any of 42 lizard species in the subfamily Gerrhonotinae of the family Anguidae in any of the following genera: Abronia, Barisia, Elgaria, Gerrhonotus, and Mesaspis. Alligator lizards are found from southern British Columbia and the northwestern United States through Mexico and Central America to Panama. Abronia, Barisia, and Mesaspis are largely tropical or subtropical in distribution, whereas Elgaria and Gerrhonotus inhabit the northern temperate zone. Although most alligator lizards appear superficially similar in body structure, some are stout with short tails (Abronia and Barisia), whereas others are more slender with long tails (Elgaria, Gerrhonotus, and Mesaspis). All alligator lizards have rather short limbs. The presence of a fold of skin along the lower edge of the side of the body distinguishes these animals from many other lizards. Large scales provide armour for the head, body, and tail. In addition, alligator lizards possess a chemosensory system keen enough to determine which insects and spiders are edible (that is, free from high levels of toxins).
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