Cape Spiny-tailed Iguana

Cape Spiny-tailed Iguana
Ctenosaura hemilopha

The Cape Spiny-Tailed Iguana, Ctenosaura hemilopha, is a member of the Iguanidae Family, the Iguanas. They are a large, dark-colored lizard, with a tail that is longer than the body. The tail has two parts – the first two thirds is tan and circled with numerous prominent black and brown rings of short spines; the last third is dark brown and lacks the prominent spines. The juveniles are bright green with brown ringed tails; as they mature the body color transitions to yellow and then to tan with black chevrons. The coloration of the adults varies with the daily temperatures and also the animal’s temperament. The animal is sexually dimorphic – the males develop large jowls and a dorsal crest composed of a row of upright scales on the neck than run down the back. The Cape Spiny-Tailed Iguana is found in the rocky desert scrub and subtropical forests throughout Mexico. They make their den well above the ground in old woodpecker nests in cacti and in other tree cavities to minimize the risk of predation. They are omnivores eating anything they can reach or catch and consume flowers, leaves, stems, fruit and cactus as-well-as smaller animals and eggs. There are five subspecies of the Cape Spiny-Tailed Iguana, each of which are similar in appearance and habitat but vary greatly in distribution. The subspecies Ctenosaura hemilopha hemilopha occurs only in the southern half of the Baja. Thousands of years ago, to maintain food sources, the Seri Indians are believed to have transported this lizard from the mainland to various locations throughout Mexico including the islands within the Sea of Cortez. The Cape-Spiny Tailed Iguana is scientifically of interest as certain populations are insularly providing biologist with a study and a control group that allows the comparison of the evolution of island populations with their mainland counterparts. The male Cape Spiny-Tailed Iguana are larger than females with maximum lengths of 100 cm (39 inches) for the males and 70 cm (28 inches) for the females. From a conservation perspective the Cape Spiny-Tailed Iguana is considered to be Vulnerable with diminished range due to habitat loss caused by human developments.

Cape Spiny-tailed Iguana, Juvenile, Ctenosaura hemilopha hemilopha.

Cape Spiny-tailed Iguana, Female, Ctenosaura hemilopha hemilopha.

Cape Spiny-tailed Iguana, Immature Male, Ctenosaura hemilopha hemilopha.

Cape Spiny-tailed Iguana, Male, Ctenosaura hemilopha hemilopha.