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Mojave River Valley Museum
Mohahve Historical Society
Family: Phrynosomatidae Order: Squamata Class: Reptilia
DISTRIBUTION, ABUNDANCE, AND SEASONALITY
The zebra-tailed lizard is common and widely distributed throughout the Mojave, Sonoran
and Colorado deserts and its range extends north into the southern Great Basin. Found at
elevations up to 1520 m (5000 ft) (Macey and Papenfuss 1991). Frequents sandy and gravelly
and alluvial plains in a variety of desert woodland
desert scrub habitats.
Occasionally occurs in rocky areas, but seems to prefer flats dominated by scrub vegetation.
Commonly found along the margins of
however seems not to prefer extensively sandy
habitats (Stebbins 1954, Pianka and Parker 1972, Tanner and Krogh 1975). In areas of
this lizard appears to reach highest densities, 12-15 per ha (4.8-6.0 per ac)
(Tanner and Krogh 1975). This lizard appears early in the spring, usually by mid-March
near California City, and is active in decreasing numbers through early fall.
Fitch, H. S. 1970. Reproductive cycles in lizards and snakes. Univ. Kans. Mus. Nat. Hist. Misc. Publ. 52:1-247. Macey, J. R. and T. J. Papenfuss. 1991. Reptiles. Pages 291-360 in C.A. Hall, Jr., editor. Natural History of the White-Inyo Range eastern California. Univ. Calif. Press, Berkeley, California. 536 pp.
Miller, A. H., and R. C. Stebbins. 1964. The lives of desert animals in Joshua Tree National Monument. Univ. California Press, Berkeley. 452pp.
Pianka, E. R., and W. S. Parker. 1972. Ecology of the iguanid lizard Callisaurus draconoides. Copeia 1972:493-508.
Stebbins, R. C. 1954. Amphibians and reptiles of western North America. McGraw-Hill, New York. 536pp.
Tanner. W. W., and J. E. Krogh. 1975. Ecology of the zebra-tailed lizard Callisaurus draconoides at the Nevada Test Site. Herpetologica 31:302-316.
California Department of Fish and Game. California Interagency Wildlife Task Group. 2005. California Wildlife Habitat Relationships version 8.1 personal computer program. Sacramento, California.
These very fast lizards are easily identified by their black stripped "zebra tail." When agitated the lizards wave their very prominent tail, and it is thought that this provides protection. When predators go after a Zebra-Tail they often see the tail, so this is the point of attack. If that is the body part they grab it simply falls off, and the lizard escapes having lost a tail but not its life. You can often get surprisingly close to a Zebra-tailed Lizard. They will stand high on their legs as you approach, sometimes doing a couple of "push-ups" with their front legs. But when you finally are close enough to scare them off, they dash away with a blur. Look for them in sandy washes.
Zebra-tailed Lizard Picture Slideshow
Size: 2.5-4 in (6.2-10 cm)
Distinguishing characters: A long legged species with a flat tail; dark bands on underside of white tail and black belly markings at or anterior to midpoint of body; granular dorsal scales; gular fold; diagonal furrows separating upperlabials; grey dorsum with dusky markings, yellow on sides; light venter with pinkish or orange spot on throat.
Juveniles: Similar to adults.
Dimorphism: Male has enlarged postanal scales and more prominent belly markings.
Similar species: Phrynosoma coronatum: Only other lizard with flat tail, but has spines on head and body. Uta stansburiana: Lacks the dark bars under tail, and has blue-black side blotch.
Quick runner, and will raise and wave tail when confronted and ready to escape.