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Chuckwalla: 21 Facts You Won't Believe!

Chuckwallas are large lizards found in the North American desert

The chuckwallas, scientific name Sauromalus, are a part of the lizard family and are found largely in the North American desert. These are reptiles and fairly large in size. These reptiles are found in thousands and are mostly herbivorous in their eating habits.  The common chuckwalla species' conservation status is Least Concern. Different types of subspecies are found in different locations. For example, Santa Catalina chuckwalla is found in the peninsula of Baja California.

Common chuckwalla, Sauromalus ater, are rock dwellers. These are found in burrows or crevices in the desert areas of the Sonoran or Mojave desert. These burrows are generally naturally formed spaces not made by the chuckwallas as such. The common chuckwalla is part of the iguana family and has all the characteristics of the lizards of the desert. Chuckwallas are quite happy leading solitary lives in their burrows or crevices in the desert sand. They spend a lot of time basking in the desert sun. They also keep looking for their favorite foods and scurry into their burrows in the face of any danger.

You may also check out crested gecko facts and reticulated python facts from Kidadl.

Chuckwalla Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a chuckwalla?

A chuckwalla, pronounced 'chuck·wal·la', is a type of lizard.

What class of animal does a chuckwalla belong to?

Chuckwallas belong to class Reptilia.

How many chuckwallas are there in the world?

Chuckwallas, from the genus Sauromalus, are numerous in number. There are literally thousands of these lizards in the wild in the USA as well as the desert regions of Mexico.  

Where does a chuckwalla live?

Chuckwallas are generally found in the desert of the USA and Mexico. They inhabit the rocky areas of the deserts. The common chuckwallas are found across these deserts. Other types of chuckwallas inhabit specific areas of the deserts. The peninsular chuckwalla is found in Baja California. The Angel Island chuckwalla inhabits Isla Ángel de la Guarda and also the smaller islands of the Gulf of California.  

What is a chuckwalla's habitat?

Chuckwalla's habitat is the deserts of the USA and Mexico. They inhabit the rocky areas of the deserts. Common chuckwallas are found across these deserts. Other types of chuckwallas inhabit specific areas of the deserts. The peninsular chuckwalla is found in Baja California. The Angel Island chuckwalla inhabits Isla Ángel de la Guarda and also the smaller islands of the Gulf of California.  

The Santa Catalina chuckwalla is found in the peninsula of Baja California and smaller islands in the Gulf of California. The San Esteban chuckwalla inhabits the San Esteban islands of the Gulf of California. The Monserrat chuckwalla is found in the three islands of the Sea of Cortés.

Who do chuckwallas live with?

Chuckwallas do live with other chuckwallas in the wild. When bred in captivity it is advised that chuckwallas be made to live with one male and all the others being females. If not done so, it leads to unnecessary strife and violence among the male chuckwallas.

How long does a chuckwalla live?

In the wild, the average age of chuckwallas is around 15 years. It has however been seen that in captivity, chuckwallas can live to a ripe old age of 65 as well. They wouldn't survive in the Arctic because rocky desert habitats with enough crevices and vegetation are required for their survival.  

How do they reproduce?

Chuckwallas’ mating occurs generally between the months of May to June. Females lay their chuckwalla eggs in batches of 5-16. These lizard eggs range from 0.2-0.3 oz (6-9.6 g). Males mature at the age of two years while females may take almost five years to mature. Females mate every alternate year. The eggs are laid underground by the females between the months of July to August. The eggs hatch a month later in the month of September.

What is their conservation status?

Chuckwallas are abundantly found in nature and, therefore, the chuckwalla conservation status is Not Endangered. Because of their conservation status, there is hence no need for any conservation efforts to protect chuckwallas from extinction.

Chuckwalla Fun Facts

What do chuckwallas look like?

Chuckwallas have habits that are similar to other lizards in the wild.

Chuckwallas, both males and females, have sturdy and stout bodies. Their abdomens are lowly positioned so that the body crawls over the dusty desert floor. The tail is wide at the base and the top is blunt. The tail has thick scales. The upper side of the body is black in color for males. This includes the shoulders, head, and upper body portions. The color of the lower portion of the males is dependent on the habitat. The lower body of males could be red, yellow, orange, or grey. They have nasal salt secreting glands with specialized cells and gut flora to help them break down cellulose from plants.

Females are yellowish-gray in color. So are the young males. Young chuckwallas have tails that have wide bands.

How cute are they?

One cannot really categorize the chuckwallas as being cute in the traditional sense of the word. They are part of reptilia that crawl with the lower part of the body touching the desert sands. Lizards are generally not considered cute.

How do they communicate?

The chuckwallas are able to communicate through the bobbing of their heads. They do not make any particular sound as such. They also do mouth gaping. When threatened, males and females chuckwallas go deep inside their burrows quickly. Rats and mice prey on its eggs, and feral dogs, cats, and red-tailed hawks prey on the chuckwalla.

How big is a chuckwalla?

The Sauromalus ater can grow to be 6.2 in (15.7 cm) in length. There are other types of chuckwallas that can grow to the length of 11.8 in (30 cm) as well.

How fast can a chuckwalla run?

Chuckwalla lizards, or Sauromalus ater, are rather sprightly creatures. For a larger part of the day, they are found to be sunning themselves in the hot desert sun. However, if threatened, they can move very fast and get inside their burrow.

How much does a chuckwalla weigh?

Chuckwallas can weigh up to 2 lb (0.9 kg) in weight.

What are the male and female names of the species?

The males and females don't have separate names.

What would you call a baby chuckwalla?

There is no specific name for a baby chuckwalla.

What do they eat?

Chuckwallas are mostly herbivorous, preferring to eat leaves of the creosote bush. Baby chuckwalla diet includes dandelion flowers. As they grow they start eating leaves of other plants found in their desert area. Some of them also supplement their diet by eating a few insects. Chuckwallas eat fruits, vegetables, flowers, and some insects as well. They derive their water from their regular diet of these plants, fruits, and vegetables. This is because chuckwallas are desert dwellers where water supply is scarce.

Are they friendly?

Yes, chuckwallas from the genus Sauromalus have a docile and friendly temperament that makes them a pleasant pet to have, they aren't proven dangerous. It helps to know that Chuckwallas bite.

Would they make a good pet?

It is possible to keep the chuckwalla species at home as pets. This is because these lizards are not poisonous and quite harmless. In fact, a pet chuckwalla can be quite docile by temperament. You have to make sure you have a proper enclosed space for the chuckwalla species to live in. This enclosure needs to be cleaned from time to time. It is recommended that the area be cleaned every four weeks. This will ensure that the area is hygienic for the chuckwalla species to thrive in. As the chuckwalla can be rather stout and bulky, the enclosure should be at least 4 feet long.

Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.

Usually, an ideal chuckwalla iguana cage would be 4 x 2 ft in dimension. This would be apt to allow the chuckwalla enough space to back in the sun and also move about at ease. The vents in the cage should be large. This helps in providing ample air for the chuckwalla to breathe. It also helps if the cage of the chuckwalla pet loses heat from one side. The specific area where the chuckwalla lizard resides inside the cage should have a non-variant temperature.

Beech chip wood makes for a good covering to the base of the cage. It is easy to clean and maintain as a habitat in captivity.

Being desert lizards, chuckwallas are used to basking in the sun in the wild. When caged it makes sense to provide a lamp on one side of the enclosure to ensure proper chuckwalla care. The lamp should also have a thermostat to ensure that the temperature is constant. Without this, the cage could become too hot for the pet chuckwalla’s comfort.

Did you know...

that the male chuckwallas fight with other males for mating with females. This is one of the most popular chuckwalla lizard facts. They also fight with each other for territorial rights. The fighting wins are often based on the relative sizes and weights of the warring males.

Also, in some tribes among the native Americans, chuckwallas were reared for their meat as food.

Chuckwallas can be fed the same things that they feed on in the wild. You can feed them with leaves as well as vegetables and fruits. They eat strawberries, buds, creosote leaves, and also ragweed and browneyes. These reptiles are not very choosy about their eating habits.

How does a chuckwalla protect itself from predators?

When chuckwalla faces danger, they use the tight crevices found between the rocks to protect themselves. Because of the flaps of loose skin, their body is inflated which fills the entire space. This makes it difficult for the predator to pull them out.

How do chuckwallas cope with excess salt in their diet?

Chuckwallas cope with the excess salt present in their diet in an interesting way. They sneeze the salt out of their body to get rid of it. This is why there is salty residue found around their nostrils.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles from our smooth green snake facts and water snake facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable chuckwalla coloring pages.

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