Online Field Guide to The Reptiles and Amphibians of Arizona

Sonoran Spotted Whiptail (Aspidoscelis sonorae) Arizona
Pima County, AZ

 SONORAN SPOTTED WHIPTAIL  Aspidoscelis sonorae  

DESCRIPTION: A small to medium-sized (up to 89 mm or 3.5″ 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 yellow to cream stripes and relatively few light spots. There area between the two central dorsal stripes usually lacks spots. The tail is olive to 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. The scales on top of the head are large, smooth, and plate-like. The Sonoran Spotted Whiptail’s distinct stripes (particularly on the neck) and relatively spare spotting distinguish it from the similar looking Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail. Its olive-brown tail and lack of spots between the two central dorsal stripes distinguish the Sonoran Spotted Whiptail from the similar looking Canyon Spotted Whiptail.

DISTRIBUTION: This lizard is distributed across southeastern Arizona. Its range extends west to the Baboquivari Mountains and north into the Santa Catalinas. In our state it is found at elevations ranging from about 3,000′ to over 7,000′.

HABITAT: Inhabits communities ranging from Semidesert Grassland, through Madrean Evergreen Woodland, to Petran Montane Conifer Forest. It also follows riparian corridors down into Chihuahuan Desertscrub and Arizona Upland Sonoran Desertscrub in some areas. Found in a variety of terrain types including steep rugged canyons, rolling wooded hills, and relatively flat, open, low valleys. Often encountered along drainages and riparian corridors.

BEHAVIOR: This is an alert, diurnal, fast-moving ground-dweller. It is often encountered foraging or basking in the mid-morning sun. Adults often go into hibernation in late summer. Juveniles remain active until fall. Both adults and juveniles emerge from hibernation in spring.

DIET: It actively forages by rooting around in organic matter under bushes and by digging in the soil around the bases of rocks and other surface debris. It feeds on termites, spiders, beetles, ants, grasshoppers, and other invertebrates.

REPRODUCTION: All Sonoran Spotted Whiptails are female (parthenogenetic). Eggs are unfertilized and hatchlings are clones of the mother. Clutches of 1 to 7 eggs are laid in late spring or summer. Hatchlings begin to appear in late July.

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

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

Lazaroff, D. W., P. C. Rosen, and C. H. Lowe. 2006. Amphibians, Reptiles, and Their Habitats at Sabino Canyon. University of Arizona Press. Tucson, AZ

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

Sonoran Spotted Whiptail (Aspidoscelis sonorae) Arizona Range Map

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