Common chuckwalla

Sauromalus obesus

SUBFAMILY

Iguaninae

TAXONOMY

Sauromalus obesus Baird, 1858, Fort Yuma, Arizona. Four subspecies are recognized. Discussions are underway over the placement of this species under the name Sauromalus ater.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Glen canyon chuckwalla, western chuckwalla, chuck, chuckawalla, iguana; French: Chuckwalla; German: Chuckwalla; Spanish: Chacahuala.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Chuckwallas are robust lizards, with many loose folds of skin on the body, and a tail that stretches as long as the body. Their body color varies geographically, from the common grayish brown hue to brownish red and black. They are also known to change colors in response to environmental conditions. Males typically have dark heads and forelimbs. Females and juveniles are commonly distinguished by some banding, but adult males in some areas are also banded. Adults can reach 16-18 in (41.6-45.7 cm) in total length.

DISTRIBUTION

These lizards occur in the southwestern United States to northwestern Mexico, including parts of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts, and in Baja California.

HABITAT

Chuckwallas prefer a rocky desert setting with plenty of crevices and other small hiding places.

BEHAVIOR

These are quick lizards with a proficient predator-avoidance strategy. When pursued or otherwise threatened, a chuckwalla will race into a crevice, take a deep breath, and inflate its body so that extraction from the point of entry is nearly impossible. They spend the winter deep within rock crevices, but individu als will occasionally poke a nose outside on a particularly warm day. Chuckwallas are sometimes territorial.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Chuckwallas are herbivorous and feed diurnally, foraging for vegetation after warming up by basking in the desert sun. Limited food resources can negatively affect their growth rate.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Mating among the chuckwallas begins in the spring. About two months later, each female lays five to 16 eggs (usually fewer than 10) in depressions or tunnels under stones. The young typically hatch in early fall.

CONSERVATION STATUS Not listed by the IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

These lizards are used in the pet trade and are also a minor source of human food. ♦

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