A few New Mexico reptiles and amphibians


This page was started in June 2020 and will grow as I acquire additional images. Photos are organized by broad category (such as "lizards"), family, genus, and species.


I'm grateful Joshua Emms of the New Mexico Herpetological Society for his repeated help with IDs. Even so, please don't take my IDs as authoritative. These pages of nature photos represent one person's voyage of discovery, not the studies of a trained expert. If you see something I've misidentified, please contact me via my "Contact" page, which is tabbed at the top.

Reptiles: Lizards


Crotaphytidae: Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris)


Phrynosomatidae: Greater Short-Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma hernandesi)

I believe that all of my photos are of greater short-horned lizards, also known as mountain short-horned lizards. They lack the obvious white central back stripe of the Texas Horned Lizard (P. cornutum), and Roundtail Horned Lizards (P. modestum) don't have bodies with toothy edges. The color variations are due to each lizard's need to blend in with its local setting. For a YouTube video of one of these "horny toads," please click here.


Phrynosomatidae: Southwestern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus cowlesi)

Southwestern Fence Lizard, Sceloporus cowlesi, New Mexico


Look for a broad light gray stripe down the lizard's back. All of these photos were taken in Bernalillo County, and range is one way to distinguish Southwestern fence lizards from the very similar plateau lizards and prairie lizards. Male Southwest fence lizards have blue double chin and belly patches (see the thumbnail to the left). As two of my photos show, they sometimes also have tiny red patches just behind the blue chin patches. On two other photos, if you maximize the photos you can see tiny turquoise-colored areas on some of the side scales.


Phrynosomatidae: Ornate Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus)


Phrynosomatidae: Common Side-Blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana)

The visual variation in this species puzzled me, until I learned that the males and females look different. All have a black "side blotch" just behind each foreleg. It's evident in my  picture of a male.


Scincidae: Great Plains Skink (Plestiodon obsoletus)

Adult Great Plains Skinks look a lot like "normal" lizards, but the juveniles stand out with their black bodies, light spots on the lips, and blue tails. These are not great photos, but I was lucky to see one at all.


Teiidae: Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail (Aspidoscelis exsanguis)


Teiidae: New Mexico Whiptail (Aspidoscelis neomexicana)

My ID is based on the seven light yellow stripes (including a central one the full length of the body), the subtle spots between some of the stripes, and the blue end of the tail (bright blue in juveniles, faded in adults).


Teiidae: Common Checkered Whiptail (Aspidoscelis tesselata)

My, what a long tail you have!


Teiidae: Desert Grassland Whiptail (Aspidoscelis uniparens)

My ID is based on the six light yellow stripes, the partial seventh (central) stripe on the neck, the lack of spots, and the dull-colored tail (which, however, can be blue on juveniles).

Reptiles: Snakes


Colubridae: Coachwhip (Coluber flagellum)


Viperidae: Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)

Don't expect any photos of rattlesnakes unless they're telephoto shots. But notice how this snake's color matches so well with its surroundings.

Reptiles: Turtles


Emydidae: Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta belli)

To me, this turtle looks a lot like a Red-Eared Slider but without the prominent red "ear" mark. Instead, I look for red at the edges of the carapace.


Emydidae: Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)

In the Pecos River drainage these turtles are native, but along the Rio Grande in New Mexico they're invasive. The source of the invasion was people discarding unwanted pet turtles. One photo shows a turtle stretching out its hind legs to maximize solar gain.


The markings on Red-Eared Sliders are distinctive, but older individuals lose those markings and become mostly dark. One of those older individuals is shown here.


Trionychidae: Texas Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera emoryi)

In Albuquerque, your best bet for seeing these otherwise shy turtles is to visit the nature ponds in the Bosque at the end of Lead Avenue. If you're at the observer stand at the more northerly of the two ponds, when it's warm and someone's feeding the ducks (hopefully not bread!), fish and turtles will swim up to steal a bit of the ducks' lunch. Most of the turtles will be red-eared sliders but a few will be softshell turtles.


You may also see these turtles sunning at the water's edge, at the nature pond just mentioned or along the river, but they'll slide into the water once they realize you're paying attention to them.

Amphibians: Frogs


Red-Spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus)

According to the New Mexico Herpetological Society, "This is a toad of arroyos, desert streams, springs, tinajas, and cattle tanks, often in rocky areas, but can also be found on rivers and on the edges of agriculture. Occurs at or near permanent or temporary waters. Even in the driest desert mountain ranges, this toad can be found breeding in rain-filled tinajas." My own finds fit that habitat description. I first found found this toad in July 2020, at the edge of a channelized, sometimes wet-bottomed arroyo in what is otherwise dryland. In July 2021 I found my second example where Tijeras Arroyo empties into the Rio Grande.


American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus)

Along the Rio Grande in New Mexico, American Bullfrogs are an introduced species. Specifically, they were introduced so people could eat them.



No idea which species these tadpoles will grow up into. In May 2023 the Rio Grande was running high and had backed up into the Bosque, creating many warm, shallow pools perfect for tadpoles. If you look carefully, you'll also see a few tiny fish—the proverbial small fry.