Desert iguana

Dipsosaurus dorsalis

SUBFAMILY

Iguaninae

TAXONOMY

Dipsosaurus dorsalis Baird and Girard, 1852, Colorado Desert, California. Four subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Northern crested lizard, crested lizard, desert lizard; French: Iguane du désert; German: Wustenleguan; Spanish: Iguana del desierto, cachoron guero.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Desert iguanas are robust lizards with a crest of raised, enlarged scales along the top of the back. They have whitish bellies, slate-colored backs that are spotted with white, and striped tails. Males have reddish, posterior markings. Adults can reach 15 in (38 cm) long, including a tail that is almost twice as long as the body.

DISTRIBUTION

Desert iguanas occur in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, including islands in the Gulf of California.

HABITAT

These lizards live in open desert, often amidst scrubby bushes, where they occupy burrows and rock crevices.

BEHAVIOR

Like the chuckwallas, desert iguanas will scurry into a crevice when threatened and puff up their bodies to avert being extracted by a predator.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Desert iguanas are diurnal, primarily herbivorous lizards that feed on the foliage and fruit of bushes and other desert plants, but will also eat invertebrates. They are territorial over feeding areas.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The breeding season of the desert iguana runs from spring to midsummer. Females typically lay three to eight eggs from early to late summer, and under optimum conditions may have a second clutch.

CONSERVATION STATUS Not listed by the IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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