Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Spiny-tail Iguana

I've encountered this young iguana repeatedly in or around a large mesquite near the house. It allowed me to creep closer and closer until I was only one foot away. Spiny-tails are found on the Pacific coast of Mexico and in Baja. They live in hollow branches, rock piles, crevices, and pipes will do in a pinch. They are surpisingly agile in trees, jumping limb to limb, but have unimpressive ground speed. This one was munching on portulaca leaves before climbing up the rock. They are said to be primarily herbivores, but capable of eating small animals.

In the fall, the hatchlings are bright parrot-green with dark charcoal bands on their back. These green babies fit right into the jungly rain-induced vegetation. With a few months, their green skin morphs to gray tones as the land dries and plants shed their leaves. I suspect this one (at 14" or so) hatched last summer. I rarely see big iguanas--they can reach 4', but I am filled with joy to see any spiny-tail iguana. For me, they are a touchstone--I'm always surprised and delighted that they continue to live nearby.