Common Chuckwalla

ANIMAL:
Common Chuckwalla Sauromalus ater

Type of Animal:
Iguanid

Habitat:
Deserts/desert scrub/interior chaparral/semi-desert grasslands w/ rocky areas & crevices/underground burrows as well as moderate vegetation/foliage, can also be found in open flats, found from sea level to 4,593 ft

Location(s):
SE California, S Nevada, S Utah, far SW Colorado, Arizona, Baja California, Sonora

Appearance:
Stocky wide-bodied lizard w/ flattened midsection, thick tail w/ blunt tip, males have reddish-pink to orange, yellow, or light gray bodies w/ black heads/shoulders/limbs, females & juveniles have gray to brown bodies w/ scattered dark red spots or contrasting bands of light & dark in shades of gray or yellow, males darker than females

Food/Diet:
Leaves, flowers, fruits, insects, seeds, vegetables, herbs, greens, insect larvae, shoots, buds

Status in Wild:
Stable

Conservation:
Breeding in zoos & herpetoculture

Lifestyle:
Solitary or small harems of a male w/ 2-3 females

Additional Info:

Called:
Male
Female
Young: Hatchling
Group: Colony
 
Weight:
Male: 2 lbs
Female: 0.5 lb
 
Gestation:
1 month 

Life Span:
15 years in wild, 25-30 years in captivity

Body Length:
Male: 7.2 in
Female: 6 in
Young: 3 in

Tail Length:
Male: 3.6 in
Female: 3 in

Main predators are snakes, predatory birds, & predatory mammals.
 
Active during the day (diurnal).
 
Males territorial, especially during breeding season, & use different color/physical displays, such as push-ups, head-bobs, & gaping of the mouth. They’ll also fight.
 
Breed in spring & summer w/ 6-16 eggs hatching in late September.
 
Sexually mature at 2 years old.
 
Hibernate in winter, using underground burrows & crevices.
 
Shed skin in spring & summer. Like most lizards, they shed skin in pieces.
 
Females protect underground nests/eggs but don’t provide any parental care.
 
Males release scent from pores in thighs to mark territory.
 
Like many dry climate animals, they obtain water from food they eat.
 
Males head-bob, lick, nudge, & jaw-rub to entice females to breed.
 
Can often be seen basking in the sun.

Fun Fact(s):
Sauromalus ater means “black/dark flat lizard” w/ 1st part ancient Greek & 2nd part Latin.
 
Name “chuckwalla” comes from Shoshone word tcaxxwal or Cahuilla word caxwal, which Spanish explorers transcribed as chacahuala.
 
Sometimes kept as pets w/ many coming from captive-bred sources since Nevada only state allowing commercial pet collection.
 
Have acute eyesight & can perceive movement within 98 ft.
 
When threatened/disturbed, they’ll enter crevices & inflate lungs w/ gular pump, distending body & wedging lizard in place.
Common Chuckwalla, stock photo

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