“How many WHIPTAIL lizards are there in Texas?”
One of the most interesting groups of lizards is Whiptail Lizards, sometimes called Racerunners.
Both names are completely appropriate! These lizards’ tails are impossibly long, sometimes even three times their body length! And they’re so fast you might miss them unless you’re incredibly observant.
Today, you’ll learn the 9 kinds of whiptail lizards in Texas.
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#1. Six-Lined Racerunner
- Aspidoscelis sexlineata
- 2.25 to 3.75 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- “Dark fields,” or broad stripes in between lighter stripes on whiptails, are brown to black.
- 6-8 light stripes vary in color from white or yellow to gray-blue.
- In males, coloring is much brighter, with greens on the back and light turquoise on the belly.
This species has the widest range of all the whiptail lizards in Texas.
They thrive in varied habitats, including grassland, rocky terrain, wooded areas, and even floodplains. So, you have a good chance of seeing one as long as you’re within their range!
Six-Lined Racerunners are insectivores, and their primary food source is termites. However, they also eat beetles, ants, and spiders, so these small whiptails can be handy to have around if you have a pest problem.
The Six-Lined Racerunner lives up to its name, clocking speeds at up to 18 miles per hour! They have no problem outmaneuvering predators and curious humans!
#2. Little Striped Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis inornata
- 2 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- 6 to 8 stripes range in color from pale yellow to white, and dark fields are brownish-green to black.
- The tail is bluish-purple near the tip, with the coloring brighter in males.
- Blue coloring on the belly is darker toward the tail, fading to light blue or white near the throat.
The Little Striped Whiptail Lizard prefers prairie grassland but is also found in shrubby desert areas in southwest Texas.
It eats insects and their larvae, and also spiders – including tarantulas! This species may be one of the smallest whiptail lizards in Texas, but it’s brave when it comes to dinnertime!
Because of overgrazing and human development of its habitat, the Little Striped Whiptail population is in decline throughout its range.
#3. Common Spotted Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis gularis
- 2.25 to 4.25 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- The coloring of the body is greenish, sometimes brown. There are 7 or 8 light stripes on the back.
- In the dark stripes, white to yellow-brown spots are present.
- The tail is brown, sometimes with a reddish tint.
Common Spotted Whiptails in Texas are prevalent in prairie grassland and riverbank habitats.
They eat insects like termites, grasshoppers, and moths, as well as spiders.
These whiptail lizards have one of the longest tails in their family! Its tail is often more than three times the length of its body.
Your chances of finding a Common Spotted Whiptail are good because they are not very skittish. You may also know this species by its other common name, the Texas Spotted Whiptail.
#4. Common Checkered Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis tesselata
- 2.5 to 4.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- The upper body is cream or pale yellow, with bold, black markings in the shape of a checkerboard pattern.
- 6 or more pale stripes are visible on the back.
- The belly is off-white with few markings, and the tail is usually brownish, with the checkerboard pattern continuing.
Common Checkered Whiptails live in western Texas in flatlands, canyon slopes, and bluffs. Typically, they can be found around creosote brush or trees like willows, pinion, juniper, and cottonwoods.
Common Checkered Whiptails eat insects, spiders, and centipedes, providing pest control for their habitats!
The origin of this lizard species is an interesting one. Even though it’s an all-female species, most scientists agree it’s actually the result of two whiptail species interbreeding!
#5. Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis exsanguis
- 2.5 to 4 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- 6 light stripes run down the back from head to tail.
- Dark fields are brown or reddish-brown, with light yellow spots.
- Toward the base of the tail and on the hind legs, the spots may be brighter yellow.
The Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail is at home in canyon bottoms throughout oak and pine forests. However, it sometimes ranges into desert grasslands and scrublands.
Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail Lizards eat insects, spiders, and even scorpions! The easiest way for you to identify this species is by its location since its appearance can vary depending on where it lives.
Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptails are fast and skittish and will run into rodent burrows at the first sign of a threat. So, you’ll have to be quick to catch a glance!
#6. Marbled Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis marmorata
- Up to 4.25 inches long from snout to vent, with a total length is 8 to 12 inches.
- The coloring is uniform brown or brownish gray.
- Light stripes or bars sometimes break the dark fields into a marbled or checked pattern.
- The belly is light cream or pale yellow with black flecks.
You are likely to find Marbled Whiptail Lizards in western Texas in desert flats or other sandy, open areas.
They eat insects, including termites, beetles, and ants.
If you come across a Marbled Whiptail, the tail coloring is one way to identify whether it’s an adult or a juvenile. Hatchlings and younger individuals have a bright blue tail, which is easy to spot.
The two subspecies of the Marbled Whiptail, the Eastern and Western varieties, are similar in size but have different markings. Eastern Marbled Whiptails are often striped, while Western Marbled Whiptails show more of a barred, checkerboard pattern.
#7. Gray Checkered Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis dixoni
- 2.5 to 4.25 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloring is grayish toward the head and orange-brown toward the tail.
- Rows of dark square spots line the back, giving this lizard its characteristic “gray checkered” appearance.
- Orange-brown coloring on the back usually extends to the tail.
This species is one of the most challenging species of whiptails to find in Texas.
They prefer sandy or gravelly soil and are seldom found in developed areas or on popular trails. In addition, their range is so small that they’ve only been located in two counties in the US!
They are also fast, alert, and wary of danger, darting around and pausing for only moments to capture an insect or look around. If you find one and are quick enough to take a photo, consider yourself a first-rate herpetologist (or very lucky)!
#8. Plateau Spotted Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis scalaris
- Up to 4.25 inches long from snout to vent with a total length is 8 to 12.5 inches.
- Coloring is brownish-green with rusty orange at the base of the tail.
- Light stripes run down the back but end before the tail.
- The middle stripe is often wavy and obscured by spots.
Plateau Spotted Whiptail Lizards have a small range in Texas.
If you find yourself in southwest Texas, look for them in mountains, desert foothills, and canyons with sparse plant life.
Unlike other whiptail species, they are dietary generalists and will eat insects as well as flowers and leaves. They are even known to eat dandelions!
The Plateau Spotted Whiptail Lizard is ONLY found in the Big Bend region of Texas in the US. Despite its small range, its population is abundant. You may even see one on a suburban sidewalk during daylight hours!
#9. New Mexico Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis neomexicana
- 2.5 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- 6 or 7 light lines extend from the neck to the tail. The middle line is forked toward the neck.
- The coloring of the dark fields is often dark brown to black.
- The tail, chin, and sometimes feet are greenish-blue.
Look for New Mexico Whiptail Lizards in southwest Texas in areas with loose, sandy soil and scattered yucca or mesquite trees.
They eat grasshoppers, beetles, termites, and spiders.
Like many other species of whiptails, this species is all female. However, they’re unique because even though they don’t actually mate, they still perform mating rituals with other female lizards! This is thought to be necessary to stimulate ovulation in New Mexico Whiptails.
Do you need additional help identifying whiptail lizards?
Try this field guide!
Which of these whiptail lizards have you seen in Texas?
Leave a comment below!