The Coming of the Clones
Not too threatening - unless you're a bug
While hiking on the Mountain Loop Trail on South Mountain I came across this little Western whiptail sunning on a rock. This is a sure sign of spring as you don’t lizards when it’s cold. She didn’t seem to mind me staring as long as I didn’t get too close, so I took some photos. There are quite a number of whiptail species and they are common throughout the Sonoran Desert region. This little one was just about 7 inches long, so not too threatening to a big person like me. I seem to see these lizards on many hikes, and we have a population that lives in our yard as well. The majority of the Arizona species of whiptails are parthenogenetic, meaning they reproduce asexually. Each female can produce viable eggs genetically identical to her own cells, creating a population of clones. (You have to wonder how they adapt to changes in their environment. Perhaps they have more tricks we don’t know about.) They eat insects, spiders and scorpions – and rather than lying in wait for something to come by, whiptails are active foragers. You will hear them under a shrub flailing around in the dry leaf litter to uncover something tasty. Or you might see one of these lizards doing push ups on a hot rock in the middle of the day. Head bobs, push ups, inflation of the body or throat, lunging and chasing are all behaviors that various species of lizards use to communicate with each other. These are unique and beautiful critters and we can be glad they are out in numbers keeping the bug population in check.
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