X is for Xerocole (part 1)

For the letter X I was tempted to write about xeric plants but then I heard the word xerocole. What a wonderful word. My definition? Drought tolerant creatures.

the surprisingly not exactly xeric agave plant

As those of you who read the spoilers know I spent the last week stalking lizards but I could not get a decent picture for my “X is for …” post. How is that even possible? When I am not looking for them or if I don’t have my camera they are everywhere!

If you happen to know how hyper vigilant and FAST these Texas Spotted Whiptails (Cnemidophorus gularis) are you might forgive the poor quality of the pictures. In the time it takes a person to blink these guys can cover half a city block. No exaggeration. Plus, they are agile. I’ve seen them make close to 90 degree turns at top velocity. They usually aim their noses for the shade of the popular garden agave plants that look a bit like sea monsters.

Their powerful hind legs give them that ability for rocket bursts of speed. Extreme speed is one way these guys have managed to survive the drought and extreme temperatures. They can travel long distances for food or water and avoid predators. Other adaptations: lovely long flat toes that keep them from sinking into sand or mud. And slim bodies to help with thermoregulation: they are quick to heat up and equally quick to cool.

texas spotted whiptail 2
Texas Spotted Whiptail

For you dear readers I even risked arrest or worse to get the picture below. I saw this sweet fellow knocking at my neighbor’s door across the street and I couldn’t help myself. I sidled over like some kind of peeping Tom and surreptitiously took the shot. Bad picture but I was too afraid to linger. We have a rabid neighborhood watch group. Not even the chickens next door can match their ability to scatter the holy words of gossip.

I think it was a spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus). It had scales like pecan bark on his back.

lizard on a porch

If you want to see a nice picture of one of the anoles that are common in Austin please check out Austin Agrodolce. Because even though I live in ATX I didn’t see a single one all week.

Note 1: Don’t trust my identification skills. I admit to a whole lot of guesswork here.

Note 2: Found the lizard pictured below in a burrow near the nearby creek tonight. No idea what kind it is.  I am hoping it was a female laying eggs!

mystery lizard


17 thoughts on “X is for Xerocole (part 1)

  1. Yep, looks like a tiny Spiny to me. I love them. A good sized one basked on the patio the day we decided to buy this house, and I was hopeful, but all I see are little bitty ones ever since. Still. Marvelous creatures!


    1. i would have seen that as a hopeful sign, too. They amaze me. I used to frequently see a large spiny on the south facing wall of the car port. Magnificent.


  2. Really great post for X. I did not know you were in Austin. I lived there for a little over 4 years. My oldest son is still there. The one in the last photo looks a little scary! :)


    1. *friendly howdy neighbor wave*
      I think that is because she might be in pain. I felt kind of bad for her so I left right away though I was sorely tempted to stalk her all night long.


  3. How fun – I love learning new words and xerocole is a pip! Don’t you dare apologize for these photos – these are amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever caught a whiptail with my camera. Anoles are easy – they just laze around waiting for the paparazzi to arrive. I did a double take – that lizard in the last shot looks a little like a horny toad though they’re so rare I’m betting that’s just wishful thinking on my part. She sure seems to be giving you the stink-eye…


    1. Oh she was MAD. I saw her building or trying to enter that burrow about an hour before and she just zipped away. Not immediately though. I had just enough time to get the lens cap off. haha I was mad at myself for missing the shot. So I wandered off and when I returned I was so happy to see her. Obviously she was less pleased to see me. Poor thing.Hope you don;t mind the link to your lovely anole.I don’t know what has happened to the one that used to live under my bedroom window.


  4. I love learning new words, so thanks for that. I thought you said that you were going to write about your ex if he would only he would cooperate. I don’t think mine would, so I thought you might have a problem. But instead we have lovely lizards! No xerocoles in my part of the world, so it is lovely to see yours. The closest we have is newts. But they are not xerocoles. Obviously.


    1. When they burrow they could be considered xerocole I suppose.
      TOO funny about the ex. mine is not one I would share with the world. hahaha


  5. oh gee those little lizards are fairly similar to our bronze water skinks that scarper around here all summer indoors and out. kitchen bench bedroom windowsill bathroom lounging around on a cushion on the couch in the sun .. we love them . most of them are tucked away for the winter coming – only a few out and about these days.
    I’m sure neighbourhood watch can include the creatures. good on you.


    1. It really is mind blowing to realize that the seasons are directly opposite across the planet. I love lizards and geckos. they most welcome to all the bugs they can find.


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