Thursday, January 7, 2010

Triploid Colorado Checkered Whiptail

Aspidoscelis neotesselata in hand
The triploid Colorado checkered whiptail (Aspidoscelis neotesselata), a small lizard with a big name.

CNHP zoologist John Sovell took these photos in southeastern Colorado, which is home to a rare species of checkered whiptail lizard. Described as a separate species in 1997, CNHP tracks this unusual lizard under the name Aspidoscelis neotesselata. This population of triploid (having three sets of chromosomes instead of the usual two) animals is entirely made up of females, who are able to reproduce parthenogenetically. In parthenogenetic species, reproduction is asexual, and egg cells develop without having been fertilized by male gametes. Consequently, offspring are genetically identical with their mother.

Aspidoscelis neotesselata on the ground
This checkered whiptail is keeping a close eye on John.

Aspidoscelis neotesselata is found in juniper and pinyon-juniper woodland, arid, rocky canyons, rocky hillsides, shrubby areas, and open savannahs around the Arkansas, Huerfano, Apishapa, and Purgatoire rivers and their tributaries.

Aspidoscelis neotesselata showing long tail
In this photo, you can see where the "whiptail" part of the name comes from.

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