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Class Reptilia
Order Squamata
Suborder Sauria
Family Teiidae


Aspidoscelis sp.—Whiptails // Aspidoscelis (small)—Small-sized Whiptail // Aspidoscelis (large)—Large-sized Whiptail // Aspidoscelis (A. tigris size)—Western Whiptail Size // Aspidoscelis tigris—Western Whiptail


Synonyms. Cnemidophorus. Reeder, Cole, and Dessauer (2002) assigned North American species north of Mexico that were earlier assigned to Cnemidophorus to the genus Aspidoscelis Fitzinger 1843.

A number of species of whiptail lizards occur in the Southwest, with osteological differences little studied. The various species differ notably in habitat requirements, but most require relatively benign temperature regimes. Asplund (1974) suggested that smaller species tend to inhabit more open habitats while the larger species tend to live in more shaded areas.

Literature. Asplund 1974; Reeder et al. 2002.


Ameivra/Aspidoscelis—Jungle-runner or WhiptailReional distribution of fossil Ameivra/Aspidoscelis sp.

A number of species of Ameivra now occur from South America north into Mexico. Aspidoscelis is common throughout most of our region.


Late Blancan/Irvingtonian: Vallecito Creek, Anza-Borrego Desert (Cassiliano 1999).

Literature. Cassiliano 1999


Aspidoscelis sp.—WhiptailsReional distribution of fossil Aspidoscelis sp.


Late Blancan: California Wash (Lindsay 1984).

Irvingtonian: Elsinore: Microtus/Mammuthus (Bell 1993: cf.).

?Late Irvingtonian/Rancholabrean: Emery Borrow Pit (Jefferson 1991a).

Rancholabrean: Cool Water Coal Gasification Solid Waste Site (Jefferson 1991a); Hoffman Road (Jefferson 2014).

Wisconsin: Costeau Pit (Jefferson 1991a).

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Pintwater Cave (Hockett 2000).

Late Wisconsin: Dark Canyon Cave (Rickart 1977); Desert Almond (Van Devender et al. 1977a); Gypsum Cave (Brattstrom 1954).

Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Balcony Room (UTEP); Deadman Cave (Mead et al. 1984); Fowlkes Cave (Parmley and Bahn 2012); Kokoweef Cave (Reynolds, Reynolds, et al. 1991); Luz Solar Trough (Jefferson 1991a); Solar One (Jefferson 1991a).

Literature. Bell 1993; Brattstrom 1954; Hockett 2000; Jefferson 1991a; Lindsay 1984; Mead et al. 1984; Reynolds, Reynolds, et al. 1991; Parmley and Bahn 2012; Rickart 1977; Van Devender et al. 1977a.


Aspidoscelis sp. (smaller)—Smaller WhiptailReional distribution of fossil Aspidoscelis (smaller)

Van Devender and Worthington (1977) noted a number of elements of Aspidoscelis from Howell's Ridge Cave that were smaller than those of A. tigris, but unidentifiable to species.


Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Howell's Ridge Cave (Van Devender and Worthington 1977).

Literature. Van Devender and Worthington 1977.


Aspidoscelis sp. (large)—Large WhiptailDistribution of fossil Aspidoscelis (large)

Applegarth (1979) inspected 743 identifiable lizard items from Dark Canyon Cave without finding Aspidoscelis, leading him to suggest that Rickart's (1977) record from that cave may have represented contamination from the post-Pleistocene. He also suggested that the apparent absence of whiptails from the Pleistocene of Dark Canyon Cave and Dry Cave "may have been due to a relatively dense growth of grasses at that time" (p. 108).


Mid Wisconsin: U-Bar Cave (Harris 1987).

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Dark Canyon Cave (Rickart 1977); Deadman Cave (Mead et al. 1984).

Literature. Applegarth 1979; Harris 1987; Mead et al. 1984; Rickart 1977.


Aspidoscelis sp. (A. tigris size)—Whiptail (Western Whiptail Size)Regional distribution of fossil Aspidoscelis (tigris size)

Only three whiptail elements from New Mexico seem to surely be Pleistocene in age (assuming Applegarth, 1979, is correct in assigning the Dark Canyon Cave specimen to the post-Pleistocene). The two specimens from the terminal Wisconsin deposits of Dry Cave are large, the size of the Western Whiptail. The U-Bar Cave specimen also is a large whiptail, but is mid-Wisconsin in age. The Pendejo Cave specimens both appear to be intrusive, and a specimen from Balcony Room likely is Holocene.


Mid Wisconsin: U-Bar Cave (Harris 1993c: as Cnemidophorus [large]);

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Pendejo Cave (Harris 2003)

Late Wisconsin: Pendejo Cave (UTEP); TT II (Harris 1993c).

Literature. Applegarth 1979; Harris 1993c, 2003; Jefferson 2014.


Aspidoscelis tigris (Baird & Girard 1852)—Western WhiptailRegional distribution of fossil Aspidoscelis tigris

Aspidoscelis tigris; photo by Carl S. LiebVan Devender and Worthington (1977) identified frontals from Howell's Ridge Cave as certainly A. tigris based on the rugose dorsal surface of the frontals; a number of other elements attributable to the genus were not surely identifiable to species but were consistent in size with this lizard.

Fig. 1. Western Whiptail (Aspidoscelis tigris). Photograph by Carl S. Lieb.


Irvingtonian/Rancholabrean: Cadiz (Jefferson 2014).

Rancholabrean: Mescal Cave (Jefferson 1991a: cf.); Piute Ponds (Jefferson 2014: cf.).

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Diamond Valley (Springer et al. 2009); Rancho La Brea (Brattstrom 1953).

Late Wisconsin: Antelope Cave (Reynolds, Reynolds, Bell, and Pitzer 1991); Maricopa (Jefferson 1991a); Picacho Peak (Van Devender et al. 1991); Tunnel Ridge Midden (Jefferson 1991a); Vulture Cave (Mead and Phillips 1981: cf.); Vulture Canyon (Van Devender et al. 1997a: cf.); Wolcott Peak (Mead and Phillips 1981: cf.).

Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Howell's Ridge Cave (Van Devender and Worthington 1977: cf.).

Literature. Brattstrom 1953; Jefferson 1991a, 2014; Mead 2005; Mead and Phillips 1981; Reynolds, Reynolds, Bell, and Pitzer 1991; Springer et al. 2009; Van Devender and Worthington 1977; Van Devender et al. 1977a.


Last Update: 25 May 2015