Zebra-tailed Lizard

The zebra-tailed lizard (Callisaurus draconoides) gets its common name from its long, flat tail with white and black crossbars. When alarmed this fast runner will often curl its tail upwards, exposing the black and white bars, and will also wag the tail. It continues this behavior while running. The tactic may concentrate a predator’s attention on the tail which, if broken off in an attack, can regrow.

Zebra-tailed lizards are pale and thin with very long legs. In addition to having a distinctive tail, this reptile is grey or light brown above with light spots. The color is darker during low temperatures and lighter with very high temperatures. There is pale yellow or orange coloring on the sides. The center of the throat has a pink or orange spot. Their lower jaws are countersunk to make burrowing into loose or sandy soil to rest easier. The male has two dark bars on the sides of the mid-belly and during the breeding season he develops a patch of blue-green coloring around the bars. Because there is a lack of bars on the sides and belly I believe this specimen is a female.

Zebra-tailed lizards are diurnal and tolerant of high temperatures. Their diet consists of small invertebrates (spiders, insects), small lizards and occasionally vegetation. Their habitat is open sandy washes and desert pavement where the vegetation is scarce and widespread. They can be found in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona as well as Baja California.

The genus name comes from Greek and means beautiful lizard (kalos/beautiful, saurus/lizard). The “similarity” of zebra-tailed lizards to dragons is reflected in the specific epithet, also from Greek. “Draco”means dragon and “eldos” means similar to.

This zebra-tailed lizard was photographed near the Keane Wonder Mine in Death Valley National Park CA. I barely had time to get a couple photographs as it does move quickly.

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