harold

When you talk about a racerunner one most often has a picture of a human who is fast in a sprint race or has the stamina of a long-distance runner. I know what it means to run. When I was younger I did both run fast in a short race or paced myself to run the mile or two mile in high school. I soon learned there is quite a contrast between a short and long-distance race.

An Indiana lizard, the six-lined racerunner, is a good example of a fast runner and one you have to pace yourself. The racerunner is indeed very fast for a short distance, but soon gets weary if forced to run for any distance. Not one of our common lizards the six-lined racerunner has a rather strange range of habitats in Indiana. It is most abundant in the sandy segment of Hoosierland in extreme northwest Indiana. In the area near Lake Michigan in Lake and Porter counties it is often observed in a locale with sand and a little vegetation.

It also is still rather common in the three counties just south of Lake Michigan. Then there is a gap of around a hundred miles to its next location. This is in Knox, Daviess and Gibson counties where a small population has found a home in the sand section of these three counties. Next to find a racerunner one has to travel halfway across our state to the knobs landscape of Floyd and Clark counties. Her it makes its home on the knobs that have a rocky, dry terrain.

I have had the opportunity to see our only member of the whiptail lizard family. This group of reptile species is most often found in the drylands of the southwestern United States. There are a number of these whiptail species in the southwest deserts where they can be quite numerous.

You have to look fast to really get a good look at our racerunner. They are east to spook and usually all you can see of this lizard is a flash of color as it races to another site where it can hide. The six-lined gets its name from its yellow stripes that run from its head to the tip of its tail. The usual body color is a shake of brown.

Males, as is the case in several species of lizards, have blue or green coloration around their heads. They also, when young, have a bright blue tail which fades as they age.

As happens so often when a lizard has a blue tail they are believed to be poisonous and should be avoided. They are not poisonous and should never be killed as they consume many of the insects that we class as harmful. The only two poisonous lizards found in North America are the Gila monster and the Mexican bearded lizard, and neither are found anywhere near Hoosierland. Over the years I have had a number of people tell me a bluetail lizard has more poison than a rattlesnake. Folks, it just isn’t true.

The six-lined racerunner is about a foot in length and has been clocked at 20 miles an hour for a short distance. That 20 miles an hour is a real misnomer. If this lizard or any lizard had to run that fast for an hour it would drop dead from a heart attack. The six-lined is a very social creature as well as being a sun lover. It eats insects and loves to dig burrows where it can escape the hot direct rays of the summer sun. As they do have a restricted range you may never see a six-lined, but it’s still nice to know we do have them in Indiana.

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