• Lower Cliff Dwelling


    National Monument Arizona


gila spotted whiptail lizard

Gila Spotted Whiptail

NPS Photo

Gila Spotted Whiptail Cnemidophorus flagellicaudus

Sonoran Spotted Whiptail Cnemidophorus sonorae

Body length: 2 1/2 - 3 3/4"
Diet: Termites, spiders, and other arthropods

These two whiptail species share an uncommon trait: parthenogenesis, or development of the young from unfertilized eggs. There are no males in either species - only females! Scientists are still not sure how these all-female whiptails originated, and how a number of separate but very similar species are related.

Although many naturalists have trouble distinguishing species of whiptails, even experts struggle when it comes to separating these two. Both species are about the same size and live in similar rocky grassland habitats (such as below the Upper Cliff Dwelling). Both have stripes running the length of their tails and bodies. The differences are subtle, but as a general rule Gila spotted whiptails have spots within the pale stripes, while Sonoran spotted whiptails do not.

Did You Know?

old photo of the Lower Cliff Dwellings

The first known written record of the cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument dates from 1880. Archeologist Adolph Bandelier visited the dwellings in 1883, and said they were some of the best preserved he had ever seen. More...