Zebra-Tailed Lizard Callisaurus draconoides

While they are much more prevalent in Arizona, there are a good number of zebra-tailed lizards on the east side of the Colorado River in the Mojave Desert.
Known by their scientific name Callisaurus draconoides, zebra-tailed lizards  are medium-sized as lizards go, up to 4 inches from snout to vent. They are  tan to yellowish, with long, slender limbs and a flattened tail. Two longitudinal rows of small gray-brown spots run down the middle of their backs. The upper surfaces of the body are often marked with numerous cream spots or flecks. The back of each thigh is marked with a distinct, dark, horizontal line. The tail is marked with gray-brown bands that become black on the underside where they sharply contrast with the white background. The groin and lower sides are often tinted yellow. There are two dark bars on each side of the belly that extend up onto the sides just behind the forelimbs. On males the belly bars are surrounded by patches of blue and sometimes yellow and orange. A pink or peach spot often marks the throat. On females bars are faint or lacking. The body scales are small and granular. The external ear openings and forward position of its side bars distinguish this lizard from the similar looking greater earless lizard.
These lizards inhabit desert flatlands but can range up to elevations around 5,000 feet. They are most likely encountered in areas with sandy soil and plenty of open space in which to run as well as washes within foothills and bajadas.
The zebra-tailed lizard hibernates underground during the cold months of winter and late fall. In the summer it will periodically sleep in the open  on warm nights.  When approached by a predator it often curls and wags its tail over the back exposing the black and white “zebra stripes.” This bold action lets the predator know what it is dealing with. Many predators will then give up on seeking to catch it, knowing that zebra-tailed lizards are incredibly speedy creatures, able to dart so quickly that they cannot be visually tracked by many animals.  Because of their highly coordinated bipedal locomotion, the average speed of a fleeing zebra-tailed lizard is 280 inches per second (16.1 miles per hour) with a maximum of 378 inches per second (21.7 mph).
When moving at a high rate of speed, the zebra-tailed lizard runs with its tail curled over its back. If a predator happens to snag the tail, because of the lizard’s explosive speed, it will break off. But this lizard’s tail can be regenerated.
Both males and females are territorial and exhibit head bobbing, push-ups, and lateral compression of the body when outsiders approach.
They rise early and are active in all but the hottest weather.
The zebra-tailed lizard feasts on a variety of insects, including grasshoppers, bees, wasps, caterpillars, beetles, and ants. It also feeds on a variety of spiders, small lizards, and occasionally plant material. They will sit patiently and await prey to come to them.  These lizards have been observed remaining motionless for 9 hours and 51 minutes during a ten hour period, simply waiting for an insect to chance into their field of view.
Zebra-tailed lizards are a thermophilic species, meaning they require high temperatures to develop.  They will alternately bask in the sun or seek shade, having a mean body temperature of 100.8°F, and a median temperature of 102.6°F.
The Zebra-tailed Lizard mates in spring and lays one or more clutches of eggs in summer. Clutch size ranges from 1 to 15 eggs. Hatchlings begin to emerge in July. Half of the females lay more than one clutch a year.

Leave a Reply