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Ctenosaura similisCtenosaura similis

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Megaclassis: Osteichthyes
Cladus: Sarcopterygii
Cladus: Rhipidistia
Cladus: Tetrapodomorpha
Cladus: Eotetrapodiformes
Cladus: Elpistostegalia
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Lepidosauromorpha
Superordo: Lepidosauria
Ordo: Squamata
Cladus: Unidentata Episquamata Toxicofera
Subordo: Iguania
Infraordo: Pleurodonta

Familia: Iguanidae
Genus: Ctenosaura
Species: Ctenosaura similis

Ctenosaura similis (Gray, 1831)

Ctenosaura similis

Ctenosaura similis (*)

Primary references

Gray, J.E. 1831. A synopsis of the species of Class Reptilia. In: Griffith, E & Pidgeon, E.. The animal kingdom arranged in conformity with its organisation by the Baron Cuvier with additional descriptions of all the species hither named, and of many before noticed. Volume the ninth. The class Reptilia arranged by the Baron Cuvier, with specific descriptions. Whittaker, Treacher and Co.: London. 110 pp. (Appendix) BHL Reference page.


Uetz, P. & Hallermann, J. 2022. Ctenosaura similis. The Reptile Database. Accessed on 22 July 2022.
Pasachnik, S. 2015. IUCN: Ctenosaura similis (Least Concern). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T174480A73611567. DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-1.RLTS.T174480A73611567.en. Accessed on 22 July 2022.

Vernacular names
Deutsch: Schwarzer Leguan
English: Black Spiny-tailed Iguana
español: Iguana negra
日本語: ツナギトゲオイグアナ

Ctenosaura pectinata is a species of moderately large lizard in the family Iguanidae. The species is native to western Mexico.

The standardized English name is the western spiny-tailed iguana.[4]: 58–59 p.  However, an earlier edition of standardized names applied the name Mexican spinytailed iguana to Ctenosaura pectinata.[5]: 46 p.  Confoundedly the name Mexican spiny-tailed iguana was applied to Ctenosaura acanthura[4]: 58–59 p.  which was referred to as the northeastern spinytailed iguana in the earlier edition of standardized names.[5]: 45–46 p.  It has also been called simply the spiny-tailed iguana,[6]: 506 p. [7]: 216 p.  black spiny-tailed iguana,[8]: 265 p.  Guerreran spiny-tailed Iguana,[1] broad-ringed spiny-tailed iguana[9]: 144 p.  among other common names.

The taxonomic status, relationships, and validity of a number of spiny-tailed iguana, particularly Ctenosaura acanthura, C. pectinata, and C. similis have an extensive history of confusion in both scientific and popular literature. The status and relationship of Ctenosaura acanthura and C. pectinata remains unstable (as of 2021) with some limited molecular evidence suggesting Ctenosaura acanthura is a synonym (the same species) of C. pectinata, while others recognize the two as allopathic, morphologically distinct species.[10][11][12][13] The common names Mexican spiny-tailed iguana and black spiny-tailed iguana (among many other common names) have been loosely and informally applied to all three species at various times.

Geographic range

In Mexico it is found from central Sinaloa to southern Chiapas. It has also been introduced to the United States in the very southern tip of the state of Texas and in the state of Florida.

C. pectinata was first described by German zoologist Arend Friedrich August Wiegmann in 1834.[14] The generic name, Ctenosaura, is derived from two Greek words: ctenos (Κτενός), meaning "comb" (referring to the comblike spines on the lizard's back and tail), and saura (σαύρα), meaning "lizard".[15] Its specific name is the Latin word pectinata meaning "combed", also referring to the comblike spines on the lizard's back.[16] The genus it belongs to represents the most diverse group of iguanas with 15 currently recognized species.[17] These species inhabit lowland (below 1200m elevation) dry forests on both coasts of Mexico and Central America.[17] All species of Ctenosaura fall within one of seven clades.[17] Distributions of these clades fall geographically within well established areas.[17] Closely related species show allopatry whereas species from divergent clades show sympatry.[17] Phylogenic study shows this species to be most closely related to C. acanthura, the Northeastern spinytail iguana.[18] Additional mitochondrial DNA research is being performed to determine whether additional subspecies may exist.[19] Because of the different human cultures throughout this species distribution, the clades are being evaluated for their impact from humans.[19] For example, these iguanas are not eaten in their northern ranges by humans as they are in the southern ranges, but the hatchlings in the southern ranges have a better survival rate due to better environmental conditions.

C. pectinata has distinctive keeled scales on its long tail, to which its common name refers. It is one of the larger members of the genus Ctenosaura, capable of growing to 1.3 m (4.3 feet) in total length (including tail), with females being slightly smaller than males at 1.0 m (3.3 ft). It is usually brown or grey-brown in coloration dorsally, with a yellowish ventral surface.[15] It has a crest of long spines which extend down the center of its back.[15] Hatchlings are often a bright green color with no body pattern, and darken as they age.[20]

Ctenosaura pectinata often (but not always) has an irregular piebald pattern on the head or dorsal areas. Although the tail may be banded with light and dark crossbands, C. pectinata typically lacks a clear or well developed crossband pattern on the body, which is often present in the similar appearing and closely related species Ctenosaura similis and Ctenosaura acanthura.[21]: 144 p. Ctenosaura pectinata varies from gray to a brownish-black, with some males exhibiting yellowish colors, and females orange color, on the lateral sides of the body.[22]: 143 p.  The young are bright green and unmarked except for black tail bands, present also on adults.[23]: 123 p. 
Geographic distribution of the three large and wide-ranging species of lizards in the genus Ctenosaura (spinytail iguanas): C. acanthura; C. pectinata; C. similis.

C. pectinata is native to Western Mexico from Sinaloa to Oaxaca.[15][16]

This iguana has been introduced to Brownsville, Texas and South Florida and reproduces in the wild in several feral populations.[24] On the south-eastern Florida coast, these iguanas have been found on Key Biscayne, Hialeah, and in Broward County. On the south-western Florida coast, it has been reported on Gasparilla Island.[25] It is currently estimated as of December 2007 that there are 12,000 iguanas on this island, descended from a trio of pet lizards released by a resident in the 1970s.[26]

They are regarded as a "nuisance animal" on Gasparilla island because the iguanas eat ornamental flowers and shrubs and prey on nesting birds and sea turtle eggs.[26] They have been known to chew through electrical and telephone cables.[26] They may also carry salmonella and their appearance has been known to scare timid residents.[26] As the iguanas like to burrow in the sand it is feared that their tunnels could cause dunes and even seawalls to collapse and deprive the island of crucial protection from landfalling hurricanes.[26]

C. pectinata is a social lizard, which has adapted to living in groups as opposed to other species of Ctenosaura which tend to be solitary animals.[27] These iguanas are excellent climbers, and prefer a rocky habitat with plenty of crevices to hide in, rocks to bask on, and nearby trees to climb.[15][24] They are diurnal and fast moving, employing their speed to escape predators but will lash with their tails and bite if cornered.[15] They are often found dwelling near or in towns in their native Mexico and where they have been introduced elsewhere.[24]

Juveniles consume a diet consisting mostly of insects. However, adults are primarily herbivorous, eating a variety of flowers, leaves, stems, and fruit, but they will opportunistically eat small animals, eggs, and arthropods.[24]

Mating of C. pectinata occurs in the spring. Males show dominance and interest by head bobbing, eventually chasing the female until he can catch her and subdue her.[15] Within eight to ten weeks, the female will dig a nest and lay clutches of up to 50 eggs in a burrow of loose soil.[15][20] These eggs hatch in 90 days with the bright green babies digging their way out of the sand.[15] The bright green hatchlings first appear around July and are abundant in August.[23]: 123 p. 
Threatened status

C. pectinata is used as a traditional food source in its native Mexico.[28] This species is listed as "Least Concern" by the IUCN Redlist, but the species is listed on the Mexican Red List NOM-059-2001 as threatened and it is currently illegal to hunt them in Mexico.[19] This protection does not apply to areas in North America where they have been introduced, however.

Although hunting, trapping, and killing of these iguanas is illegal throughout Mexico; the Balsas depression along the borders of the states Michoacán and Guerrero is one of the largest illegal hunting and trading areas.[28] The remoteness of the areas and lack of enforcement of the laws is seen as the main reason.[28] A study is being conducted by the Instituto de Biologia, UNAM, to solve the over-exploitation problem and to determine if the iguanas can be successfully farmed as a food source similar to the Green Iguana and the closely related Ctenosaura similis.[19]


Reynoso, V.H.; Vázquez-Cruz, M.; Rivera-Arroyo, R.C.; Zarza-Franco, E.; Grant, T.D. (2020). "Ctenosaura pectinata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2020: e.T174478A1414553. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-2.RLTS.T174478A1414553.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
"Appendices | CITES". Retrieved 2022-01-14.
Species Ctenosaura pectinata at The Reptile Database
Liner, Ernest A., and Gustavo Casas-Andreu (2008). Standard Spanish, English and scientific names of the amphibians and reptiles of Mexico. Society for the Study Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Circular 38: i-iv, 1-162.
Liner, E.A. (1994). Scientific and common names for the amphibians and reptiles of Mexico in English and Spanish. Society for the Study Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Circular 23: i-iii, 1-113.
Behler, J.L., and F.W. King (1979). National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 743 pp. ISBN 0-394-50824-6.
Conant, R., and J.T. Collins (1998). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians, Eastern and Central North America. (3rd edition, expanded). Peterson Field Guide Series. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. xviii + 616 pp. ISBN 0-395-90452-8.
Bartlett, Richard D. (1987). In Search of Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: E.J. Brill. xix + 363 pp. ISBN 0-916846-41-5.
Garrett, Judith M., and David G. Barker (1987). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Texas. Austin: Texas Monthly Press. xi + 225 pp. ISBN 0-87719-068-2.
Köhler, G., and B. Streit (1996). "Notes on the systematic status of the taxa acanthura, pectinata, and similis of the genus Ctenosaura (Reptilia: Sauria: Iguanidae)". Senckenbergiana biologica 75 (1/2): 33-43.
Malone, Catherine L., Víctor Hugo Reynoso, and Larry Buckley (2017). "Never judge an iguana by its spines: Systematics of the Yucatan spiny tailed iguana, Ctenosaura defensor (Cope, 1866)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 115: 27-39
Zarza, Eugenia, Victor H. Reynoso, and Brent C. Emerson (2008). "Diversification in the northern neotropics: mitochondrial and nuclear DNA phylogeography of the iguana Ctenosaura pectinata and related species". Molecular Ecology 17: 3259–3275
The Reptile Database, Ctenosaura acanthura (SHAW, 1802), see Comments, (accessed 6 July 2021)
"Ctenosaura ". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 30 December 2007.
Malfatti, Mark (2007). "A Look at the Genus Ctenosaura: Meet the World's fastest lizard and its kin". Reptiles Magazine. 15 (11): 64–73.
Hollingsworth, Bradford D. (2004). "The Evolution of Iguanas an Overview and a Checklist of Species". pp. 33–34. In: Alberts, Allison C., Ronald L. Carter, William K. Hayes, and Emília P. Martins (2004). Iguanas: Biology and Conservation. Berkeley: University of California Press. 372 pp. ISBN 978-0-520-23854-1.
Buckley, Larry; Pagel, Katelyn; Villela, Oscar (2007). "Evolution of Spiny-tailed Iguanas (Genus Ctenosaura): How Identification of Species Groups and their Relationships Can Help with Conservation Priorities". Iguana: Journal of the International Iguana Society. 14 (4): 248–251.
de Queiroz, Kevin (1987). Phylogenetic systematics of iguanine lizards: a comparative osteological study. Berkeley: University of California Press. xii + 203 pp.
Reynoso, Victor; Zarra-Franco, Eugenia; Medina Mantecon, Wendoli; Rueda Zozaya, Pilar (2007). "Black Iguana Project 2006 Update: Genetics, Demography, and Feeding". Iguana: Journal of the International Iguana Society. 14 (4): 249–250.
Behler, John L.; King, F. Wayne (1979), The Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of North America, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, p. 581, ISBN 0-394-50824-6
Köhler, G. (2008). Reptiles of Central America, 2nd Edition. Offenbach, Germany: Herpeton, Verlag Elke Köhler. 400 pp.
García, A., and G. Ceballos (1994). Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of the Jalisco Coast, Mexico. México, Distrito Federal: Fundacion Ecologica de Cuixmala, A. C., Instituto de Biologia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. 184 pp.
Hardy, L.M., and R.W. McDiarmid (1969). "The Amphibians and Reptiles of Sinaloa, Mexico". University of Kansas Publications, Museum of Natural History 18 (3): 39-252.
Conant, Roger; Collins, Joseph T. (1991). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians Eastern/Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-395-58389-6.
Krysko, K.L.; King, F.W.; Enge, K.; Reppas, A.T. (2003). "Distribution of the introduced black spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura similis) on the southwestern coast of Florida". Florida Scientist. 66 (2): 74–79.
Moser, Patrick (December 8, 2007), "Florida island takes up arms against iguana invasion", AFP: Agence France-Presse, archived from the original on December 11, 2007
Gutman, A.J. (2005). "Getting Rid of the Gasparilla Island Ctenosaurs: the Lizards Don't Want to Leave". Iguana: Journal of the International Iguana Society. 12 (1): 58.

Reynoso, Victor; Briseno, Laura; Olmos, Gerardo; Hernandez, Victor (2006). "The VIII National Meeting on Iguanas in Mexico, An Overview". Iguana: Journal of the International Iguana Society. 13 (2): 130–132.

Further reading

Wiegmann AFA (1834). Herpetologia Mexicana, seu descriptio amphibiorum Novae Hispaniae, quae itineribus comitis de Sack, Ferdinandi Deppe et Chr. Guil. Schiede in Museum Zoologicum Berolinense pervenerunt. Pars prima, saurorum species amplectens. Adiecto systematis saurorum prodromo, additsque multis in hunc amphibiorum ordinem observationibus. Berlin: C.G. Luderitz. vi + 54 pp. + Plates I–X. (Cyclura pectinata, new species, p. 42 + Plate II). (in Latin).

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