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Western chuckwalla

Scientific name: Sauromalus obesusChuckwalla

Country: USA, Mexico

Continent: North America

Diet: Leaves - folivore, fruits - frugivore, flowers, buds, occasionally insects. At Bristol Zoo Gardens, they eat a wide variety of vegetation and fruit, their favourite being flowers such as dandelion, nasturtium and hibiscus.

Food & feeding: Herbivore

Habitats: Desert and semi-desert

Conservation status: Not Threatened

Relatives: Rhinoceros iguana, Galapagos marine iguana

Description: The chuckwalla is a medium-sized herbivorous lizard (20 - 40 cm in length) from the family Iguanidae. They inhabit arid areas such as Arizona, Texas and Mexico. The Grand Canyon area is perfect chuckwalla land with lots of rocks and crevices to hide in and bask on. Colour patterns can vary from region to region; but generally, the males can range from a brick-red colour to almost entirely black with a yellowish tail. Females are usually a uniform buckskin colour.

Lifestyle: When threatened, chuckwallas inflate their bodies, run very quickly and wedge themselves between the rocks. In the mornings after a cool desert night, chuckwallas will sit out on a rock to bask in the sun. When they are warmed through, they forage for flowers and other plant material. They seek shelter from the sun in the middle of the day. At night they shelter in a burrow or crevice and become inactive. During the winter months, they hibernate, emerging in the spring to breed.

Growing up: The females lay 5-16 eggs under a suitable stone. Incubation time can be variable depending on the temperature, but as a general rule, hatching will take place two to three months later and the first hatchlings are usually seen in September.

Conservation news: This species is not currently threatened as its desert home remains relatively safe from human development.

This species is the largest iguana that is native to the United States. Green iguanas can be found in Florida, but are exotic introductions.