CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Great Basin Whiptail - Aspidoscelis tigris tigris

(Baird and Girard, 1852)

(= Cnemidophorus tigris tigris)
Click on a picture for a larger view



Tiger Whiptails California Range MapRange in California: Red

Click the map for a guide
to the other subspecies



observation link





Great Basin Whiptail
Adult, Kern County
Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail
Adult, Inyo County Adult, San Diego County Adult, Inyo County Adult, Inyo County
Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail
Adult, San Diego County Adult, Kern County Adult, San Diego County Adult, Kern County
Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail
Adult, San Bernardino County
© Jeff Ahrens
Adult with a faded pattern, Imperial County © Keith Condon Adult with pink and tan coloration, Imperial County © Adam Clause
Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Western Side-blotched Lizards
Adult male, Mono County
© Adam Clause
Adult male, Mono County
© Adam Clause
Tiny juvenile, aprox. 2 inches long snout-to-vent, Imperial County © Karyn Sieglitz Adult, Kern County © Lou Silva
Great Basin Whiptail
Adult, San Bernardino County © Mike Ryan
Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail eye Great Basin Whiptail eye
These pictures of a freshly road-killed Imperial County adult serve as a good illustration of this lizard's large belly scales, very long taill, and pale throat. In these pictures you can see this lizards transparent lower eyelid -
It is open on the left
It is closed on the right.
Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail tracks Great Basin Collared Lizard  
This Great Basin Whiptail from Riverside County has an abnormal forked tail, probably resulting from an injury.
© Dan Schroeter
Whiptail Tracks in sand Whiptails, genus Aspidoscelis, have small granular dorsal scales.  
 
Great Basin Whiptails From Outside California
Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail
  Adult, Washoe County, Nevada  
Great Basin Whiptail      
Juvenile, Washoe Co., Nevada      
       
Predation
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Roadrunner with a whiptail in its bill.
A Long-nosed Snake eating a Great Basin Whiptail  © Lynette Schimming. Roadrunners prey on whiptails and other lizards. This one has caught a Desert Grassland Whiptail in Arizona.
       
Habitat
Great Basin Whiptail Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Great Basin Whiptail Habitat Great Basin Whiptail Habitat
Habitat, Inyo County Habitat, San Diego County
Habitat, Inyo County Habitat during Spring wildflower bloom, San Diego County
Great Basin Whiptail Habitat Great Basin Whiptail Habitat Great Basin Whiptail Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat
Habitat, Inyo County Habitat, San Bernardino County Habitat, Riverside County
Habitat, Imperial County desert
Great Basin Whiptail Habitat Great Basin Whiptail Habitat Great Basin Whiptail Habitat Great Basin Whiptail Habitat
Habitat, Kern County
Habitat, Inyo County Habitat, Great Basin desert,
4,000 ft., Lassen County
Habitat, rocky wash, Inyo County
Desert Tortoise Habitat Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat Western Side-blotched Lizard Habitat
Habitat in Spring, Kern County
© Lou Silva
Habitat, Kern County Habitat, Inyo County Habitat, Inyo County
       
Short Videos
Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail
A noosed whiptail is released, but decides not to move until prodded and then it disappears in a flash. A Great Basin Whiptail climbs up into a desert shrub to search for food. Two Great Basin Whiptails forage along the ground and on a rock outcrop with their characteristic slow and jerky movement.
Views of a couple of Great Basin Whiptails in the desert.
       
Description
 
Size
Aspidoscelis tigris as a species is 2 3/8 - 5 inches inches long snout to vent (6 - 12.7 cm), up to around 13 inches (33 cm) total length.

Appearance
A slim-bodied lizard with a long slender tail, a pointed snout, and large symmetrical head plates.
Scales on the back are small and granular, and scales on the tail are keeled
The belly is made of large, smooth, rectangular scales in 8 lengthwise rows.
The tail can reach up to two times the length of the body.
Color and Pattern
The back and sides are grey, tan, or brown, marked with dark spots or bars or mottling, which is often very sharply defined. Dark marks on the sides often form vertical bars. Usually 4 faint light stripes are present along the back.
These stripes fade with age.
Often there are reddish patches on the sides of the belly.
The throat is pale with with obscure black spots.
The tail tip is dark or bluish.
Young
Juveniles have fairly well-defined stripes.
In the San Diego area, juveniles are spotted.
The tail tip is bright blue on juveniles.

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Diurnal.
Wary and very active, moving with abrupt stops and starts, side-to-side head movement, and tongue flicking.
Often seen digging rapidly when foraging.
Difficult to approach - typically foraging near cover, and capable of quick bursts of speed into heavy brush or holes.
Diet and Feeding
Eats small invertebrates, especially spiders, scorpions, centipedes, and termites, and small lizards.

A Great Basin Whiptail was observed catching and consuming a Sagebrush Lizard in Inyo County.
(Herpetological Review 38(4), 2007)
Breeding
Unlike some species of whiptails which are all females, there are male and female western whiptails.
Males and females mate, usually beginning in May in the southern part of their range or in June in the northern part of the range, with females laying eggs in May or June.
Females lay one clutch of eggs per year.
Eggs hatch from June to August.

Habitat
Found in a variety of ecosystems, primarily hot and dry open areas with sparse foliage - deserts, chaparral, sagebrush, woodland, and riparian areas. Avoids areas with dense growth.

Geographical Range
In California, this subspecies ranges from the Great Basin deserts in the north - the Honey Lake Basin and the Surprise Valley - east of the Sierras into the Mojave and Colorado Deserts.

The species (Aspidoscelis tigris) ranges from North-central Oregon and southern Idaho, south through California and Nevada to Baja California, and east into Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico and south into Sonora and Sinaloa, Mexico.

Full Species Range Map
Elevational Range
The species is found at sea level to 7,000 ft. (2,130 m). This subspecies may differ somewhat.

Notes on Taxonomy

Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Cnemidophorus tigris tigris - Great Basin Whiptail (Stebbins 2003)
Cnemidophorus tessselatus tesselatus - Common Tesselated Racerunner (Smith 1946)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None
Taxonomy
Family Teiidae Whiptails and Racerunners Gray, 1827
Genus Aspidoscelis Whiptails (formerly Cnemidophorus) Fitzinger, 1843
Species tigris Tiger Whiptail (Baird and Girard, 1852)
Subspecies

tigris Great Basin Whiptail (Baird and Girard, 1852)
Original Description
(Cnemidophorus tigris - Baird and Girard, 1852 - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 6, p. 69)

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Aspidoscelis = "shield-leg" from the Ancient Greek aspido- ("shield") and skelos ("leg").

from Wickipedia

tigris
- Latin - of a tiger - refers to the dorsal pattern

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Related or Similar California Lizards
California Whiptail - A. t. munda
San Diegan Tiger Whiptail - A. t. stejnegeri
Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail - Aspidoscelis hyperythra beldingi

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Turtles and Lizards of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Jones, Lawrence, Rob Lovich, editors. Lizards of the American Southwest: A Photographic Field Guide. Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2009.

Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Lizards, Lizards of the United States and of Canada. Cornell University Press, 1946.

Brown et. al. Reptiles of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon Society,1995.

Nussbaum, R. A., E. D. Brodie Jr., and R. M. Storm. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. Moscow, Idaho: University Press of Idaho, 1983.

St. John, Alan D. Reptiles of the Northwest: Alaska to California; Rockies to the Coast. Lone Pine Publishing, 2002.

Brennan, Thomas C., and Andrew T. Holycross. Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish Department, 2006.

Degenhardt, William G., Charles W. Painter, & Andrew H. Price. Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

Williamson, Michael A., Paul W. Hyder, & John S. Applegarth. Snakes, Lizards, Turtles, Frogs, Toads & Salamanders of New Mexico. Sunstone Press, 1994.

Conservation Status

The following status listings are copied from the 2017 Special Animals List and the 2017 Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either CDFW list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status, you can go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.

Check here to see the most current complete lists.


This animal is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.



Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking
NatureServe State Ranking
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN


 

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