HABITAT AND RANGE:
Spiny-tailed Iguanas inhabit deserts and
scrubland of Central America, Mexico and
the extreme southwestern portion of the
U.S. These iguanas are also known to be
partially arboreal. In captivity, they
must have large amounts of sunshine and
very large enclosures.
The Spiny-tailed Iguana is a
medium-sized iguanid, usually reaching
no more than 4 feet. The body is heavily
built; the head is large and blunt, with
powerful jaws and the tail is long. Most
characteristic is the scalation of the
body. The scales are minute, but on the
back is a crest of large, flat spines.
The genus may be defined by the
structure of the tail. The appendage is
covered with rings or whorls of large,
spiny scales. With these spines, the
tail can be used to defend the iguana
from predators. The feet have very long
toes and strong claws.
Most frequently the Spiny-tailed Iguana
is seen stretched upon a fallen tree or
on a low branch. If startled, they will
escape by hurling itself to the ground
and tearing through the undergrowth. It
will use its tail as an offensive weapon
in dealing quick, lashing blows. If
threatened, it lashes its tail from side
to side, while the jaws are held open,
ready to bite. These lizards are very
In captivity, they are omnivorous
feeders- lettuce, celery tops, fruits,
young birds and rodents. However,
Spiny-tailed Iguanas are largely
carnivorous in the wild. They are
surprisingly agile in catching prey.
They shake their prey to death and then
swallow it whole.
REPRODUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT:
Spiny-tailed Iguanas are oviparous
reptiles and lay clutches of 20-30 eggs
in sandy soil. After 90 days of
incubation, the young are hatched. The
hatchlings are 6-7” long at this time.
STATUS IN WILD:
Two of the six species of this genus are
the only iguanas living in North
America. In Mexico, Central and South
America, iguanas are brought to market
in large numbers. They are regarded as
excellent food and alleged to taste like
chicken. They are used as meat
especially during Lent. They are not
listed as endangered.