The great majority of living reptiles are in the Order Squamata, which includes three major groups. The smallest is the Suborder Amphisbaenia. These are elongate, blind, burrowing reptiles. Most of the 200 or so species live in South America and Africa. All are limbless except for three species of the Genus Bipes in Mexico that have front legs. Only one amphisbaenian, the Florida Worm Lizard (Rhineura floridana ), occurs in the United States. The largest groups of squamate (scaly) reptiles are the snakes and lizards, with about 2,500 and 3,000 species, respectively. Snakes and lizards are the only reptiles present in the White-Inyo mountains region. By western North American standards, the White-Inyo mountains region, accommodating 37 known species, is relatively rich in reptiles.
Using the Chapter
Each species in the region is discussed in a species account, listed alphabetically by species name within each family, and illustrated with a color plate. All reptiles in the color plates are from the White-Inyo mountains region except the juvenile Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata ), which is from Kern County, California; the juvenile Western Whiptail (Cnemidophorus tigris ), which is from Nye County, Nevada; and the Mojave Shovel-nosed Snake (Chionactis occipitalis occipitalis ), Striped Whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus ), Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake (Phyllorhynchus decurtatus ), and Lyre Snake (Trimorphodon biscutatus ), which are from San Bernardino County, California. A range map shows the distribution of each species in the area. The species account gives a brief description that should be used in conjunction with the color plate for positive identification. Sizes are given for adult specimens; naturally, juveniles and hatchlings will be much smaller. The size stated is total length, from head to tip of tail. In most lizards the actual body length is only one-third to one-half the total length. The remarks section provides information of general biological interest for each species. The range of the species is summarized for the region, and this summary should be used in conjunction with the range map for the species. One or more literature references are listed for each species; the complete citations are at the end of the chapter. Two references, Stebbins (1954) and Stebbins (1985), provide general information on western reptiles. All scientific names are after Collins (1990). Five references that discuss detailed studies on the reptiles of this region or nearby desert areas are: Banta (1962) (Saline Valley), Macey (1986) (White-Inyo region), Miller and Stebbins (1964) (Joshua Tree National Monument), Papenfuss
(1986) (White-Inyo region), and Tanner and Jorgensen (1963) (Nevada Test Site, Nye County).
Finally, a list of exact localities based on museum specimens is provided. These localities correspond to dots on each range map. When the locality is vague, it is not plotted on a map. In these lists the first reference to a place name is listed in whole, and other references to that place name follow it as separate localities. Refer to maps 9.1 and 9.2 for a guide to place names, valleys, and elevation. The majority of the specimens are housed at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California at Berkeley. The acronym for this institution (MVZ) does not follow the locality unless one or more other institutions have specimens from the same locality. In order to assist biologists who may wish to examine specimens from the region, the localities for specimens in other institutions are followed by the museum acronyms. The institutions with specimens from the area include: American Museum of Natural History, New York (AMNH); Brigham Young University (BYU); California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco (CAS); Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh (CMNH); Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago (MNH); University of Kansas (KU); Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (LACM); Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University (MCZ); Nevada State Museum (NSM); San Diego Natural History Museum (SDSNH); University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB); University of Colorado Museum (UCM); University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (UMMZ); University of New Mexico (UNM); and the National Museum of Natural History (USNM). For accuracy, elevations and distances of localities from reference points are cited as recorded by the collector and have not been converted to or from the English or metric system.
Two additional sections are included. "Amphibian and Reptile Diversity in Selected Habitats" provides outlined information on how to find the species that occur in selected areas. This will aid in finding and observing amphibians and reptiles in the region. "Amphibian and Reptile Biogeography," which follows this introduction, presents a synthesis of the distributional data in this chapter and in Chapter 9, on amphibians. This section will help the observer understand why a particular species occurs in an area.
Exact localities and habitats are listed in each account. Using this information along with the section "Amphibian and Reptile Diversity in Selected Habitats," at the end of the chapter, will facilitate the observation of reptiles.
Most of the lizard species are easy to observe. Except for the Western Banded Gecko (Coleonyx variegatus ), all are diurnal, and many are common in preferred habitats. Lizards are most easily seen when they are basking in the morning during the spring and early summer. In low-elevation desert areas, they are not active during the hot, dry midsummer. There is a second period of activity during September and October, followed by hibernation from November through March. At intermediate and high elevations, lizards come out of hibernation in May or June and are active throughout
the summer. Lizards tend to be wary, but by walking slowly and quietly, the observer can approach most species within a few feet.
Snakes are more difficult to find than lizards. Ten of the 19 species in the area are always active at night, and 5 more are nocturnal during hot weather. These species are best found by "night driving," a technique used by herpetologists that involves driving slowly at night along deserted paved roads and watching for snakes either lying on or crossing the road. This method works best on warm nights when the moon is not full. Snakes tend to be much less active during the full moon, perhaps because they are more easily seen by predators then. When snakes are on the road, they can be approached and even picked up with ease. Rattlesnakes, of course, should be avoided. Several of the little-traveled roads in the region are good for night driving. These include the Lone Pine-Death Valley road (Hwy. 136), the Big Pine-Eureka Valley road (Eureka Valley Road), the Big Pine-Westgard Pass road (Hwy. 168) below 6,000 ft (1,830 m), the road across Deep Springs Valley (Hwy. 168), the Fish Lake Valley roads (east-west Hwy. 168 and Hwy. 266, north-south Hwy. 266 and Hwy. 264), and the Benton-Lee Vining road (Hwy. 120). Highway 395 through the Owens Valley and Hwy. 6 through the Chalfant, Hammil, Benton, and Queen valleys have too much traffic, but short side roads in these valleys are alternatives.
Diurnal snakes are occasionally seen by hikers, but they are more commonly seen on the road in the morning and late afternoon. During the daytime snakes tend to be more alert and wary. Species such as the Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum ), the Striped Whipsnake (M. taeniatus ), and the Western Patch-nosed Snake (Salvadora hexalepis ) are surprisingly quick and will flee when approached. Aquatic species such as the Sierra Garter Snake (Thamnophis couchii ) and the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (T. elegans ) are slow on land, but once in the water they can escape with ease.