Reptile and Amphibian Guide

This guide initially displays common reptiles and amphibians of all shapes. Use the selectors below to view particular shapes, include rare species, or search by name.

Reptiles are a group of vertebrate animals that are cold-blooded, i.e., they regulate their inner body temperature by responding to the temperature of their environment, basking in the sun to warm themselves up or lying in the shade to cool off. Animals in the class Reptilia include snakes, lizards, crocodiles, turtles and tortoises. All of these creatures are covered in scales and breathe air through their lungs throughout their lifetime. In addition, they all produce eggs. Most reptiles lay eggs from which young hatch directly after an incubation period. However, some snakes, including rattlesnakes, carry their eggs internally and then give birth to live young.

Like reptiles, amphibians (frogs, toads, newts, salamanders and worm-like caecilians) are cold-blooded vertebrates. However, unlike reptiles, animals in the class Amphibia do not have scales but rather have skin that is permeable so that molecules and gases can pass through it. In addition, they lay their eggs in water where the young are born as larvae using gills to breath. The larvae grow and change into the adult form. This process includes developing lungs thus allowing the adults to live on land. Amphibians are considered to be the link between fish and reptiles as they were the first animals to leave the water and come onto land.

The question often arises of how to tell the difference between a frog and a toad. Although they are closely related amphibians, there are some features that can be used to distinguish them. Frogs have long hind legs for jumping, moist and usually smooth skin and bulging eyes. In addition, they typically stay in water. Toads have short legs for walking and hopping, dry and bumpy skin and do not have bulging eyes but do have poison glands behind their eyes. They mostly stay on land.

This guide describes the modest number of amphibians and reptiles including two venomous snakes that can be found in Los Alamos and the surrounding areas. An excellent reference for more information is Amphibians and Reptiles of Los Alamos County by Teralene S. Foxx, Timothy K. Haarmann, and David C Keller.

Reptile and Amphibian References

Amphibians and Reptiles of Los Alamos County [PDF]
Bartlett, R.D., Bartlett, P.P., 2013 New Mexico’s Reptiles and Amphibians: A Field Guide. University of NM Press
Biota Information System of New Mexico
Degenhardt, W.G., Painter, C.W., Price, A.H., 2005 Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of NM Press
Encyclopedia of Life
New Mexico Herpetological Society
The Reptile Database

Subject Area Experts (all guides)

Steve Cary (butterflies)
Beth Cortright (insects)
Terry Foxx (invasive plants)
Leslie Hansen (mammals)
Richard Hansen (fish, mammals)
Dorothy Hoard (butterflies, trees)
Chick Keller (flowers, herbarium)
Shari Kelley (geology)
Kirt Kempter (geology)
Garth Tietjen (reptiles)
David Yeamans (birds)

Web Development and Content Management

Pat Bacha
Jennifer Macke
Graham Mark
Akkana Peck


Please contact us for local nature questions and sightings. We welcome comments, corrections, and additions to our guides.

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Showing 5 of 39 reptiles and amphibians.

Photo: juvenile by John Karges


Photo: adult by Jennifer Macke

Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail

(Aspidoscelis exsanguis, Cnemidophorus exsanguis)

Family: Teiidae (Whiptails and Tegus)
Size: 9.5 - 12.4 in (24 - 31 cm)

Status: native; uncommon
Habitat: desert, grassy areas and mountain woodlands
Typical location: White Rock, White Rock Canyon

This lizard is one of the less-common, but is found throughout the county. Three of our local whiptail species, including this one, are all-female (parthenogenetic) so they do not need fertilization to reproduce and lay eggs. Juveniles appear striped, with the characteristic spots becoming more obvious with age.

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Photo: juvenile by Vicente Mata-Silva


Photo: adult by Chick Keller

Common Checkered Whiptail, Diploid Checkered Whiptail

(Aspidoscelis tesselatus, Cnemidophorus tesselatus)

Family: Teiidae (Whiptails and Tegus)
Size: 11 - 15.5 in (28 - 39 cm)

Status: native; uncommon
Habitat: rocky areas on sand or gravel with grass or sparse brush
Typical location: White Rock Canyon

The pattern and base coloration of this lizard varies widely, with brown or black blotching, checkering or striping on a pale yellow or white base color.

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Photo: juvenile by Mitch Chapman


Photo: adult by J.N. Stuart

Little Striped Whiptail, Woodland Striped Whiptail

(Aspidoscelis inornatus, Cnemidophorus inornatus)

Family: Teiidae (Whiptails and Tegus)
Size: 6.5 - 9.4 in (17 - 24 cm)

Status: native; uncommon
Habitat: semiarid grasslands where vegetation is scattered

Has 6 to 8 light stripes separated by dark brown to black bands without spots. The center light stripe is usually lighter and less distinct than the other stripes; this feature distinguishes it from the Plateau Striped Whiptail. Tail is bright blue, particularly in males. Throat and belly intensely blue in males and paler in females. When frightened seeks cover under brush or in burrows.

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New Mexico Whiptail

Photo: Jerry Oldenettel

New Mexico Whiptail

(Aspidoscelis neomexicanus, Cnemidophorus neomexicanus)

Family: Teiidae (Whiptails and Tegus)
Size: 6.5 - 9.1 in (17 - 23 cm)

Status: native; uncommon
Habitat: sandy arroyos and washes and other areas that periodically flood; disturbed areas with sparse vegetation

Has 7 light-colored stripes down the back separated by light-spotted dark bands. Stripes are distinctly wavy or zigzagged. Tail is gray-green towards tip. Throat and belly pale blue to white. This species arose by hybridization of the Little Striped Whiptail (Aspidoscelis inornata) and the Western Whiptail (Aspidoscelis tigris). Three of our local whiptail species, including this one, are all-female (parthenogenetic) so they do not need fertilization to reproduce and lay eggs. The species is the official state reptile of New Mexico.

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Photo: juvenile by Gary Nafis, California Herps


Photo: adult by Selvi Viswanathan

Plateau Striped Whiptail

(Aspidoscelis velox, Cnemidophorus velox)

Family: Teiidae (Whiptails and Tegus)
Size: 8 - 10.8 in (20 - 27 cm)

Status: native; common
Habitat: pine forests at 5,000-6,000 ft (1,600-1,800 m)
Typical location: Los Alamos Plateau, White Rock, White Rock Canyon

There are several similar-looking whiptails in the area, and the most common of them is the Plateau Striped Whiptail. The lizard has six distinct light-colored stripes running from head to tail. The body is black or dark brown, and the end of the tail is blue or greenish-blue (the whole tail of a juvenile is bright blue). Three of our local whiptail species, including this one, are all-female (parthenogenetic) so they do not need fertilization to reproduce and lay eggs. They seek cover under shrubs and actively pursue insects.

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