Earlier this week I had the opportunity to assist a biologist in his study involving a disjunct relict population of Desert Night Lizards (Xantusia vigilis) here in Northern California. The normal range of the species is the Southern California deserts east into Nevada and Arizona; there are just a few populations in the inner Coast Ranges in Northern California, all found in small, isolated groves of Yucca whipplei.
What we were doing out there is collecting the tail tips from these lizards for DNA analysis, because many of the animals found in these tiny patches of desert are genetically distinct from their counterparts in the Mojave and might be new taxa. The lizards are abundant in these areas, but finding them involves searching through dead yuccas, a very painful process since yucca leaves can slice as well as stab.
I managed to get a few photos while I was out there, but photographing these guys is not easy. Not because they won't sit still for the camera (they are actually pretty sluggish compared to other lizards), but because they are tiny (2-3" with tail), brown, and don't really have any interesting patterns or colors. Therefore, getting a shot of them that looks interesting takes a bit of work! Anyway, here are the shots, feel free to comment/critique.