Online Field Guide to The Reptiles and Amphibians of Arizona

Plateau Striped Whiptail (Aspidoscelis velox) Arizona
Gila County, AZ

 PLATEAU STRIPED WHIPTAIL  Aspidoscelis velox  

DESCRIPTION: A small (up to 85 mm or 3.3″ from snout to vent), slim, dark brown to black lizard with a long, thin tail, and a slim, pointed snout. The body is marked with six or seven yellow to cream stripes. When present the (seventh) mid-dorsal stripe is thin and muted or discontinuous. The tail is light blue. The underside is plain and pale. Juveniles have a bright blue tail. 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. Its lack of spots distinguishes this lizard from many Arizona whiptails. Its distinctly blue tail coloration distinguishes it from the similar looking Desert Grassland Whiptail. Its lack of blue tinting on the feet and underside distinguish it from the Pai Striped Whiptail.

DISTRIBUTION: This lizard is distributed across northern Arizona’s plateau region. An isolated population exists in the Pinal Mountains of Gila County. In our state it is found at elevations ranging from about 3,900′ to 8,000′.

HABITAT: A wide variety of communities are inhabited including Great Basin Desertscrub, Plains and Great Basin Grassland, Great Basin Conifer Woodland, and Petran Montane Conifer Forest. Found in an equally wide variety of terrain types including open flatlands, riparian corridors, bajadas, wooded foothills, canyons, and slopes.

BEHAVIOR: This is an alert, diurnal, fast-moving ground-dweller. It is an extremely active lizard that spends nearly all of its waking hours in motion foraging and moving between sun and shade for thermoregulation. It hibernates during the cold months of fall and winter.

DIET: This lizard actively forages by rooting around in organic matter under bushes and by digging in the soil around the bases of rocks, logs, and other surface debris. It has also been observed to forage in low shrubs off the ground. It feeds on a variety of insects and spiders.

REPRODUCTION: All Plateau Striped Whiptails are female (parthenogenetic). Eggs are unfertilized and hatchlings are clones of the mother. Three to 5 eggs are laid in June or July. Hatchlings begin to appear in August.

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.

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

Plateau Striped Whiptail (Aspidoscelis velox) Arizona Range Map


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