“How many WHIPTAIL lizards are there in Utah?”
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 2 kinds of whiptail lizards in Utah.
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#1. Western Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis tigris
- 2.5 to 5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Body coloring is gray-brown to yellowish, with dark bars or spots that form a web-like pattern.
- Skin folds are present on the neck, making the throat appear wrinkled.
- Rust-colored patches are often present on the sides of the belly.
You can find Western Whiptail Lizards in Utah in sandy, rocky, or firmly packed soil.
Their habitat preferences range from open forest to arid scrubland. Western Whiptails eat other lizards, scorpions, spiders, termites, and beetles. As you can see, this lizard is anything but picky!
Their physical characteristics and habitats are so varied that there are sixteen distinct subspecies! As you can see in the map above, five of the subspecies are present throughout the Southwest.
#2. Plateau Striped Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis velox
- 2.5 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- 6 or 7 light stripes run down the back, with dark stripes in-between, ranging from black to dark brown.
- The tail is bright, royal blue in young lizards, and fades to light blue in adults.
- The belly is pale, buff, or white, with a light-blue mark on the chin or throat sometimes present.
In southeastern Utah, you can typically spot Plateau Striped Whiptails in mountain forests of pine, juniper, oak, and fir trees.
They eat insects like termites, beetles, and grasshoppers, as well as spiders.
The Plateau Striped Whiptail Lizard’s most interesting feature is how it reproduces: the species is all-female!
Nesting adults lay unfertilized eggs, which grow and hatch as genetic clones of the mother. This lizard wins the award for self-sufficiency!
Do you need additional help identifying whiptail lizards?
Try this field guide!
Which of these whiptail lizards have you seen in Utah?
Leave a comment below!