Ecology, management, and conservation of the dunes sagebrush lizard

Collaborators: Charles Painter, Wade Ryberg, Laura Laurencio, Mike Sears, Lauren Chan, Nicole Smolensky, Mike Hill, Toby Hibbitts, Dan Leavitt, David Laurencio, Donald Miles

sagebrush_lizard

S. arenicolus with radio on back

Sceloporus arenicolus is endemic to the Mescalero Sands Ecosystem of eastern New Mexico and adjacent Texas. Dunes sagebrush lizards are habitat specialists at several spatial scales. Within the limits of their geographical range, dunes sagebrush lizards have an extremely strong affinity for bowl-shaped depressions in active dune complexes referred to as sand dune blowouts. They prefer relatively large blowouts, and select microhabitat within a given blowout. Within their geographic range, the presence of the lizards is also associated with composition of the sand; they only occur at sites with relatively coarse sand. I am taking a landscape ecology approach to understand this hierarchy of distribution and persistence of the species across the landscape at multiple scales. We study microhabitat selection and movements of individual lizards at very small scales, determinants of presence and absence at sites and regions, and population genetic patterns throughout the range of the species.

Mescalero Sands

Sand dune blowout complex in the Mescalero Sands

Bibliography

Dunes Sagebrush Lizard reports and publications and selected relevant literature

 

Distribution and Habitat

Degenhardt, W.G. and A.P. Sena. 1976. Report on the endangered sand dune (sagebrush) lizard, Sceloporus graciosus arenicolus, in southeastern New Mexico. Final Report to New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. 13 pp.

Dzialak, M.R., D.J. Houchen, S.M. Harju, J.P. Mudd, J.J. Wondzell, S.L. Webb, N.P. Gould, J.E. Hess, and J.B. Winstead. 2013. Ecosystem-level dynamics of soil-vegetation features, with implications for conserving a narrowly endemic reptile. Landscape Ecology 28:1371-1385.

Fitzgerald, L.A., C.W. Painter, D.A. Sias, H.L. Snell. 1997. The range, distribution and habitat of Sceloporus arenicolus in New Mexico. Final report to New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Santa Fe, NM. 30 pp + appendices.

Fitzgerald, L.A., C.W. Painter, T.J. Hibbitts, W.A. Ryberg, N. Smolensky, and K. Skow. 2011. The Range and Distribution of Sceloporus arenicolus in Texas: Results of surveys conducted 8-15 June 2011. Submitted to Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, Texas A&M University. (pdf)

Fitzgerald, L.A., L. Laurencio, D. Laurencio. 2007. Geographic Distribution and Habitat Suitability of the Sand Dune Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) in Texas. Submitted to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in fulfillment of requirements on Section 6 project. 16 pp. + Atlas of Distribution and Habitat of Sceloporus arenicolus in Texas.

Hill, M.T. and C.W. Painter. 2010. A Summary of Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) Surveys Completed in 2010. Report to New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. 14 pp.

Laurencio L. Laurencio D. and L. Fitzgerald. 2007. Atlas of potential habitat for Sceloporus arenicolus in Texas: Appendix 1 of Fitzgerald, et al. 2007. Geographic Distribution and Habitat Suitability of the Sand Dune Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) in Texas. Final report prepared for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Laurencio, Laura R. and Lee A. Fitzgerald. 2010. Atlas of distribution and habitat of the dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) in New Mexico. Texas Cooperative Wildlife Collection, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2258. ISBN# 978-0-615-40937-5.

 

Species Accounts and Taxonomy

Chan, L.M., Archie, J.W., Yoder, A.D., and Fitzgerald, L. A. 2013. Review of the systematic status of Sceloporus arenicolus Degenhardt and Jones, 1972 with an estimate of divergence time. Zootaxa 3664:312-320.

Degenhardt, W.G, and K.L. Jones. 1972. A new sagebrush lizard, Sceloporus graciosus, from New Mexico and Texas. Herpetologica 28:212-217.

Degenhardt, W.G., C.W. Painter, and A.H. Price. 1996. The amphibians and reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. 431 pp.

Fitzgerald, L.A. and C.W. Painter. 2009. Sceloporus arenicolus. Pages 230-233 In Lizards of the American Southwest: A Photographic Field Guide. Lawrence L.C. Jones and Rob Lovich (eds.).

Kerfoot C.W. 1968. Geographic Variability of the Lizard, Sceloporus graciosus Baird and Girard, in the Eastern Part of Its Range. Copeia 1968:139-152.

 

Conservation Genetics

Chan, L., L.A. Fitzgerald, and K.R. Zamudio. 2009. The scale of genetic differentiation in the Dunes Sagebrush-Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus), an endemic habitat specialist. Conservation Genetics 10:131-142.

Chan, L.M., L.A. Fitzgerald, and K.R. Zamudio. 2007. Characterization of microsatellite markers for the endemic sand dune lizard, Sceloporus arenicolus. Molecular Ecology Notes 7:337-339.

 

Population Biology, Habitat Use, and Dispersal

Fitzgerald, L.A., M.W. Sears, C.W. Painter. 2005. Interdune Dispersal of Sand Dune Lizards (Sceloporus arenicolus) in the Mescalero Sands Ecosystem. Final Report to New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. 13 pp.

Fitzgerald, L.A., D.J. Leavitt, W.A. Ryberg, and L.M. Chan. 2011. Reports to Bureau of Land Management on ecology and conservation research on Sceloporus arenicolus: Fragmentation, Population Dynamics, Genetics, Habitat mapping. 79 pp.

Hathcock, C.D., and Hill, M.T. 2012. Loggerhead Shrike Predation on Dunes Sagebrush Lizards in Southeastern New Mexico: Final Report to Center of Excellence for Hazardous Materials Management (CEHMM, Carlsbad, New Mexico).

Hibbitts T.J., Ryberg W.A., Adams C.S., Fields A.M., Lay D., Young M.E. 2013. Microhabitat selection by a habitat specialist and generalist in both fragmented and unfragmented landscapes. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 8:104–113.

Hill, M.T. and L.A. Fitzgerald. 2007. Radiotelemetry and population monitoring of sand dune lizards (Sceloporus arenicolus) during the nesting season. (Share with wildlife project title: dispersal and radio tracking of the sand dune lizard, Sceloporus arenicolus). Final report to Share with Wildlife Program, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. 31 pp.

Leavitt, D.J., Fitzgerald, L.A. 2013. Disassembly of a dune-dwelling lizard community due to landscape fragmentation. Ecosphere 4:art97.

Leavitt DJ, Fitzgerald LA. 2010. Results from the second year of research: Effects of management practices for oil and gas development on the Mescalero dune landscape and populations of the endemic dunes sagebrush lizard, Sceloporus arenicolus. Report submitted to Bureau of Land Management, Carlsbad Office, NM.

Leavitt, D.J. and L.A. Fitzgerald. 2009. Results from the first year of research: Effects of management practices for oil and gas development on the Mescalero dune landscape and populations of the endemic dunes sagebrush lizard, Sceloporus arenicolus. Report submitted to Bureau of Land Management, Carlsbad Office, NM. 9 pp.

Ryberg, W.A., Hill, M.T., Painter, C.W., and Fitzgerald, L.A. 2015. Linking irreplaceable landforms in a self-organizing landscape to sensitivity of population vital rates for an ecological specialist. Conservation Biology 29(3):888-898.

Ryberg, W.A., Fitzgerald, L.A. 2014. Sand grain size composition influences subsurface oxygen diffusion and distribution of an endemic, psammophilic lizard. Journal of Zoology 295:1–6. DOI:10.1111/jzo.12184.

Ryberg, W.A., Hill, M.T., Painter, C.W., Fitzgerald, L.A. 2013. Landscape pattern determines neighborhood size and structure within a lizard population. PLoS ONE 8:e56856, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056856.

Ryberg, W.A., Hill, M.T., Lay, D., Fitzgerald, L.A. 2012. Observations on the nesting ecology and early life history of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus). Western North American Naturalist 72:582–585.

Ryberg W.A. and L.A. Fitzgerald. 2010. Abstract and Preliminary results: Spatial variation in vital rates and movement rates across six populations of the dunes sagebrush lizard, Sceloporus arenicolus, at Caprock Wildlife Area. Report submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, Carlsbad office. 11 pp.

Salice, C.J. and T.A. Anderson. 2011. Summary of research findings regarding potential risks to the dunes sagebrush lizard. Final report of studies June-August 2011 to the Permian Basin Petroleum Association. The Department of Environmental Toxicology, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.

Sartorius, S.S., J.P.S. do Amaral, R.D. Durtsche, C.M. Deen, and W.I. Lutterschmidt. 2002. Thermoregulatory accuracy, precision, and effectiveness in two sand-dwelling lizards under mild environmental conditions. Canadian Journal of Zoology 80:1966–1976.

Sena, A.P. 1985. The distribution and reproductive ecology of Sceloporus graciosus arenicolus in southeastern New Mexico. Draft of Dissertation, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM. 46 pp.

Sias, D.S. and H.L. Snell. 1996. The Dunes Sagebrush Lizard Sceloporus arenicolus and sympatric reptile species in the vicinity of oil and gas wells in southeastern New Mexico. Final report for 1995 field studies. Unpublished report submitted to New Mexico Game and Fish Department. Santa Fe, NM.

Sias, D.S. and H.L. Snell. 1997. Populations of the Sand Dune Lizard Sceloporus arenicolus in relation to oil and gas fields in southeastern New Mexico. Final report for 1996 field studies. Unpublished report submitted to New Mexico Game and Fish Department. Santa Fe, NM.

Sias, D.S., and H.L. Snell. 1998. The dunes sagebrush lizard Sceloporus arenicolus and oil and gas development in southeastern New Mexico. Final report of field studies 1995-1997. Final report to New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Contract #80-516.6-01. 27 pp.

Snell, H.L., L.W. Gorum. L.J.S. Pierce, and K.W. Ward. 1997. Results from the fifth year (1995) research on the effect of shinnery oak removal on populations of dunes sagebrush lizard, June 15, 1999. Management plan for the dunes sagebrush lizard, Sceloporus arenicolus, in New Mexico. Final report to New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Contract #80-516.6-01. 13 pp.

Smolensky, N. L. 2008. Population Enumeration and the Effects of Oil and Gas Development on Dune-dwelling Lizards. Masters Thesis. Texas A&M University, College Station.

Smolensky N.L. and L.A. Fitzgerald. 2006. Population Density Estimates of the Sand Dune Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) in the Mescalero Sands Ecosystem. Interim Technical Report 2006. 31 Dec 2006. Submitted to New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and Bureau of Land Management. 20 pp.

Smolensky, N. and L.A. Fitzgerald. 2010. Distance sampling underestimates population densities of dune-dwelling lizards. Journal of Herpetology 44:372-381.

Smolensky, N. and L.A. Fitzgerald. 2011. Population variation in dune-dwelling lizards in response to patch size, patch quality, and oil and gas development. Southwestern Naturalist 56(3):315-324.

Smolensky, N.L., and L.A. Fitzgerald. 2007. Population Density Estimates of the Sand Dune Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) in the Mescalero Sands Ecosystem. Technical Report to New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Share With Wildlife Program.

Weir, S. M. 2014. Non-dietary routes of contaminant exposure in reptiles: Laboratory studies with the Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) to improve the ecological risk assessment process for reptiles. PhD dissertation, Texas Tech University 161pp.

 

Management Plan

Fitzgerald L.A., Allen T., Chan L.M., Chopp J., Dixon J.R., Ferguson G., Gluesenkamp A., Hibbitts T.J., Hill D., Hill M.T., Howard R., Leavitt D.J., Miles D.B., Painter C.W., Pifer E., Ryberg W.A., Sears M., Snell H.L. 2012. The Research Program on Sceloporus arenicolus: Integration of findings, gaps in knowledge, and priorities for conservation-oriented research. Report to Center of Excellence for Hazardous Materials Management (CEHMM), Carlsbad, NM.

Painter C.W., L.A. Fitzgerald, D.A. Sias, L. Pierce, H.L. Snell. 1999. Management Plan for Sceloporus arenicolus in New Mexico. Management Plan for New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service. 45 pp + 9 appendices.

Painter, C.W. 1999. Annotated Recommendations based on the Management Plan for the Sand Dune Lizard, Sceloporus arenicolus, in New Mexico. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Santa Fe, NM.

Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. 2012. Texas conservation plan for the dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus). Austin

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