Cape spinytail iguana

Ctenosaura hemilopha

SUBFAMILY

Iguaninae

TAXONOMY

Ctenosaura hemilopha Cope, 1863, Cape St. Lucas, Baja California. Five subspecies are recognized (some taxonomists list six).

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Northern false iguana, spiny-tailed iguana; French: Iguane communa queue espineuse; German: Schwarze Leguane; Spanish: Iguana del Cabo.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Cape spinytail iguanas are large, stocky, wrinkly-looking lizards, with a strongly ridged tail and crest of scales running along the top of the back. The crest is more pronounced in males than females. Adults can reach 3 ft (0.9 m) in total length, including their long tails, which can extend about one and a half times the length of the body.

DISTRIBUTION

These iguanas occur in northwestern Mexico, including the state of Sonora, and on islands in the Gulf of California.

HABITAT

Cape spinytail iguanas live in areas with numerous rocky crevices and frequently with some trees.

BEHAVIOR

Cape spinytail iguanas are territorial, and the males form dominance hierarchies when habitat is limited. Although they will fight back aggressively with their strong legs, jaws, and tail if cornered or handled, they usually opt to run into a rock crevice for cover when they feel threatened.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

These lizards are diurnal, and herbivorous, dining on flowers, fruits, and leaves of native vegetation. They occasionally eat invertebrates.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

These colonial lizards typically form groups with one lead male, several subordinate males, and a harem of females who are dominant to the subordinate males. They are oviparous, laying two dozen or more eggs in one clutch per year. The eggs hatch in about three months.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by the IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

These lizards are sold as pets and are a minor source of food for humans. ♦

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