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Dipsosaurus dorsalis , Photo: Michael Lahanas

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
Cladus: Toxicofera
Subordo: Iguania
Infraordo: Pleurodonta

Familia: Iguanidae
Genus: Dipsosaurus
Species: Dipsosaurus dorsalis
Subspecies: D. d. catalinensis – D. d. dorsalis – D. d. lucasensis – D. d. sonoriensis

Dipsosaurus dorsalis (Baird and Girard 1852)

Type locality:


Dipsosaurus dorsalis (*)

The desert iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis) is an iguana species found in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts of the Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, as well as on several Gulf of California islands.

The species was first described in the Catalog of North American Reptiles, by Spencer Fullerton Baird and Charles Frédéric Girard, in 1859 as Crotaphytus dorsalis. It was reclassified two years later as Dipsosaurus dofus dorsalis by Edward Hallowell.[3] The generic name comes from a combination of two Greek words meaning "thirsty lizard": "Dipsa" (δίψα) for "thirsty", and "sauros" (σαῦρος) for "lizard". The specific name, "dorsalis", comes from the Latin word dorsum meaning "spike", in reference to a row of enlarged spiked scales on the middle of the lizard's back which form a crest that extends almost to the tip of its vent. Dipsosaurus contains two species, D. dorsalis, and D. catalinensis.[4] Genetic evidence supports Dipsosaurus being the most basal extant member of Iguanidae, diverging during the late Eocene, about 38 million years ago.[5]

There are two peninsular and one continental subspecies of the desert iguana.

The desert iguana is a medium-sized lizard which averages 41 cm (16 in) in total length but can grow to a maximum of 61 cm (24 in) including the tail.[6] They are pale gray-tan to cream in color with a light brown reticulated pattern on their backs and sides. Down the center of the back is a row of slightly-enlarged, keeled dorsal scales that become slightly larger farther down the back. The reticulated pattern gives way to brown spots near the back legs, turning into stripes along the tail. The tail is usually around 1½ times longer than the body from snout to vent. The belly is pale. During the breeding season, the sides become pinkish in both sexes.

Their preferred habitat is largely contained within the range of the creosote bush, mainly dry, sandy desert scrubland below 1,000 m (3,300 ft). They have a significant presence in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. They can also be found in rocky streambeds up to 1,000 m. In the southern portion of its range, these lizards lives in areas of arid subtropical scrub and tropical deciduous forest.

These lizards can withstand high temperatures and are out and about after other lizards have retreated into their burrows. They seek shade when their body temperature is in the low-forties (celsius), and seek the protection of a burrow when their body temperature reaches the mid-forties (Celsius). They burrow extensively and if threatened will scamper into a shrub and go quickly down a burrow. Their burrows are usually dug in the sand under bushes like the creosote. They also often use burrows of kit foxes and desert tortoises.

Reproduction also plays a role in where these lizards are found. It is believed that the high temperature environment helps with successful hatching of eggs. The eggs often hatch between temperatures of 28 and 38 degrees Celsius.[7]
Diet and reproduction

Mating takes place around May-June. Only one clutch of eggs is laid each year, with each clutch having 3-8 eggs.[8] The hatchlings emerge around September.[8]

Desert iguanas are primarily herbivorous, eating buds, fruits and leaves of many annual and perennial plants.[8] They are especially attracted to the flowers and leaves of the creosote bush.[8] They also eat insects, especially ants.[9] Predators of these iguanas and their eggs are birds of prey, foxes, rats, long-tailed weasels, and snakes.[8]

"Dipsosaurus dorsalis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 September 2008.
Malone, C.L.; French, S. (2019). "Dipsosaurus dorsalis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T194975A2370621. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T194975A2370621.en. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
Baird, S. F.; Girard, C. (1852). "Characteristics of some new reptiles in the Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, part 2". Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 6: 125–129. hdl:10088/34417.
"Dipsosaurus dorsalis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
Malone, Catherine L.; Reynoso, Víctor Hugo; Buckley, Larry (2017-10-01). "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. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2017.07.010. ISSN 1055-7903. PMID 28716742.
Stebbins, Robert (2003). Western Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 338–339, 537. ISBN 0-395-98272-3.
Muth, Allan (1980). "Physiological Ecology of Desert Iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis) Eggs: Temperature and Water Relations". Ecology. 61 (6): 1335–1343. doi:10.2307/1939042. ISSN 1939-9170. JSTOR 1939042.
Lemm, Jeffrey.(2006) Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of the San Diego Region (California Natural History Guides). University of California Press.

Dibble, Christopher (2008). "Diet and Sexual Dimorphism of the Desert Iguana, Dipsosaurus dorsalis, from Sonora, Mexico".

Frost, D.R. and R.E. Etheridge (1989) A Phylogenetic Analysis and Taxonomy of Iguanian Lizards (Reptilia: Squamata). Univ. Kansas Mus. Nat. Hist. Misc. Publ. 81
Frost, D.R., R. Etheridge, D. Janies and T.A. Titus (2001) Total evidence, sequence alignment, evolution of Polychrotid lizards, and a reclassification of the Iguania (Squamata: Iguania). American Museum Novitates 3343: 38 pp.
Hancock, T. V., & Gleeson, T. T. (2007). Contributions to Elevated Metabolism during Recovery: Dissecting the Excess Postexercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) in the Desert Iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis). Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 81(1), 1–13.
Revell, T. K., & Dunbar, S. G. (2007). The energetic savings of sleep versus temperature in the Desert Iguana ( Dipsosaurus dorsalis) at three ecologically relevant temperatures. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part A, Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 148(2), 393–398.
Valdivia-Carrillo, T., García-De León, F. J., Blázquez, M. C., Gutiérrez-Flores, C., & González Zamorano, P. (2017). Phylogeography and Ecological Niche Modeling of the Desert Iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis, Baird & Girard 1852) in the Baja California Peninsula. The Journal of Heredity, 108(6), 640–649.

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