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Abronia graminea

Abronia graminea (*)

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Cladus: Craniata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Lepidosauromorpha
Superordo: Lepidosauria
Ordo: Squamata
Cladus: Unidentata, Episquamata, Toxicofera
Subordo: Anguimorpha
Infraordo: Neoanguimorpha
Superfamilia: Diploglossa

Familia: Anguidae
Subfamilia: Gerrhonotinae
Genus: Abronia
Species: Abronia graminea

Abronia graminea (Cope, 1864)

Lectotype: USNM 6327. [designated by Good (1988: 99)]

Type locality: “Orizaba, Mexico.”

Gerrhonotus gramineus Cope, 1864: 179 [original combination]
Abronia taeniata graminea — Tihen, 1949: 591 [subsequent combination, reduce to subspecies]
Abronia graminea — Martin, 1955: 175-176 [subsequent combination, restaure to species]

Primary references

Cope, E.D. 1864. Contributions to the herpetology of tropical America. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 16: 166–181. BHL Reference page.
Tihen, J.A. 1949. The Genera of Gerrhonotine Lizards. The American Midland Naturalist 41(3): 580–601. DOI: 10.2307/2421775 Paywall; JSTOR Hybrid open access journal Reference page.
Martin, P.S. 1955. Herpetological records from the Gómez Farías region of southwestern Tamaulipas, México. Copeia 1955(3): 173-180. JSTOR
Good, D.A. 1988. Phylogenetic Relationships Among Gerrhonotine Lizards: An Analysis of External Morphology. In University of California Publications in Zoology volume 121. University of California Press: Berkeley & Los Angeles. 139 pp. ISBN 9780520097445 Reference page.


Uetz, P. & Hallermann, J. 2021. Abronia graminea. The Reptile Database. Accessed on 17 March 2018.
Flores-Villela, O. & Santos-Barrera, G. 2007. IUCN: Abronia graminea (Endangered). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007: e.T63678A12695490. DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2007.RLTS.T63678A12695490.en

Vernacular names
Deutsch: Grüne Baumschleiche
English: Terrestrial Arboreal Alligator Lizard
español: Escorpión Arboricola de Tehuacá

The Mexican alligator lizard (Abronia graminea), also known as the green arboreal alligator lizard, is an endangered species of lizard endemic to the Sierra Madre Oriental highlands of Mexico.[2][3] It can be found in the states of Puebla, Veracruz, and Oaxaca.[2] It was originally described under the genus Gerrhonotus as Gerrhonotus gramineus by Edward D. Cope in 1864.[4]

The Mexican alligator lizard adopts an arboreal lifestyle and is commonly found inhabiting the bromeliads among mesic cloud or pine-oak forest canopies.[5][6][7][8] This habitat offers a humid temperate climate with summer rains. The preferred diet of this species is a variety of insects.[5][9] Colour patterns of the Mexican alligator lizard can range from bright emerald green to dark teal blue;[7][8] juvenile colouration is a tan ground colour with dark crossbands.[2][6][10]

The IUCN rates the Mexican alligator lizard as endangered.[2][11] Decline of the species is mainly the result of habitat fragmentation due to fire, deforestation, and land use change for agriculture.[5][9] Illegal trafficking for the pet trade has also contributed to the status of this species.[5]


The genus Abronia was first described by John Edward Gray in 1838.[12] In 1864, Edward D. Cope described a new species: Gerrhonotus gramineus.[4] This name was used in subsequent literature until 1949, where it was then re-classified under the genus Abronia.[13] In 1949, Tihen reported this species as Abronia taeniata graminea. Tihen considered A. graminea to be a subspecies of A. taeniata based on observations of four specimens collected in Veracruz, Mexico, exhibiting morphological characteristics of both species.[13] Additional literature published after Tihen (1949) also reported the name A. taeniata graminea to reflect these potential intergrades. However, Martin’s observations in 1955 argued that A. graminea was not a subspecies of A. taeniata based on clear morphological differences, and re-elevated A. graminea to species status. Currently, the Mexican alligator lizard’s valid taxonomic identifier is Abronia graminea.[14][15]

A. graminea is one of 29 species described in this genus.[2][16] Little is known about its relation to other Abronia species. Its distribution range has been shown to overlap with that of A. taeniata.[3] These two species can be distinguished by the number of transverse dorsal scale rows, longitudinal nuchal scale rows, and adult dorsal body colourations.[3] Individuals of A. graminea have 25-29 transverse dorsal scale rows, while A. taeniata has 30-36; 4-6 longitudinal nuchal scale rows in A. graminea, and 6 in A. taeniata; adult dorsal body colour is uniform in A. graminea whereas A. taeniata adult dorsal body colour includes dark crossbands.[8]
Common names

Language Name
English Mexican alligator lizard

Green arboreal alligator lizard[15]

Terrestrial arboreal alligator lizard[11]

Spanish Escorpión arboricola de Tehuacá[16]

Dragoncito del Sur de la Sierra Madre Oriental[9]

Lagarto alicante terrestre[9][14]


The Mexican alligator lizard has a dorsoventrally depressed body with a flattened, triangular head and weak lateral fold.[4][5][13][17] It measures approximately 160mm (6 inches) from its snout to the end of its tail and weighs approximately 21g.[4][5][7] This species also has a prehensile tail, that can be regrown if lost,[16] and long, strong limbs and digits ideal for its arboreal habitat.[6][13] The adult colour pattern varies significantly from the juvenile colouration. Adult males are typically bright emerald green while females exhibit colour variations that include bright to dull orange on the dorsal side.[3][4][7][17] Other colour elements present in adults include bright yellow orbital skin, blue highlights on the supralabial scales, and yellow snout, lower jaw, and throat.[7] Dorsal scales contain variable amounts of dark pigmentation on the basal half of the scales.[7] Females of this species occasionally retain dark crossbands characteristic of juvenile colour patterns.[3][7] Juveniles typically express a light tan ground colour with 9 irregular black crossbands on the body and 19 on the tail, and a dirty yellow ventrum.[6][10]

Typical scale patterns for A. graminea includes:

12 longitudinal rows of ventral scales[4][17][18]
25-29 transverse dorsal scale rows
4-6 longitudinal nuchal scale rows[3][8]
12-14 longitudinal dorsal scale rows[17][18]
11 supralabial scales[4][18]
2 rows of infralabial scales (5 scales in 1st row, 6 scales in 2nd row)[4]

The preauricular scales are granular, and the dorsal scales are slightly keeled.[5][13][17][18][19] The plates of the head are often thickened and roughed, giving the head a triangular appearance.[4][19] Typically, the dorsal scales are larger than the ventrals.[18]
Distribution range of the Mexican alligator lizard in the states of Puebla, Veracruz, and Oaxaca.

The Mexican alligator lizard is a widely distributed species endemic to the highlands of Mexico along the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range.[2][6] It has an estimated distribution of approximately 11,500 km2.[5][9] This range include the states of Puebla, Veracruz, and Oaxaca.[5] The region this species inhabits is located at elevations of 1,350-2,743m above sea level.[2][5][6]

The Mexican alligator lizard occurs in mesic, montane forest environments. It is typically found in cloud or pine-oak forests within humid temperate climates that may experience dramatic changes in temperature between day and night.[6][7][8][16] This arboreal species is located among epiphytic vegetation, particularly bromeliads,[5][8] but also lichens and orchids.[16] This arboreal species can be found at heights of 40m in forest canopies.[16] A. graminea cannot thrive in a degraded habitat.[3]

In captivity, A. graminea typically feeds on a variety of insects and other arthropods.[5][9] Due to limited research, it is unknown what exact feeding strategies are used by this species.

Lifespan in the wild is unknown. In captivity, A. graminea has been reported to live up to 10 years.[20]
Reproducton & lifecycle

A. graminea is considered to be viviparous (giving birth to live offspring).[2][5][6] Typically, females become sexually mature in their 3rd year of life and can give birth to litters of 1-12 offspring.[2] Although copulation has not been observed in the wild, mating typically occurs in the summer/fall, and parturition occurs in the spring.[2] The gestation period for the Mexican alligator lizard is approximately 6–8 months.[20]

The Mexican alligator lizard is considered an Endangered species on the IUCN Red List. It is a protected animal under Mexican Federal Law as a Threatened species on the Normal Oficial Mexicana list.[2][16]

Population fragmentation and destruction of habitat are the main factors contributing to the decline of this species.[5] Forest fires, deforestation, and change of land use for agricultural purposes has degraded this habitat and reduced the distribution of A. graminea dramatically.[16] Illegal international trade of A. graminea for the purpose of maintaining it as a pet has significantly contributed to the status of this species.[16]

Flores-Villela, O. & Santos-Barrera, G. (2007). "Abronia graminea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2007: e.T63678A12695490. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2007.RLTS.T63678A12695490.en.
Clause, Adam, G.; Solano-Zavaleta, Israel; Vazquez-Vega, Luis Felipe (2016). "Captive reproduction and neonate variation in Abronia graminea (Squamata: Anguidae)". Herpetological Review. 47 (2): 231–234.
Clause, Adam, G.; Solano-Savaleta, Israel; Soto-Huerta, Karlo Antonio; Perez y Soto, Rosalia de la A.; Hernandez-Jiminez, Carlos A. (30 April 2018). "Morphological similarity in a zone of sympatry between two Abronia (Squamata: Anguidae), with comments on ecology and conservation". Herpetological Conservation and Biology. 13 (1): 183–193 – via Web of Science.
Cope, Edward D. (1864). "Contributions to the herpetology of tropical America". Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 16: 166–181 – via Biodiversity Heritage Library.
Alejandro, Zaldivar Riveron; Schmidt, Walter; Heimes, Peter (12 January 2004). "Abronia graminea (Cope, 1864)" (PDF). National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO). Retrieved 22 March 2020.
Campbell, Jonathan A.; Frost, Darrel R. (3 September 1993). "Anguid lizards of the genus Abronia: Revisionary notes, descriptions of four new species, a phylogenetic analysis, and key". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History (216): 1–121. hdl:2246/823.
Clause, Adam G.; Jimenez-Velaquez, Gustavo; Perez-Mendoza, Hibraim A. (March 2016). "Reptilia: Squamata (lizards)" (PDF). Mesoamerican Herpetology. 3 (1): 142–145. ISSN 2373-0951.
Martin, Paul S. (19 August 1955). "Herpetological records from the Gómez Farías region of southwestern Tamaulipas, México". Copeia. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH). 1955 (3): 173–180. doi:10.2307/1440457. JSTOR 1440457.
"Dragoncito del Sur de la Sierra Madre Oriental". Naturalista. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
Werler, John E. (1951). "Miscellaneous notes on the eggs and young of Texan and Mexican reptiles". Zoologica. 36: 37–48 – via Biodiversity Heritage Library.
Flores-Villela, O. & Santos-Barrera, G. (2007). "Abronia graminea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2007: e.T63678A12695490.
Gray, John Edward (1838). "A catalogue of the slender-tongued Saurians, with descriptions of many new genera and species". Annals of Natural History. 1: 388–394. doi:10.1080/00222933809512320 – via Biodiversity Heritage Library.
Tihen, J. A. (May 1949). "The genera of Gerrhonotine lizards". The American Midland Naturalist. 41 (3): 580–601. doi:10.2307/2421775. JSTOR 2421775.
"Abronia graminea (Cope, 1864)". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
"Abronia graminea". National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
Seventeenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties [PDF]. 11 July 2016. Retrieved from CITES website:
SEMARNAT, 2018. Programa de Acción para la Conservación de las Especies Abronia (Abronia spp) en México, SEMARNAT/ CONANP, México (Año de edición 2018).
Boulenger, George Albert (1885). Catalogue of the lizards in the British Museum (Natural History). II (2 ed.). London: Printed by order of the Trustees. pp. 267–269 – via Biodiversity Heritage Library.
O'Shaughnessy, A. W. E. (1873). "Herpetological Notes". The Annals and Magazine of Natural History. 12 (67): 44–48. doi:10.1080/00222937308680695 – via Biodiversity Heritage Library.
"Alligator Lizard". Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. 8 April 2019. Retrieved 21 March 2020.

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