CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard -
Callisaurus draconoides myurus

Richardson, 1915
Click on a picture for a larger view



Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard California Range Map
Potential Range in California: Red


observation link





Possibly occurring in California - all pictures are of Nevada lizards
Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard
Adult male, Washoe County, Nevada Adult female, Washoe County, Nevada Juvenile, Washoe County, Nevada
Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard
Adult, Washoe County, Nevada Adult male, Douglas County, Nevada
© John Stephenson
Adult, Washoe County, Nevada
Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard
Adult male, in normal pose (left) changing to defensive pose (right)
Lyon County, Nevada © Greg Buchanok
Adult male, Washoe County, Nevada
© Jackson Shedd
Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard
Adult, Washoe County, Nevada
Adult, Washoe County, Nevada
Adult male, Washoe County, Nevada
Northern Zebra-tailed Lizards Great Basin Collared Lizard  
Adult Female (in back) and Male, Lyon County, Nevada © Greg Buchanok

Zebra-tailed Lizards, genus Callisaurus, have smooth granular scales above.  
Nevada Habitat
Habitat, Washoe County, Nevada

Habitat, Washoe County, Nevada Habitat, Washoe County, Nevada
Short Videos
Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard  
Female zebra-tailed lizards in the
Nevada desert.
A male zebra-tailed lizard in the
Nevada desert.
 
Description
 
Size
2.5 - 4 inches from snout to vent (6 - 10 cm), up to almost 9 inches including tail.

Appearance
A pale thin lizard with very long legs and a long flat tail with black crossbars.
Scales are granular.
Color and Pattern
Gray or light brown above with light spots and paired dark blotches, which are more distinct on females.
As with many lizards, the coloring is darker during lower temperatures, and lighter with very high temperatures.
Dark crossbars or bands on the tail become very distinct black and white underneath.
This black and white zebra-like pattern gives this lizard its name.
There is pale yellow and orange coloring on the sides.
Male / Female Differences
Males have two dark bars and develop a patch of blue-green coloring on the sides of the mid belly, which is visible when viewed from the side, during the breeding season.
Dark belly markings are faint or absent on females.

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Diurnal.
Tolerant of high temperatures.
Often seen basking on rocks, even on extremely hot afternoons.
A countersunk lower jaw makes it easier for this lizard to burrow into loose or sandy soil to rest.
Defense
Capable of running very fast (possibly the fastest lizard in the desert) facilitated by long legs and streamlined body.
After speeding away, this lizard sometimes stops far ahead in the open, but it will also run to the far side of a bush, out of view, or into a bush or burrow for protection.
Before running, a lizard may curl the tail up towards the back, exposing the black and white bars, and wag it nervously, then continue this behavior while running and after stopping.
This tail display tactic concentrates a predator's attention on the tail, which, if attacked and broken off, can grow back.
Diet and Feeding
Small invertebrates such as insects and spiders, small lizards, occasional plant material.
Breeding
Mates in Spring, lays eggs June - August.

Geographical Range
This subspecies occurs in Nevada not far from the California border north of Honey Lake, where it might occur in washes along the border near Smoke Creek.

C. draconoides ranges throughout the Mojave and Colorado Deserts up to the desert slopes of the Peninsular and Transverse Mountains, and from the Owens Valley north along the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Found on the coastal slopes of the mountains at San Jacinto Wash and Cajon Wash. Ranges outside California north into northern Nevada, east into extreme southwest Utah, south through Arizona and extreme southwest New Mexico, to Baja California and the west coast of Mexico.

Full Species Range Map
Habitat
Open sandy desert washes, desert pavement, and hard pan, with scant widely-spaced vegetation and open areas. Sometimes found in wind-blown sand dunes near hard-packed ground.

Notes on Taxonomy
Some experts do not recognize any subspecies of Callisaurus draconoides.

Others recognize three subspecies occurring in the United States:
C. d. rhodostictus
, Western Zebra-tailed Lizard
C. d. myurus
- Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard
C. d. ventralis - Eastern (or Arizona) Zebra-tailed Lizard

Some experts classify this lizard as Callisaurus draconoides draconoides - Common Zebra-tailed Lizard.


Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Callisaurus draconoides draconoides - Common Zebra-tailed Lizard (Stebbins 1985, 2003)
Callisaurus draconoides - Zebra-tailed Lizard (Stebbins 1966)
Callisaurus draconoides myurus - Gridiron-tailed Lizard (Smith 1946)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None
Taxonomy
Family Phrynosomatidae Zebra-tailed, Earless, Fringe-toed, Spiny, Tree, Side-blotched, and Horned Lizards Fitzinger, 1843
Genus Callisaurus Zebra-tailed Lizards Blainville, 1835
Species draconoides Zebra-tailed Lizard Blainville, 1835
Subspecies

myurus Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard Richardson, 1915
Original Description
Callisaurus draconoides - Blainville, 1835 - Nouv. Ann. Mus. Hist. Nat. Paris, Vol. 4, p. 286, pl. 24, fig. 2
Callisaurus draconoides myurus - Richardson, 1915 - Proc. U.S. Natl. Mus., Vol. 48, p. 408

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

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Callisaurus - Greek kalos beautiful and saurus lizard - "we have given the name Callisaurus to indicate the extreme beauty of this little animal."
draconoides
- Greek draco dragon and -eidos similarity to a - the species of true dragons
myurus - Greek - mouse tail - possibly referring to the ratio length of body to tail.

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

Related or Similar California Lizards
C. d. rhodostictus - Western Zebra-tailed Lizard

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.


Conservation Status

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


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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