endemic to a single nation
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
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.
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.
See Degenhardt et al. (1996).
Habitat and Ecology
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.
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).
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.
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).
Life History and Behavior
Comments: Activity occurs diurnally, mainly April-September; avoids sun exposure during hot afternoons.
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).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Sceloporus arenicolus
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
Status: Resolved Taxon
Lead Region: Southwest Region (Region 2)
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Sceloporus arenicolus, see its USFWS Species Profile
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled
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
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).
Management Requirements: See Painter (2004) for management recommendations.
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.
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.
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.
- The Reptile Database. www.reptile-database.org.
- "Proposed Rule to List the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) as Endangered Throughout its Range" Fish and Wildlife Service
- Degenhardt, W.D. & K.L. Jones. 1972. A new sagebrush lizard, Sceloporus graciosus, from New Mexico and Texas. Herpetologica 61(3):250-259.
Names and 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.