Online Field Guide to The Reptiles and Amphibians of Arizona

Gila Spotted Whiptail (Aspidoscelis flagellicauda) Arizona
Gila County, AZ

 GILA SPOTTED WHIPTAIL  Aspidoscelis flagellicauda  

DESCRIPTION: A medium-sized (up to 99 mm or 3.9″ from snout to vent), slim, brown to black lizard with a long, thin tail, and a slim, pointed snout. The body is marked with six light yellow or cream stripes and relatively few light spots. The light spots are visible between and within the stripes. The tail is olive to blue-brown. The underside is plain and pale. Juveniles lack spots. The scales on the body are small and granular. The scales on the tail are large, keeled, and rectangular. The belly scales are large, smooth, and rectangular and the scales on top of the head are large, smooth, and plate-like. The Gila Spotted Whiptail’s distinct stripes (particularly on the neck) and relatively spare spotting distinguish it from the similar looking Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail.

DISTRIBUTION: This lizard is distributed across central Arizona’s Mogollon Rim country. It is also found in some of the sky island ranges of southeastern Arizona including the Santa Catalinas, Galiuros, Pinaleños, and Chiricahuas. In our state it is found at elevations ranging from about 4,000′ to 6,500′.

HABITAT: Primarily an inhabitant of Great Basin Conifer Woodland, Interior Chaparral, and Madrean Evergreen Woodland communities. Its range also extends into the lower reaches of Petran Montane Conifer Forest and follows drainages and riparian corridors down into Semidesert Grassland. Usually found in relatively open and sunny areas, often along the banks of creeks and rivers.

BEHAVIOR: This is an alert, diurnal, fast-moving ground-dweller. It is often encountered foraging or basking in the mid-morning sun. It hibernates during fall and winter.

DIET: It actively forages for a variety of insects and spiders by rooting around in organic matter under bushes and digging in the soil around the bases of rocks, and other surface debris.

REPRODUCTION: All Gila Spotted Whiptails are female (parthenogenetic). Eggs are unfertilized and hatchlings are clones of the mother. Clutches of 2 to 6 eggs are laid in late spring or summer.

By Thomas C. Brennan

Brennan, T. C., & A. T. Holycross. 2006. A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish Department. Phoenix, AZ

Brennan, T. C., & A. T. Holycross. 2005. A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Maricopa County. Arizona Game and Fish Department. Phoenix, AZ

Degenhardt, W. G., Painter, C. W., and Price, A. H.. 1996. Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque.

Stebbins, R.C. 2003. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Gila Spotted Whiptail (Aspidoscelis flagellicauda) Arizona Range Map


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