San Diego Management & Monitoring Program

Orange-throated whiptail
Aspidoscelis hyperythra


Vertebrata Autarchoglossa
Kingdom Phylum Subphylum Class Order Suborder Family

Current distribution rangewide

Ranges from the southern edges of Orange and San Bernardino Counties, the Corona-Riverside-Colton areas of Riverside County southward through the Elsinore and Perris Basins, and through coastal and low-elevational areas of San Diego County [1]. Can be found on the coastal slope of the Peninsular Ranges-and extends from near sea level to 1040 m (northeast of Aguanga, Riverside County) [2].

Known Populations in San Diego County

Within the MSPA, occurrences have been found in MU 3 (MarronValley Mitigation Bank), MU 4 (Hanson Pond-El Monte Valley), MU 5 (Boden Canyon), and MU 6 (Rancho La Costa HCA).

List status


Habitat affinities

Occurs primarily on coarse soils in open coastal sage scrub vegetation [3, cited in 1]. Also inhabits chamise-redshank chaparral, mixed chaparral, and valley-foothill hardwood habitats [4]. Associated with the presence of some perennial plants such as buckwheat (Erigonum fasciculatum), low, open chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), and white sage and black sage (Salvia apiana and S. mellifera) [1] due to its food source, termites [5], and its necessary requirement of a perennial plant as a food base [6, cited in 2]. Occurs along the edge of open, dry, riparian areas, along trails, along dirt roads, and in areas of light off-road vehicle use [1].

Taxonomy and genetics

This taxon is morphologically distinct [7] and has never been confused with any other taxon [2].

Seasonal activity

Emerge from hibernation in February or March [6, cited in 2] through April [8]. May be active in every month of the year whenever it is sufficiently warm [1;6, cited in 2;8]. Adults especially active in the spring and less active in the fall [1]. Diurnal [8]. Daily activity occurs within a narrow range of substrate temperatures (36.3°C-41.0°C), clearly avoiding high midday temperatures [6, cited in 2;8;9]. Adults enter into hibernation late July to late September [9], with immature lizards entering hibernation late December [6, cited in 2;8].

Life history/ reproduction

Breeding season lasts from May through mid-July [10;11]. Sexually maturity reached in 1 year, but most individuals, especially females, require 2 years to become sexually mature [12]. Females deposit two or three moderate-sized, leathery-shelled eggs in June or July in an unknown location. Mean clutch is small (2.3 eggs). Incubation lasts from 50 to 55 days [10]. Hatchlings emerge from August through October [1]. Longevity is unknown [2].

Diet and foraging

Feeds primarily on termites [5]. Will feed on other insects such as spiders, beetles, and grasshoppers during the late summer [6, cited in 2]. Forages actively on the surface and scratches through surface debris [4]. Regularly stops movement momentarily to probe for food within leaf litter, shallow burrows, and loose soil [9].


No migration [4]. Home range of 6 males averaged 0.07 acres, while that of 5 females averaged 0.15 acres. Extensive home range of both females and males overlap [13] and probably suggests no territorial behavior [4].


Threatened mainly due to habitat loss [1]. A considerable amount of its habitat has been destroyed and fragmented by urban and agricultural development in southern California [2].

Orange-throated whiptail sources