They are a short-legged lizard with a long body and looks a lot like an actual miniature alligator. They can grow up to 20 cm long. Adults are a grayish color with a lighter colored belly. They will sometimes have dark marks or a wide bronze stripe running down along the back.
There is a fold of skin running along the sides that allows them to expand as they breathe. These lizards are not seen very often and if caught they will force out a bad-smelling liquid from their vent, bite you or as a last resort, they will drop their tail and run away.
They spent the winter hibernating and in the spring, in lieu of a mating display, the males will run down a female, grab her head in his mouth, throw her down and mate with her. This can go on for hours, its quite brutal but the female hardly ever gets hurt.
The young develop inside the mother and when ready, the female gives birth to 5 or 6 live babies. The female will not mate again for 2 to 3 years.
During the summer heat, they can be seen sunning on hot rocks, sometimes in large groups. This is when they are preyed upon by shrikes, hawks, owls, and snakes.
Alligator lizards, in turn, feed on various beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers, as well as spiders, snails, and millipedes.