Spiny-tailed (Black) Iguanas
©1995, 2002 Melissa Kaplan
Species and Range
C. similis - from Mexico through Panama; the most frequently imported species. More than one row of scales between tail whorls.
Found in Mexico, large areas in Central America and islands adjacent to Panama, these 24-36" lizards are great diggers and baskers. They are found around ruins, stone walls, rocky open slopes and branches of large trees along the open borders of the forests.
The Spiny-tailed iguanas tend to be nasty and not tameable like their bigger, green iguana (Iguana iguana) cousins. Juveniles are mostly green, with their adult coloring coming on during their first year. The adult ground color is dark brown-to-gray or black, depending upon the species or subspecies. Most have black mottling on their back. The belly is usually an off- or dirty white. The tail is ringed with specialized spiny scales. While the C. similis has a tall dorsal crest, the other species tend towards very short crests.
Found in wild in groups usually dominated by a major male.
Start youngsters off on a varied diet of crickets, mealworms and pinks, moving up in prey size as the lizard grows. Plant matter can include the Green Iguana Salad (see my Iguana Care and Socialization document for recipe and food items), plus additional fruits, leaves and flowers. Gut-load invertebrates before feeding out. Plant matter can be offered daily, with animal matter offered in very small amounts with every meal or slightly larger amounts 3-4 times a week.
Burghardt, GM and Rand, AS. Iguanas Of The World: Their Behavior, Ecology And Captive Care. 1982. Noyes Publications, Park Ridge NJ
Fitch, Henry and Robert Henderson. Ecology and Exploitation of Ctenosaura similis. Univ. Kansas Sci. Bull. 51 (15): 483-500 p.p.
Obst, Fritz et al. The Completely Illustrated Atlas Of Reptiles & Amphibians For The Terrarium 1988. TFH Publishing, Inc.
Wynn, Richard. Lizards In Captivity. 1981. TFH Publishing, Inc.
Zimmerman, Linda and C. Richard Tracy. Interactions between the environment and ectothermy and herbivory in reptiles. 1989. Physiological Zoology 62(2):374-409.
Elfstrom, Bruce. Genus Ctenosaura: The Spiny-Tailed Iguana, Reptiles, August 1997.
Gray, Randall. Lizards in the Land of Enchantment--A Visit with Bruce Elfstrom, The Vivarium, Vol 9, #6, 1998.
Emerging Introduction/Invasive Species Problems
Krysko, Kenneth; Wayne F. King, Kevin M. Enge, Anthony Reppas. Distribution of the Introduced Black Spiny-Tailed Iguana (Ctenosaura similis) on the Southwestern Coast of Florida. Florida Scientist 66(2):74-79, 2003.
Townsend, Josiah H., Kenneth L. Krysko, Kevin M. Enge. The Identity of Spiny-tailed Iguanas, Ctenosaura, introduced to Florida, USA. Herpetozoa 16 (1/2):67-72, July 2003.
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