Habitat and fun facts about iguanas in the desert

Is it possible to observe iguanas in the arid, dry climate of the desert? As a matter of fact, Desert Iguanas or Dipsosaurus dorsalis are native to the Mojave and Sonoran deserts of the Southwestern region of the United States. They can also be found in the Northwestern areas of Mexico.

The Desert Iguana is a small reptile of about 10 – 16 inches long, with an extensive tail. Additionally, their bodies have tan and white scales, with sharp front and back claws, suitable for climbing trees. Although iguanas are most commonly found in tropical habitats, these reptiles have adapted well to the dry conditions of the desert.

Desert iguanas are considered herbivores, mainly feeding on low-lying plants, flowers and small bushes like the Creosote bush, cactus flowers, and mesquite trees. They prefer nearby bushes where they can eat the leaves and flowers, consuming them for their high water content and potassium.

courtesy of iStockphoto

These lizards possess special glands that help them secrete the high amount of potassium without losing water content. This becomes an essential survival skill in the desert habitat. Desert Iguanas are considered ectotherm reptiles, an ability to regulate body temperature from external energy sources. They particularly like to bask or lay in the desert sun when their body temperatures are low. To regulate their body temperature, these reptiles furthermore use burrows, which are holes in the ground dug by other animals.

When typical desert temperatures increase to 110 degrees Fahrenheit or more, these animals are able to either seek shade under a tree or refuge in the burrows. Similarly, these deep holes present other means of survival in the desert habitat. Desert iguanas also use burrows to escape from predators such as snakes and birds. In fact, they use these holes as nesting areas. These reptiles also tend to stay close to their habitat and live close to their burrow.

Have you seen these interesting reptiles in your area?

Barbara Mascareno

Barbara is an educational writer, teacher, and instructional designer. She loves to write K-12 education content, teaching strategies, bilingual education approaches, and foreign language.

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