Overview

Distribution

endemic to a single nation

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (5000-20,000 square km (about 2000-8000 square miles)) This species occurs in localized populations chiefly on the Mescalero Sands in southeastern New Mexico and Monahan Sandhills in adjacent Texas (Andrews, Crane, Gaines, Ward, and Winkler counties) (Degenhardt et al. 1996, Dixon 2000, Painter 2004). Elevational range extends from around 2,550 to 4,595 feet (780-1,400 meters) (Painter 2004). The extent of occurrence is 2,312 square kilometers in New Mexico, plus a smaller area in Texas.

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Range Description

This species is restricted to a small area in the southern United States. It occurs in localized populations chiefly on the Mescalero Sands in southeastern New Mexico and Monahan Sandhills in adjacent Texas (Andrews, Crane, Gaines, Ward, and Winkler counties) (Degenhardt et al. 1996, Dixon 2000, Painter 2004). The elevational range extends from around 780 to 1,400 m (2,550 to 4,595 feet) (Painter 2004). The extent of occurrence is 2,312 sq. km in New Mexico, plus a smaller area in Texas. In New Mexico, potential and occupied habitat consists of 1,697 sq. km (655 sq. miles). The area of occupancy in Texas is much smaller than in New Mexico.
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Continent: North-America
Distribution: USA (Texas: sand dune areas from Andrews to Carane counties; New Mexico: Mescalero Sands).  
Type locality: Mescalero Sands, 3 1/2 mi N and 44 mi E Roswell, Chaves Co., New Mexico.
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Source: The Reptile Database

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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

See Degenhardt et al. (1996).

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This lizard occurs in the vicinity of active and semi-stabilized sand dunes; vegetation consists of scattered stands of Quercus havardii and Artemisia filifolia; it tends to occur in greatest abundance in areas where the lizard Uta stansburiana is scarce; it seeks shelter in burrows, under leaf litter, or by burrowing into loose sand (Degenhardt et al. 1996, Bartlett and Bartlett 1999, Stebbins 2003). The lizard is absent where blow-outs, topographic relief, or shin-oak are lacking

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Eats ants and ant pupae, small beetle adults and larvae, crickets, grasshoppers, and spiders; feeds mainly in or near patches of vegetation (Degenhardt et al. 1996).

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 6 - 20

Comments: Degenhardt et al. (1996) mapped a dense array of 46 collection sites in New Mexico. Dixon (2000) stated that this lizard occurs in four counties in Texas. Painter (2004) showed the expected distribution in New Mexico as consisting of one large area and three disjunct smaller ones; each area includes a few to many sites where the species occurs.

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Global Abundance

10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but surely exceeds 10,000 and probably exceeds 100,000 (based on at least 1,500 square kilometers of occupied habitat and a very conservative estimation of at least 1 adult per hectare). This species is fairly common in suitable habitat (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Activity occurs diurnally, mainly April-September; avoids sun exposure during hot afternoons.

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Reproduction

Individual females lay 1-2 clutches of 3-6 eggs; first clutches are laid in late June, second clutches from late July to early August; hatchlings appear from late July to late September; females may attain sexual maturity during the first spring following hatching; apparently at least some individuals reach at least two years of age (Degenhardt et al. 1996).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Sceloporus arenicolus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G2 - Imperiled

Reasons: Small, localized distribution on sand dunes in southeastern New Mexico and adjacent Texas; potentially threatened by conversion of shinnery oak habitat to grass for livestock grazing and by oil and gas development.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
B2ab(ii,iii,iv,v)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2007

Assessor/s
Hammerson, G.A.

Reviewer/s
Cox, N., Chanson, J.S. & Stuart, S.N. (Global Reptile Assessment Coordinating Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Vulnerable because its area of occupancy is probably less than 2,000 km², its distribution is severely fragmented, and there is continuing decline in its area of occupancy, in the extent and quality of its habitat, in the number of locations, and in the number of mature individuals.
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Resolved Taxon
Date Listed:
Lead Region:   Southwest Region (Region 2) 
Where Listed:


For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Sceloporus arenicolus, see its USFWS Species Profile

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Global Long Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 50%

Comments: Habitat alteration has caused the decrease or extirpation of some populations, but the level of decline is not precisely known (Painter 2004).

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Population

Population
Degenhardt et al. (1996) mapped a dense array of 46 collection sites in New Mexico. Dixon (2000) stated that this lizard occurs in four counties in Texas. Painter (2004) showed the expected distribution in New Mexico as consisting of one large area and three disjunct smaller ones; each area includes a few to many sites where the species occurs. The total adult population size is unknown but surely exceeds 10,000 and probably exceeds 100,000 (based on at least 1,500 sq. kilometres of occupied habitat and a very conservative estimation of at least one adult per hectare). This species is fairly common in suitable habitat (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). This species is fairly common in suitable habitat (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). Habitat alteration has caused the decrease or extirpation of some populations, but the level of decline is not precisely known (Painter 2004).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Large-scale habitat destruction is the major threat to the continued existence of S. arenicolus in southeastern New Mexico (Painter 2004). Widespread use of herbicide for shinnery oak control and activities associated with oil/gas extraction have the greatest potential to cause significant Sand Dune Lizard population extinction or reduction (Peterson and Boyd 1998, Painter 2004). The short-term effect of these activities is lizard population decline resulting from development of a grassland habitat that is unsuitable for the lizard (unless this new habitat retains large blowouts, in which case it is capable of supporting very small populations of Sceloporus arenicolus for at least ten years after treatment; e.g., see Snell et al. 1993, Gorum et. al., 1995). The long-term effect of these habitat modifications is unknown, but increased habitat fragmentation results in increased probability of extinction of individual populations (Painter 2004). In the mid-1990s, the BLM Roswell Resource Area placed a moratorium on chemical treatment of shinnery oak - sand dune habitat. However, the long-term future of this moratorium is uncertain. Other activities with the potential for habitat destruction (i.e., ORV use, livestock grazing, and fire) have been little studied or are considered of lesser importance (Painter 2004).
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Management

Management Requirements: See Painter (2004) for management recommendations.

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
In New Mexico, large populations occur on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and important populations occur in New Mexico on state and private lands as well (Painter 2004). See Painter (2004) for management recommendations. Elimination or reduction of shinnery oak removal is an important conservation need.
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Wikipedia

Sceloporus arenicolus

The dunes sagebrush lizard, Sceloporus arenicolus, (formerly known as the sand dune lizard and the dunes-sagebrush lizard, Sceloporus graciosus arenicolus, a subspecies of sagebrush lizard), is an insectivorous spiny lizard species which only occurs in the shinnery oak sand dune systems of extreme southeast New Mexico and only four counties in adjacent Texas. Sceloporus arenicolus has the second-smallest range of all lizards in the United States.

Habitat

Their habitat requirements include large networks of shinnery oak (Quercus havardii), which are short (<2 m) shrubs, and a sloping, sandy topography, where the lizards use "blowouts" as their primary microhabitat. Blowouts are sandy, bowl-shaped interruptions in the shinnery oak sand dune system which look like small meteor crators. The roots of the shinnery oak shrubs provide structure for the dunes sagebrush lizards' burrows, where the lizards retreat from the blowouts when the sand surface is too hot or cold.

Threats

Habitat destruction is their primary threat. Shinnery oak through much of the lizard's range was sprayed with herbicide to clear the land for cattle grazing, and the lizards are now extinct at these locations. The dune systems are also heavily interrupted by oil industry activities. These interruptions allow mesquite to invade areas where shinnery oak (and dunes sagebrush lizards) were once dominant. While herbicide spraying has been outlawed in the dunes sagebrush lizard's New Mexico distribution, development for the oil industry has not ceased.

Competition from other lizard species may be a threat, as well. Uta stansburiana, the side-blotched lizard, seems to be more of a habitat generalist than the dunes sagebrush lizard, and may be able to take advantage of recent habitat changes, introducing skewed resource competition that is not natural for that ecosystem.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the dunes sagebrush lizard as endangered under the Endangered Species Act throughout its range in New Mexico and Texas. The final determination was originally due in July 2011, but was delayed to allow the scientific community to continue research to see if the listing was necessary.[2]

References

  • Degenhardt, W.D. & K.L. Jones. 1972. A new sagebrush lizard, Sceloporus graciosus, from New Mexico and Texas. Herpetologica 61(3):250-259.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: This species formerly was regarded as a subspecies of S. graciosus (see Degenhardt et al. 1996). The specific name was misspelled "arenicolous" in the original description.

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