Added 14 September 2004. Last updated 7 January 2014: added links to Cyclura and Laemanctus.

A look at the

IGUANIDS

Family IGUANIDAE



Introduction

This page accompanies the preceding on the two ways (at least!) of considering the classification of iguanid lizards. Since this is still a fairly contentious area, we have placed the genera in a simple alphabetical order rather than attempting to assign them to the various families and subfamilies. However, since there is disagreement even at the generic level, we have included some names which are now not recognised by some or all authorities, but which may occur in older literature.

It seems probably safe to say that there is more discussion over the huge number of anole-related lizards, and over the less well-known South American iguanids, than there is over the North American species.

Recent Synonyms

In an effort to tidy up the page, I have removed the synonyms, which can be found at the Reptile Database as follows:

Aptycholaemus, Aperopristis, Audantia, Chamaeleolis, Chamaelinorops, Cupriguanus, Deiroptyx, Garbesaura, Phenacosaurus, Polychroides, Xiphocercus

Polychrotidae

Abas, Ceiolaemus, Ophryoessoides, Pelusaurus, Platynotus, Proctotretus, Strobilurus, Vilcunia

Tropiduridae

The genus Sator has been synonymised with Sceloporus. The species known as Tropidodactylus onca has now been reassigned to the genus Norops. The genus name Mariguana on this page was a mistake.

NAVIGATION: As this is a large page we have placed a couple of navigation links in each genus box. Click on "B" to go to the Bibliography, or "I" to go back up to the index (Quick Links).

 

QUICK INDEX

 

Amblyrhynchus, Marine Iguanas

Anisolepis, Tree Lizards

Anolis, Anoles

Basiliscus, Basilisks

Brachylophus, Fiji Iguanas

Callisaurus, Zebra Lizards

Chalarodon, Malagasy Iguana

Conolophus, Galapagos Land Iguanas

Cophosaurus, Greater Earless Lizard

Corytophanes, Crested/Helmeted Iguanas

Crotaphytus, Collared Lizards

Ctenoblepharis

Ctenosaura, Spiny-Tailed Iguanas

Cyclura, Rhinoceros Iguanas

Diplolaemus, Bell's, Darwin and Leopard Iguanas

Dipsosaurus, Desert Iguana

Enyalioides

Enyalius, Fathead Anoles

Garbesaura

Holbrookia, Earless Lizards

Hoplocercus, Weapontail

Iguana, Green Iguanas

Laemanctus, Coneheads

Leiocephalus, Curly-Tails

Leiosaurus, Anoles

Liolaemus, Snow Swifts

Microlophus, Pacific Iguanas

Morunasaurus, Spinytail Iguanas

Norops, Anoles

Oplurus, Malagasy Spiny-Tails/Swifts

Petrosaurus, Rock Lizards

Phymaturus, Andean Swifts

Phrynosoma, Horned Lizards

Plesiomicrolophus

Plica, Tree Runners/Lizards

Polychrus, Bush Anoles

Pristidactylus, Anoles

Sauromalus, Chuckwallas

Sceloporus, Swifts and Spiny Lizards

Stenocercus, Whorltail Iguanas

Tropidurus, Lava Lizards

Uma, Fringe-Toed Lizards

Uracentron, Thornytail Iguanas

Uranoscodon

Urosaurus, Tree, Brush and Small-Scaled Lizards

Urostrophus, Steppe Iguanas

Uta, Side-Blotched Lizards

 



Genus

Common Name

No. of Species

Distribution

Notes

Amblyrhynchus

Marine Iguaua

1

Galapagos Islands off Ecuador

The world's only marine lizard, inasmuch as it swims to the seabed once a day to consume plantlife for several minutes. Most of its time, however, is spent basking on the shore in very large colonies. There are several subspecies.  B I

Anisolepis

Tree Lizards

3

Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina

  B I

Anolis

Anoles

200+

Mainly Caribbean, also C & S America: 1 native to US, a few others introduced into Florida

A very large group of mostly small lizards, even after many species were removed to Norops and other genera.

Basiliscus

Basilisks

4

Central America and N South America

Medium-sized, fairly popular terrarium subjects that are unmistakeable in appearance. This applies particularly to males, who have a striking "fin" and crest along the dorsum. They tend to be highly-strung, so a large terrarium is necessary. B I

Brachylophus

Fiji Iguanas

2

Fiji and Tonga, New Hebrides

Bluish-green large iguanas whose appearance in the Pacific islands is normally attributed to rafting. They are heavily protected, but some herpetoculturists have succeeded in breeding them in captivity.  B I

Callisaurus

Zebratail Lizard

1

USA (California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico) and Mexico (Sonora and Sinaloa)

An interesting species to observe in nature, but usually a poor captive subject for all but specialists. B I

Chalarodon

Dwarf Malagasy Iguana

1

SW Madagascar

  B I

Conolophus

Galapagos Land Iguanas

2

Galapagos Islands

??. B I

Cophosaurus

Greater Earless Lizard

1

USA, Mexico

  B I

Corytophanes

Helmeted Iguanas

3

Mexico and Central America (poss. not El Salvador)

  B I

Crotaphytus

Collared Lizards

7

USA, Mexico

Pugnacious, predatory and attractive lizards who require fairly dry and hot conditions. A large cage is necessary to show off their behaviour, such as running on hindlimbs only.  B I

Ctenoblepharis

??

1

Peru

  B I

Ctenosaura

Spiny-Tailed Iguanas

14

Mainly Mexico, also Honduras, El Salvador, Guatamala and Costa Rica: introduced into USA in Florida and S Texas

??. B I

Cyclura

Rhino Iguanas/ Island Iguanas

8

Caribbean (inc. Jamaica, Cuba, Bahamas, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Cayman Islands)

Large, bulky and long-lived iguanas who live in colonies and have a necessity for their own kind: hence keeping a single individual is far from ideal. Unfortunately in the wild some populations and subspecies are very much endangered by predation and the degradation of habitat by humans and their commensals.  B I

Diplolaemus

Bell's, Darwin's and Leopard Iguana

3

Argentina and Chile

  B I

Dipsosaurus

Desert Iguana

1-2

SW USA, NW Mexico

Elegant and attractive iguanid, somewhat smaller than most of its relatives. It occupies very hot, dry areas, and seems to favour the locality of creosote bushes. If kept in captivity then humidity must be avoided at all costs.  B I

Enyalioides

Dwarf Iguanas

7

Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia

??. B I

Enyalius

Fathead Anoles

8

Mainly Brazil, also Ecuador and Uruguay

??. B I

Gambelia

Leopard Lizards

3

US

Similar in behaviour and ecology to the Collared Lizards, Crotaphytus. B I

Holbrookia

Earless Lizards

4

USA, Mexico

??. B I

Hoplocercus

Weapontail

1

SE Brazil, Bolivia

  B I

Iguana

Green Iguanas

2

Caribbean, Central and N South America

Green iguanas probably need no introduction, yet their care is more demanding than many would-be keepers realise. Full-sized adults can reach 6' in total length and require high humidity, lots of UV light and a daily vegetarian diet. They are among the most intelligent of lizards. If you are committed enough to keep a green iguana, try your local reptile sanctuary first, as many “igs” have been abandoned or given up in recent years and need good homes. B I

Laemanctus

Cone-Headed Lizards/Casque- Headed Iguanas

2

Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua

??. B I

Leiocephalus

Curly-Tails

28

Caribbean??

  B I

Leiosaurus

Anoles

3

Mainly Argentina, also Brazil and Paraguay

  B I

Liolaemus

Snow Swifts

154

S South America

Despite the huge size of this genus, there is little commonly available information on many of the species which enter, or have entered, the pet trade in recent years. This is a pity, firstly because the different species have diverse requirements, and secondly because many are attractive subjects who will probably do well if kept properly. Many hail from the Andes where conditions can be quite cold, hence the common name. B I

Microlophus

Pacific Iguanas

20

?

??. B I

Morunasaurus

Spinytail Iguanas

3

Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru

Latest species named in 2003. B I

Norops

Anoles

150+

Mainly Caribbean, also C America, N & South America

Norops was a group of species that were separated from the genus Anolis. It includes such well-known anole lizards as Norops sagrei, the Brown Anole. More recently the genus was invalidated. B I

Oplurus

Malagasy Spiny-Tails/ Malagasy Swifts

6

Madagascar

  B I

Petrosaurus

Rock Lizards

2

USA, Mexico

  B I

Phymaturus

Andean Chuckwallas

10

Mainly Argentina, also Chile

Referred to as "Chilean chuckwallas" by Bosch & Werning: as most are now found in Argentina, I have referred to them by the common name here. 

Phrynosoma

Horned "Toads"

14

Mainly Mexico, also Guatemala, USA: poss. 2 in S Canada

In appearance and ecology these unusual lizards are somewhat similar to the Australian agama Moloch horridus. They too live in desert conditions and are primarily ant-eaters, though some will take other food as well. However, none do particularly well in captivity owing to both dietary and low-humidity requirements, and most people should forego keeping these animals. When threatened, some Phrynosoma have the ability to squirt a jet of blood from the corner of their eyes, startling would-be predators.   B I

Plesiomicrolophus

 

11

??

  B I

Plica

Tree Runners, Tree Lizards

3

Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana, Trinidad, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador

  B I

Polychrus

Bush Anoles

6

Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama

  B I

Pristidactylus

Anoles

10

Argentina and Chile

Considered members of the family Leiosauridae rather than the Polychrotidae, and thus belong to a different group to Anolis, Norops and Polychrus.

Sauromalus

Chuckwallas

6

USA and Mexico

Rather chunky herbivorous lizards that live in hot arid areas where they dwell among rocks. They make good captives given the right caging and temperatures. 

Sceloporus

Swifts, Spiny Lizards

77

Mainly Mexico, also USA, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama; poss. S Canada (1 species)

Kept mainly by US keepers and less frequently seen in the UK, these are fast lizards and need to be housed accordingly. Most are fairly hardy but their needs vary according to their place of origin, which should be correctly established. 

Stenocercus

Whorltail Iguanas 

53

Mainly Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, also Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil

 

Tropidurus

Lava Lizards 

27

 

 

Uma

Fringe-Toed Lizards

5

USA and Mexico

 

Uracentron

Thornytail Iguanas

2

N South America 

 

Uranoscodon

 

1

N Brazil, Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana, E Venezuela, E Colombia, NE Peru, Bolivia

 

Urosaurus

Tree, Brush and Small-Scaled Lizards 

10

Mexico, also USA

Small tree-dwellingspecies. 

Urostrophus

Steppe Iguanas

2

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil

 

Uta

Side-Blotched Lizards 

9

Mexico, also USA 

 

Bibliography - Iguanids

Green Iguanas and other Iguanids, Dr Hubert Bosch and Heiko Werning, TFH 1996 (originally published in German, 1991, as Leguane). See Iguanid page for recommendation of this book.

The following has not been read by the writer, but would appear to be of interest:

Iguanas: Biology and Conservation, A C Alberts, University of California Press 2004, 372pp.

Index of Iguanid-related articles from herpetological magazines.

Links

International Iguana Foundation is a non-profit organisation working for conservation and the raising of public awareness. It appears to deal mainly with Iguana and Cyclura species.

DGHT-AG Iguana - the German herp society DGHT's working group on iguanids. The group produces a regular publication (German language for the most part but also with some English language articles).

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