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Zebra-tailed lizard        Images © Mark A. Chappell

The zebra-tailed lizard Callisarus draconoides is a speedster, with long hind legs and a preference for open, sandy or pebbly areas in southwestern deserts, often in washes.   On hot soil, it often keeps its long, thin toes elevated, as some of these are doing.   Zebratails are named for their black-and-white tail rings; the tail is often curled above the back when running and might divert a predator from attacking the more vulnerable head and body.   Despite their capacity for blinding bursts of speed, these lizards can be fairly confiding if you approach them slowly, as these were.  Nevertheless, long lenses are usually needed for tight portraits (I used my regular 'bird lenses' for these pictures).   Males are more brightly colored (above) and in breeding season may display a pink throat dewlap (below left).   Females lack much of the contrasting belly pattern (below, right).   I took the pictures on warm spring days in the washes near Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, California, and along the eastern shore of the Salton Sea in southeastern California.

  • Canon 1D Mk. II or 1D4; 500 mm IS lens + 2X converter or 800 mm IS lens, some with 1.4X converter, extension tubes, fill-in flash (2005, 2011).