or Fence Lizards (Genus Sceloporus), we are presented with over 90 fascinating species ranging from the very hardy to the rarely kept or bred.  A number of readily available species give birth to live young.

Swifts in Captivity

Ever since boyhood, when a female Yarrow’s Swift (Sceloporus jarrovi) arrived in the mail complete with 7 miniatures of herself born on route, I’ve been a great fan of this group.

Robust, active and attractive (males in breeding condition are among the most brightly colored of all lizards), many species make hardy captives if kept properly.  Captive essentials for most include a larger than average enclosure, basking sites of 95-100 F, abundant UVA and UVB, and a diet comprised of a wide variety of invertebrates.  Please write in for information on the care of individual species.

Courtship and Breeding

When in breeding condition, males are impossible to misidentify, being clad in bright colors (often a shade of blue) and ever-ready to display.  At other times, their thick bases help distinguish them from the more somberly colored females.

Male Swifts are absolutely intolerant of one another – even in room-sized exhibits I’ve had difficulty in maintaining more than a single male.  Intruders are met with complex displays, followed by serious fights if one does not retreat.

Swift Ventral Side
Courting males engage in species-specific head bobs, after which they may head-butt and lick the female.  Females are usually bitten on the shoulder during copulation.

Gravid females swell noticeably, and the young can be seen moving about as their birth approaches.  Depending upon the species, 4-18 perfectly-formed little lizards may be born.



Further Reading

Field Research on Sexual Signaling in Swifts.

Video of a Blue Spiny Lizard showing the typical alert demeanor and robust build.

Swift Ventral Side image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Tigerhawkvok
Swift Lizard image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Walter Siegmund

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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