Sauromalus varius

Range: San Esteban Island and Isla Roca Lobos in the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California)

Habitat: Lava flows and dry, rocky areas

Conservation status: Endangered

San Esteban Chuckwalla

  • • Sometimes referred to as the Piebald chuckwalla because of its mottled coloring
    • The largest of the 5 species of chuckwallas; considered a textbook example of island gigantism
    • When faced with danger, they retreat to crevices in rocks and inflate their bodies with air to wedge themselves tightly into the rock.
    • Endangered due to hunting, over-collection for the pet trade, and the introduction of feral animals, such as rats and mice that prey on the chuckwallas eggs and dogs and cats that prey upon the lizards
    • Diurnal and ectothermic; chuckwallas spend most of their mornings and winter days warming their bodies by basking in the sun.
    • Active up to 102°F, but hibernate during cooler months.
    • Diet: Creosote bushes and cholla cactus, but will eat any leaves, fruit, flowers, and an occasional insect. They prefer yellow flowers.
    • When food is plentiful, males tend to establish a hierarchy with the largest male dominating smaller ones in the area. Secretions from pores on the inner side of the thighs of males may play a role in marking territory. In lean periods, no territories are formed.
    • Visually oriented, they use a combination of color, “push-ups,” head-bobbing, and gaping of the mouth to communicate and defend their territories.
    • May live for 25 years or more.

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