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What is a Chuckwalla

The Chuckwalla, a large and robust lizard, is a distinctive inhabitant of the arid regions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Known for its bulky body, loose skin, and calm demeanor, this herbivorous reptile is a fascinating example of adaptation to desert environments.

What is a Chuckwalla

Chuckwalla Overview

Admired for its ability to thrive in harsh desert climates, the Chuckwalla plays an important role in its ecosystem. It helps control plant populations and serves as a key prey species for desert predators, demonstrating the interconnected nature of desert life.

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A chuckwalla, Sauromalus obesus, basks in the sun behind desert globemallow flowers in Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Family: Iguanidae
  • Genus: Sauromalus
  • Species: S. ater

Related Article >> Reptiles

Size and Body Description

Chuckwallas are among the largest lizards in their range, typically measuring 12 to 18 inches in length. They have a stout, barrel-shaped body, a broad head, and a thick tail. Their skin is loose and wrinkled, which helps them wedge into tight rock crevices for safety.


12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) in length.


Their diet primarily consists of leaves, flowers, and fruits, making them important for controlling the growth of certain desert plants. They occasionally eat insects.


These lizards are oviparous, with females laying eggs in burrows or under rocks. The eggs hatch after a period of incubation, and the young are independent from birth. As reptiles, they do not engage in pollination.


They are native to the desert regions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, including areas like the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts.

Where Found

Chuckwallas are typically found in rocky desert areas with sparse vegetation. They are known for their ability to climb and bask on rocks to regulate their body temperature.

How Long do Chuckwalla Live

In the wild, Chuckwallas can live for about 10-25 years, depending on environmental conditions and predation.


While not endangered, their populations can be affected by habitat loss, climate change, and human disturbance. Conservation efforts focus on preserving desert habitats and understanding the ecological role of these lizards.

The Chuckwalla, with its unique appearance and ecological role, is an integral part of the desert’s biodiversity. Efforts to protect these lizards and their habitats contribute to the health and balance of desert ecosystems.

Additional Photos

profile of a chuckwalla a large desert-dwelling lizard basking on a rock.

Portrait of Chuckwalla lizard basking on rock

What is a Chuckwalla