Desert Duets: Chuckwalla Info Web Page

Information about Common Chuckwallas

How will you recognize a chuckwalla in the wild? You will know it by its bulky body and big belly. While many lizards are slim and trim, the chuckwalla has a large abdomen and short, stocky legs. Chuckwallas also have loose folds of skin around their necks and thick, blunt tails.

The adult common chuckwalla can grow up to sixteen inches in length. Male chuckwallas have black heads, necks and legs; their bodies are cream, yellow, or orange. Some are even tri-colored. Adult females are brown to grayish brown and may have lighter-colored tails.

Male chuckwallas are especially territorial. To mark their territory, they make head-bobs that look like they are doing push-ups. Scientists think these behaviors help lizards size up their enemies rather than fighting off each one.

Like iguanas, chuckwallas are vegetarians. Other lizards are carnivorous. In the Sonoran Desert, common chuckwallas eat palo verde (tree) and ocotillo (cactus) leaves as well as globemallow and other desert plants. Chuckwallas do not drink water. They receive all of the moisture they need from the plants they eat.

To defend themselves from predators, chuckwallas wedge themselves in rocky crevices. They gulp air and blow up their lungs. This makes it very difficult for their predators to capture and eat them.

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Launched: February 2008
Updated: 28 June 2012