Featured Critter – Whiptail Lizards

Whiptails are slender lizards with pointed snouts and long tails. These lizards primarily eat insects but will eat other small reptiles and birds. The whiptails in the area are all female. They reproduce by a process known as obligate parthenogenesis, meaning they reproduce without involving a male. Research has shown that the lizards that reproduce in this manner start the reproductive process with twice the number of chromosomes as their sexually reproducing cousins.

There are five different species of whiptail common in the local Los Alamos area (Aspidoscelis exsanguis – Chihuahuan spotted, Aspidoscelis tesselatus – common checkered, Aspidoscelis inornatus – little striped, Aspidoscelis neomexicanus – New Mexican, and Aspidoscelis velox – plateau striped).  The New Mexican is the state reptile of New Mexico. The different whiptail species in the area all have slightly different coloring and strip patterns. Take a look at the whiptail Featured Critter Guide for photos to help you distinguish the different species. 

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