Six-lined Racerunner
Aspidoscelis sexlineata
 
 

Photo by Daniel Thompson

 

Description:  The six-lined racerunner is our only member of the whiptail family. These active lizards average from 6 - 9 1/2 inches.  They get their name from the six light stripes on the trunk of the body. The stripes may be yellow, white, pale gray or pale blue. Males can be distinguished from the females. Females have a brown ground color while the males often have a greenish ground color and a bluish belly.

Habitat: This lizard is commonly found in open well-drained areas. Fields, open woods, thicket margins, rocky outcrops and along railroad tracks are all favorable habitat.

 

Life History: Six-lined racerunners breed in the spring. Males grasp the females by the skin of the neck during mating. These lizards are oviparous and females lay around 6 eggs in shallow burrows in the soil and leave them to incubate and hatch on their own. The eggs hatch in August when the 1 1/2 inch long babies emerge to fend for themselves.

 

Behavior: The six-lined racerunner is active throughout the day (diurnal). They spend a lot of time basking upon rocks or logs. They actively pursue any prey and are quite fast as their name implies. Racerunners are active burrowers and may escape into one when pursued.

 

Range: These lizards occur statewide in Tennessee. They are found as far north as Maryland, south to Florida and as far west as Texas.

Photo by John Jensen, GA DNR

 

 

Habitat: These lizards are often seen basking on wooden fence rails, downed trees and rocky outcrops. They may also be found in dry open wooded areas.

 

 

Life History: These lizards breed from April through September. Males set up breeding territories shortly after emerging from hibernation and will vigorously defend them against other males. They are oviparous and females lay from 3 - 13 eggs and stay nearby to protect them until they hatch. Females may lay more than 1 clutch during a summer.  Fence lizard babies are generally between 1 5/8 to 2 1/4 inches at hatching.

Fence lizards feed upon insects and other small invertebrates. Centipedes, ants, beetles, spiders and snails are all favorite prey items.

 

Behavior: When alarmed a fence lizard will dash up the side of the nearest tree. Another common name for this species is the fence swift because they are so fast. They are diurnal lizards and spend much of the daytime basking and watching for prey.

 

Range: The northern fence lizard is found statewide in Tennessee. It occurs as far north as Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania; west to Missouri, , Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas; and south into Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Map by S. Marden, TWRA, GIS Lab

Taxonomy:

       Kingdom - Animalia

              Phylum - Chordata

                        Subphylum - Vertebrata

                                  Class - Reptilia

                                            Order - Squamata

                                                      Suborder - Sauria

                                                                Family - Teiidae

                                                                          Genus - Aspidoscelis

                                                                                    Species - Aspidoscelis sexlineata