Order: Squamata; Family: Iguanidae; Species: Sauromalus ater
Range: Found in the deserts of southeastern California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, western Arizona, eastern Baja California, and northwestern Mexico.
Habitat: Strictly a rock dweller, the chuckwalla is found in rocky outcrops, lava flows, and rocky hillsides.
Diet: Strict herbivores, feeding on many flowering desert plants, flowers and fruits. We feed our Chuckwalla greens, veggies, and tortoise pellets.
Size: Large males can grow up to 16" in total length, although the average is around 12", with females a little smaller.
Lifespan: About 7-10 years in the wild and 10-15 years in captivity.
Behavior: Being a diurnal lizard, they emerge in mornings and prefer to bask in temperatures reaching 105 degrees F. They brumate during the winter and emerge in early spring. The males are territorial and communicate using scent and visual means. Breeding occurs during the summer and eggs are buried under ground and incubate for 2-3 months, usually hatching mid-September. Females can lay up to six eggs during a season.
Wedge is captive-born and came to Turtle Bay as a baby in 2009.
Our chuckwalla’s name is Wedge, after the defensive behavior of wedging themselves between rocks; they also puff up with air, making it very hard for predators to pull them out of the crevices.
Chuckwallas are in the family Iguanidae, the same family as green iguanas. The Iguanidae and Agamidae families (i.e. Bearded dragons) are very similar in looks but are genetically very different, an example of convergent evolution.
Most lizards have a great sense of taste, and may stick their tongue out often to taste their surroundings. They do not have a sense of smell as we do.
Many lizards have a pineal eye, a light sensitive opening covered by a translucent scale on middle of the top of the head.
Males have pores along the interior of thigh called femoral pores that secret an oily substance thought to mark territories, but also could aid in attracting a mate.
Males and females look different. Males have orange or yellow across their body and are larger than females.
Their scientific name, Sauromalus, translates to “bad lizard”.