Monday, March 2, 2020

Episode 514 (3-2-20): Learning About Lizards

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:20).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 2-28-20. 


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of March 2, 2020.

MUSIC – ~7 sec

This week, we feature original music inspired by a large group of reptiles known by many names and ranging worldwide from arid areas to freshwater habitats.  Have a listen to the music for about 25 more seconds, and see if you know this group of reptiles.  And here’s a hint: if you guess this, you may be a reptile wizard.

MUSIC - ~25 sec

If you guessed lizards, you’re right! You’ve been listening to “Lizard Lied,” by Torrin Hallett, a student at Manhattan School of Music in New York.  Over 5600 species of animals worldwide are classified in the scientific group of lizards.  This group includes animals commonly called lizards as well as those commonly called anoles, chameleons, geckos, iquanas, skinks, racerunners, whiptails, and wormlizards.  Although lizards are the largest single group of living reptiles worldwide, their variety in Virginia is relatively low.  Virginia has nine native species, including five kinds of skinks, two glass lizard species, one racerunner, and the Eastern Fence Lizard, a type of spiny lizard.  The Commonwealth also currently is known to have two introduced, non-native species, the Italian Wall Lizard and the Mediterranean Gecko.

Virginia’s lizards live in a variety of land habitats, including trees, logs, rocks, soils, ground debris, and sometimes human structures.  They eat primarily a variety of insects, spiders, and snails, plus in some cases other lizards, small snakes, and small mammals; in turn, lizards are prey for various snakes, some birds, and domestic dogs and cats.   Some lizard species can shed their tail if it’s grabbed by a predator, regrowing the tail later.

No lizard species worldwide is truly aquatic, in that it lives exclusively in water or feeds exclusively on aquatic organisms.  But about 70 lizard species are known to use freshwater habitats for food or to escape from predators, including some species that can run across waters.  In the Commonwealth, two lizards with water connections are the Northern Coal Skink, a high-elevation species known to live near water and use it in fleeing predators; and the Eastern Glass Lizard, a state threatened species, known to inhabit various wet or damp grassy areas near marshes in eastern Virginia.

Thanks to Torrin Hallett for this week’s music, and we close with the last 10 seconds of “Lizard Lied.”

MUSIC - ~11 sec


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“Lizard Lied” is copyright 2020 by Torrin Hallett, used with permission.  (“Lied” is the German word for song.)  Torrin is a 2018 graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio; as of 2020, he is a graduate student in Horn Performance at Manhattan School of Music in New York.  More information about Torrin is available online at  Thanks very much to Torrin for composing the piece especially for Virginia Water Radio.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus), photographed in Maryland in August 2018.  Photo by Grayson Smith, made available for public use by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library, online at; specific URL for the photo is (as of 3-2-20).

Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus), photographed in Virginia Beach, Va., July 22, 2019.  Photo by Beth Deir, made available on iNaturalist at (as of 3-2-20) for use under Creative Commons license “Attribtution-NonCommercial 4.0.”  Information about this Creative Commons license is available online at


Following are lizard species known to occur in Virginia, as of February 2020, listed in alphabetical order of their scientific names (in parentheses and italics).  This list is according to two sources:

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Fish and Wildlife Information Service, “Species Information,” online at; and

Virginia Herpetological Society (VHS), “Lizards of Virginia, online at

Species Native to Virginia

Eastern Six-lined Racerunner, Aspidoscelis sexlineata sexlineata
Eastern Slender Glass Lizard, Ophisaurus attenuatus longicaudus
Eastern Glass Lizard, Ophisaurus ventralis  (State Threatened species)
Northern Coal Skink, Plestiodon anthracinus anthracinus
Common Five-lined Skink, Plestiodon fasciatus
Southeastern Five-lined Skink, Plestiodon inexpectatus
Broad-headed Skink, Plestiodon laticeps
Eastern Fence Lizard, Sceloporus undulatus
Little Brown Skink, Scincella lateralis (also known as Ground Skink in older references).

Species Not Native to Virginia But Introduced by Humans

Italian Wall Lizard, Podarcis siculus (in Loudoun County, according to VDGIF)
Mediterranean Gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus (reports from several locations since the 1990s but not reported yet to have found an established, reproducing population, according to VHS)


Used for Audio

Aaron M. Bauer and Todd Jackman, “Global Diversity of Lizards in Freshwater,” Hydrobiologia Volume 595, pages 581-586, 2008.

Encyclopedia Britannica, “Lizard/Water Loss and Other Variables,” online at

Joseph Mitchell, The Reptiles of Virginia, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 1994.

Bernard S. Martof, et al., Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1980.

National Park Service/Saquaro National Park-Arizona, “Lizards,” online at

Daniel Pincheira-Donoso et al., “Global Taxonomic Diversity of Living Reptiles,” PLOS One, 3/27/13, online at

Roger Powell et al., Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Fourth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Mass., 2016.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Fish and Wildlife Information Service,” online at

Virginia Herpetological Society, “Lizards of Virginia,” online at

For More Information about Lizards or Other Reptiles

John D. Kleopfer et al., A Guide to the Turtles of Virginia, Bureau of Wildlife Resources Special Publication Number 4, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, Va., 2014.

Donald W. Linzey and Michael J. Clifford, Snakes of Virginia, University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, 2002; information online at

Joseph C. Mitchell, “Snakes of Virginia,” online (as PDF) at

Joseph C. Mitchell and Karen K. Reay, Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles of Virginia, Special Publication No. 1, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, 1999.

Smithsonian Institution, “Bibliography on the Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles,” online at

Virginia Institute of Marine Science, “Virginia’s Sea Turtles,” online at

Virginia Herpetological Society, “Snakes of Virginia,” online at; and “Turtles of Virginia,” online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Reptiles” subject category.

Previous episodes featuring music composed by Torrin Hallett for Virginia Water include the following.

“Geese Piece” – in Episode 335, 9-26-16 on the Canada Goose; and Episode 440, 10-1-18, on E-bird.
“New Year’s Water” –in Episode 349, 1-2-17, on the New Year.
“Rain Refrain” – in Episode 338, 10-17-16, on rainfall measurements; and Episode 455, 1-14-19, on record Virginia precipitation in 2019.
“Tropical Tantrum” – in Episode 369, 5/22/17 and Episode 423, 6/2/18, on the upcoming Atlantic tropical storm seasons in 2017 and 2018, respectively; Episode 438, 9-17-18, on hurricane basic facts and history; and Episode 489, 9-9-19, on Storm Surge and Hurricane Dorian.
“Turkey Tune” – in Episode 343, 11-21-16, on the Wild Turkey.


The episode—the audio, extra information, or sources—may help with the following Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs).

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Virginia natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Life Processes Theme
K.7 – basic needs and processes of plants and animals.
1.5 – animals’ basic needs and distinguishing characteristics.
2.4 – life cycles.
3.4 – behavioral and physiological adaptations.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
2.5 – living things as part of a system, including habitats.
3.5 – food webs.
3.6 – ecosystems, communities, populations, shared resources.
4.5 – ecosystem interactions and human influences on ecosystems.
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Virginia watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.4 – organisms’ classification based on features.
LS.8 – community and population interactions, including food webs, niches, symbiotic relationships.

Biology Course
BIO.6 – bases for modern classification systems, including structures, biochemistry, and developmental stages.
BIO.8 – dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.