Desert Iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis)

(Fig. 01)
Picture Notes: After finishing the Fire Wave hike, Blake and I went back and hiked the Mouse’s Tank trail. On our way back we spotted this Desert Iguana (Fig. 01) frolicking in a large bush on the side of the trail. He was quite busy climbing around this bush (Fig. 02) looking for and eating buds and berries (Fig. 03). Occasionally he would look our way if there was movement (Fig. 04). Even though more than a half dozen hikers gathered around to take pictures, he continued foraging for food, remaining undaunted by their presence.
Description: The Desert Iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis dorsalis), is one of the most common lizards, and also one of the biggest. Their preferred habitat is creosote bush scrubland, where they feed on the green plants of the area. They are widely distributed throughout the Mojave, Sonoran and Colorado deserts, typically below 3300 feet. It is found in greatest abundance in sandy creosote flats but can also be found in rocky or hilly areas. They can withstand high temperatures, and are out and about after other lizards have retreated into their burrows. They are very quick critters and can run at high speeds on their powerful back legs, curling their tail over their back and folding their front legs into their body.

The Desert Iguana is a medium-sized (10-16 inches), light colored lizard with a long tail. Its snout-vent length can measure almost six inches, and its tail nearly 1 1/2 times longer. It has a small, rounded head with large ear openings, and sturdy legs. Broad dorsal bands span its light cream colored body, and eventually become rings around its tail. Narrow, longitudinal stripes overlay the dark bands, especially in the central and posterior dorsal areas. The bands and stripes occur in various shades of brown and gray. The dorsal scales are keeled, and become slightly larger down the center of the back. This forms a well-defined crest that extends along the back and diminishes down the length of the tail.
They like sandy desert flats and washes. These habitats also provide sandy, friable soil that is necessary for burrow construction. Primarily herbivores, they eat the flowers, buds, fruits and leaves of many annuals and perennials, especially creosote. Some individuals have been observed to climb up 6-7 feet into a bush to forage. This one was about four or five feet up into this bush. They are particularly attracted to yellow wildflowers, and seems to prefer the yellow blossoms of the creosote bush often climbing the branches to reach the little flowers. Their activity consists largely of foraging, moving from one food plant to the next and eating. Most of the time on the surface is spent basking in the sun on hummocks near burrows or in bushes.
(Fig. 02)
(Fig 03)
(Fig. 04)