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Whiptail: 21 Facts You Won't Believe!

One of the interesting whiptail facts is that it has a tail longer than its body.

Whiptails are a collection of about 150 different species in 18 different genera in the Teiidae family of reptiles. A wide variety of whiptail lizards are found in the continents of North America and South America. They prefer to live in the dry and sunny regions in their geographic range of habitats like the desert, savannas, beaches, forests, and grasslands. They like living in the sun because they're diurnal and that is how they get the energy to forage and feed, mainly on insects. Larger lizards may overheat, so they prefer areas with more shade. Whiptails live and nest in burrows on the ground and reproduce by laying eggs. Perhaps the best thing that whiptails are known for is multiplying through 'parthenogenesis' reproduction, wherein most species, being all-female do not need males to reproduce. Only a few species have males undergo reproduction by mating, although the all-female species also indulge in 'pseudocopulation' wherein a female will mount and bite another whiptail to induce the egg formation process.

For more relatable content, check out these frilled lizard facts and kingsnake facts pages.

Whiptail Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a whiptail?

The whiptail is a lizard. The name whiptail applies to many different species in the Teiidae family.

What class of animal does a whiptail belong to?

The whiptail lizard belongs to the Reptilia class of animals.

How many whiptails are there in the world?

It is unclear how many whiptails are there in the world since there are about 150 species that are known as 'whiptails'.

Where does a whiptail live?

The whiptail lizard is endemic to the continents of North America and South America. The whiptail distribution is extensive over these two continents.

What is a whiptail's habitat?

Most whiptails prefer a habitat of forests, grasslands, deserts, savannas, and even beaches. Whiptails like to live in open and warm habitats of the desert with a lot of direct sunlight. They need the summer sunlight to heat their bodies up for activities. The whiptail range may change because of sunlight. Larger whiptails are present in shaded regions more so that their bodies don't overheat. Smaller whiptails can heat and cool their bodies quickly so they are more comfortable in open areas even in the summer. They live in burrows in the desert ground.

Who do whiptails live with?

Whiptails are mostly solitary creatures. The whiptail life is characterized by foraging alone. They do interact with each other during the breeding season, to maintain territory or compete for mates. But most species of whiptail lizards are all female, so there is no reason for them to compete for mates or territory.

How long does a whiptail live?

Whiptails may live for 7-8 years on average.

How do they reproduce?

Whiptail lizards reproduce either by mating or parthenogenesis (or both) and laying eggs.

In the species of whiptails that do have males, there is competition for female mates. The bigger the female, the more eggs she may lay. Eggs are laid in the ground, in burrows among debris and logs or vegetation. Some species also use termite mounds as nests. Females incubate and guard nests.

A lot of whiptails like the New Mexico whiptail and desert grassland whiptail lizard reproduce via parthenogenesis, meaning these whiptails are all females and technically give birth to 'clones' via eggs, that are also females. Parthenogenetic or whiptails are also formed because of hybridization between two species. The desert grassland whiptail was formed by the hybridization between little striped whiptail & Texas spotted whiptail. Even all-female whiptails display mating behaviors despite reproducing asexually like aggression, mounting, and biting.

What is their conservation status?

Most whiptails are listed as species of Least Concern by the IUCN. However, species such as the Colorado checkered whiptail and the Rodeck's whiptail are 'Near Threatened', and the Baja California whiptail is 'Vulnerable'.

Whiptail Fun Facts

What do whiptails look like?

Whiptails can be 2–24 in (5.5–60 cm) long when measured from head-to-snout and have a tail length of 3–27 in (7.6–68.6 cm), which is a wide range, but there are 150 different species of whiptails. They exist in a range of different colors. Whiptails have scales on their head that are not fused to their skulls. Whiptail lizards have teeth that are held down to their roots by bone-like tissue called cementum. The scales on the dorsum of the whiptail are granular, while the ones on the belly are plate-like. All whiptails can be generalized as having long limbs and long bodies and narrow heads. The tail is usually about 1.5 times lengthier than the body. The tail is easily broken due to fracture planes in the tail. They also have long and forked tongues too.

The Sonoran spotted whiptails have an overall brownish-black color with creamy bellies.

How cute are they?

The whiptail lizard is a cute animal. The whiptail size is small and adorable. Some of the 150 odd species are truly beautiful, like the Aruban whiptail or the rainbow whiptail. The whiptail lizard exists in a wide array of beautiful colors. The longer-than-the-body tail, the plate-like scaly skin, and the fast speeds are only some of its eye-catching features.

How do they communicate?

Whiptails communicate via visual, olfactory, and tactile forms of communication. They see with their eyes and use their bodies to get a feel for the surrounding. Being lizards, they have 'cochlea' as well which lets them hear. Their forked tongues act as a smelling device. They also sense chemical signals that alert them to the presence of prey. They also use pheromones to convey mating or pseudocopulation intent.

How big is a whiptail?

Whiptails have an overall length (including their tails) of 5–51 in (12.7–129.5 cm), which makes them nearly 20 times smaller than the Komodo dragon.

How fast can a whiptail move?

Whiptails are fast creatures and can move at top speeds of 18 mph (29 kph).

How much does a whiptail weigh?

The average weight of a given whiptail is 0.1-0.6 oz (4.1- 18 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Males and females of the whiptail species do not have specific names.

What would you call a baby whiptail?

A baby whiptail may be called a hatchling, a juvenile, or a neonate before it becomes an adult.

What do they eat?

Whiptails feed on a diet of insects, larvae, ants, and termites mainly. Some species are known to add fruit to their diet as well. Whiptail lizards themselves get preyed on by snakes, larger lizards, and birds of prey like owls, eagles, and hawks.

Are they poisonous?

No, whiptails are not poisonous at all. They can bite you, but it is harmless.

Would they make a good pet?

No, they would not. They are not easy to catch and do not breed well in captivity. When you hold them in your hands, they sometimes bite you, albeit harmlessly, and run away fast. They are squirmy and their tails break easily. Captivity makes them nervous and they hide away most of the time. Some species need many insects every day and become unhealthy quickly if the dietary requirements are not met.

Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.

Did you know...

Aspidoscelis is the genus of whiptail lizards found in North America, and Cnemidophorus is the genus consisting of whiptail lizards in South America

The whiptail lizard's reproduction

Most species of whiptail lizards are all-female or unisexual. The method of their reproduction is 'parthenogenesis', wherein the females lay eggs and hence give birth to more female 'clones'. Some examples of the parthenogenic whiptails are New Mexico whiptails and desert grassland whiptails. Even these species display reproductive and 'mating' type behavior wherein a female mounts, bites, and displays aggression towards another female to stimulate the reproductive process.

And there are some species like the western whiptail found in the southwestern USA and northern Mexico, that have both males and females. Western whiptails reproduce when the males and females mate and the females lay eggs.

Are there male whiptail lizards?

Yes, male whiptail lizards exist. Parthenogenesis (all-female reproduction) has become common among most species of whiptails such as the New Mexico whiptail or the desert grassland whiptail, but there are still species that use both males and females for reproduction, like the six-lined racerunner and the western whiptail.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these caiman Lizard fun facts or the sea snake facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our Whiptail coloring pages.

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