Dunes habitat during spring wildflower bloom, Imperial County
Adult at burrow opening in sand dunes habitat, Imperial County
Sand dunes habitat,
San Bernardino County
Habitat, Imperial County
Habitat, Imperial County
Habitat, San Diego County
Desert Iguana tracks leading into a burrow, Imperial County
A large adult desert iguana gets used to me and the camera and lets me get very close before he crawls away and does a few push-ups.
I crawled under a bush with the same friendly iguana seen to the left and tossed him a desert willow flower which he gobbled up for the camera.
I noticed several desert iguanas wandering around under palo verde and desert willow trees on a very hot late Spring afternoon in a small desert park. I decided to pick some of the remaining flowers on the trees and toss them to the iguanas, which readily ate them up.
A juvenile desert iguana
in the Mohave desert.
Several Northern Desert Iguanas
in the Colorado Desert.
A Northern Desert Iguana darts around and does a territorial push-up display.
4 - 5 3/4 inches long from snout to vent (10 - 14.6 cm).
A large lizard with a very long thick tail and a small head with a blunt nose.
Scales are small and granular except for a row of enlarged keeled scales on the middle of the back which form a crest which extends to near the end of the tail.
Color and Pattern
Color is pale beige or gray with reddish-brown markings, creating the appearance of a dark background with pale round spots, sometimes forming bands, along with irregular broken lengthwise dark markings.
Dark markings form rings around the tail.
Underside is pale with reddish or buffy areas on the sides of the belly during breeding season.
Male / Female Differences
Males and females are minimally sexually dimorphic. There is almost no visible difference between males and females except that males generally have enlarged femoral pores during the breeding months. Males and females do not differ in snout-vent length, head length, or head width. (#1)
Juveniles often have a more strongly contrasted pattern than adults.
Life History and Behavior
Active in daytime.
Often seen on rocks basking in the hot sun.
Able to tolerate very high temperatures, higher than any other North American reptile.
Frequently active after high temperatures force other lizards to seek shelter.
A very fast runner.
Seeks refuge in burrows, often located at the base of creosote bushes.
Hibenates in burrows during the winter.
Diet and Feeding
Eats mostly plant material - leaves, flower buds, and flowers.
Creosote bush is a staple food.
Also eats insects, carrion, fecal pellets.
Feeds by climbing branches of creosote bushes and other plants.
Breeds from April to July.
Female lays a clutch of 3 - 8 eggs from June to August.
Creosote bush flats, scrub, dunes, washes, streambeds, floodplains. Most common in sandy areas. Occurs in rocky areas with sandy hummocks.
Occurs primarily where creosote scrub occurs, on the desert sides of Southern California mountiains, and the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains in the Owens Valley, to the Arizona, Nevada, and Baja California Borders.
Ranges farther north into Nevada and southeast Utah, east into Arizona and south to the tip of Baja California and along the west coast of the mainland Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa almost as far south as the tip of the Baja peninsula.
From below sea level to around 5,000 ft. (1,520 m).
Notes on Taxonomy
Subspecies of Dipsosaurus dorsalis are not recognized by all herpetologists.
D. d. dorsalis is the only form occurring north of Mexico.
Joseph Grinnell and Charles Lewis Camp. A Distributional List of the Amphibians and Reptiles of California. University of California Publications in Zoology Vol. 17, No. 10, pp. 127-208. July 11, 1917.
The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the October 2021 California "Special Animals List" and the October 2021 "State and Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California" list, both of which are produced by multiple agencies and available here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Data/CNDDB/Plants-and-Animals. You can check the link to see if there are more recent lists.
If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status you can go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.
This animal is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.