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Sightings arranged by: Taxonomy Location Date Scientific Name
Dipsosaurus dorsalis — Desert Iguana
Also known as:
Crested Lizard, Desert Crested Lizard
Subspecies I've seen:
D. d. dorsalis
Northern Desert Iguana
Dipsosaurus dorsalis dorsalis — Northern Desert Iguana
I suspect this rather hefty desert iguana was a gravid female. She was the only desert iguana we saw in Cholla Garden, but further south towards Cottonwood Springs we saw many near the road.
Barrel Spring, Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, Imperial County, California—August 2, 1999
This desert iguana had climbed up into a mesquite bush to better sample its foliage.
This large adult was warming up in the morning (around 9 AM). It didn't bother moving as I got closer and closer shots, though it kept a wary eye on me. On its neck you can see the small crest that led to the older "crested lizard" moniker. That's really not much of a crest when compared with something like a basilisk, though.
We ran into a colony of tiny desert iguanas in the bushes around the excellent little Maturango Museum. They couldn't have been much more than hatchlings, perhaps 5 inches long including tail.
As I drove across Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area on my way to Borrego Springs, I was pleasantly surprised to see that despite the above-110-degree temperature, the desert iguanas still weren't hot enough. Several of them were basking on the road, presumably for the additional warmth of the blistering pavement. Their extremely high body temperatures gave them tremendous speed, and each time I'd spot one and pull off the road to try to sneak up for a picture, it would rocket off into the desert. I chased this one around a creosote bush for at least ten minutes before finally giving up with only a few mediocre photos.
We stayed in Borrego Springs for nearly two weeks. Most mornings I would spend half an hour or forty-five minutes driving around the roads on the outskirts of town, hoping to see a horned lizard or two basking on the streets in the morning. I failed at this particularly quest, but I did come across a number of these impressive heat-loving iguanas instead.
Desert iguanas were out in numbers along the roadsides of Algodones Dunes (a.k.a. Imperial Dunes). Most of them did the typical desert iguana race-off-at-high-speed thang, but this fine fellow, who had apparently just emerged from a burrow, held its position for me as I snuck ever close with my camera and tripod.
This very young desert iguana was shyly peeking out from the edge of a bush along the trail to the dunes.
Art Smith Trail, Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, Riverside County, California—May 1, 2019
This was apparently official Rock Basking Day for this particular population of desert iguanas.
I'm not sure what this juvenile was doing about three feet off the ground in this twiggy bush. There wasn't really any foliage to munch on, as you can see. It didn't move even a little bit in the ten minutes or so that I was observing it.
It seems Rock Basking Day is an observed holiday for desert iguanas in more than one location.
The only desert iguana I found on this trip did not choose a photogenic background.
- Behler, J. L., King, F. W. 1979. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles & Amphibians
- Crother, B. I. (ed.) 2017. Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence in Our Understanding, Eighth Edition
- Hanson, J., Hanson, R. B. 1997. 50 Common Reptiles & Amphibians of the Southwest
- Lemm, J. M. 2006. Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of the San Diego Region
- Miller, A. H., Stebbins, R. C. 1973. The Lives of Desert Animals in Joshua Tree National Monument
- Monday, D.C., Dobolek, R. 1999. Arizona Wildlife Views, Special Edition
- Rogner, M. 1997. Lizards
- Sanborn, S. R. 1994. The Lizard-Watching Guide
- Schoenherr, A. A. 1992. A Natural History of California
- Smith, H. M. 1995. Handbook of Lizards: Lizards of the United States and Canada
- Smith, H. M., Brodie, E. D. Jr. 1982. Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification
- Stebbins, R. C. 2003. Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition
- Stoops, E. D., Wright, A. 1997. Snakes and other Reptiles of the Southwest, 4th Edition