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Pet Iguanas

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Desert Iguana

Desert Iguanas

In 1853, Spencer Fullerton Baird and Frederic Girard chanced upon small reptiles that they saw in the desert. Much later in 1855, Edward Hallowell was able to describe these lizards and gave them a reptilian –sounding name, Dipsosaurus dorsalis. The two Latin words dipsa meaning thirsty and saurus which is a name of a lizard were combined to form the zoological name, Dipsosaurus. The other Latin word, Dorsalis describes the iguana as black.

In contrast to its water-based cousin, the desert iguana lives in arid areas like deserts streambeds that are very rocky. These lizards are endemic in Northern Mexico and the southwest part of America. Since they are in the desert, it is normal for them to seek shelter under rocks or bushes, but even if they are not, they can withstand temperatures up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Other desert animas dig holes through the sand to protect themselves from the heat, but desert iguanas use these burrows as protection from predators.

The staple foods of this reptile are cresote bush flowers, which are very attractive to them and various fruits, leaves and other plants on the desert. Additionally, rodents or insects are also part of their diet if no other food is available. Even mealworms will be devoured by these reptiles if these are offered to them.

This round-bodied, medium-sized reptile has a long tail and measures ten to sixteen inches long. The color of the desert iguana varies and can range from light-brown in the head part to grayish-white for its body. Moreover, brown stripes along its side are very dark and it has a brown-spotted tail. The desert iguana has a short head in contrast to its large keeled scales along its back, while its belly is pale-colored. When the females breed, their sides are colored pink, same with the males.

They lie dormant in their hiding places during winter and come out during the middle of March. By that time, males are on the prowl for potential mates, while the mating season begins in the middle of May. After mating, the female will lay two to ten eggs during that month and June and build a hole from the sand to place the eggs there. However, the female iguana does not guard the eggs or take care of them. By July or August, the young reptiles get out of their shells and climb scrub bushes to partake of insects that they could possibly catch. Although desert iguanas can be found in open spaces, their favorite place is the cresote bush and there are a number of reasons. Among them is protection from predators by burrowing themselves under the bush’s roots and food from its flowers.

Speaking of predators, the many animals that are a threat to the desert iguana are hawks and owls which are birds and prey, foxes, rodents, serpents and weasels. When faced with a predator, these lizards puff themselves up, like other lizards to scare its enemy away. By doing this, they neutralize animals from being yanked from their hiding places. Out in the open, desert iguanas can run at fifteen miles an hour to escape its enemies.

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