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San Esteban, Baja California, Mexico
The San Esteban chuckwalla (Sauromalus varius), also known as the piebald chuckwalla or pinto chuckwalla, is a species of chuckwalla belonging to the family Iguanidae endemic to San Esteban Island in the Gulf of California. It is the largest of the five species of chuckwallas and the most endangered.
The San Esteban chuckwalla is the largest species of chuckwalla, reaching 61 cm (24 in) in body length and 76 cm (30 in) overall length, and weighing up to 1.4 kg (3.1 lb). It is considered a textbook example of island gigantism, as it is three to four times the size of its mainland counterparts. The male's skin is gray with tan to yellow patches over its entire body, and its face is gray to black. The female is duller in appearance with fewer patches. The colorations provide almost perfect camouflage against some of their predators.
Sometimes referred to as the Piebald chuckwalla because of its mottled coloring
• The largest of the 5 species of chuckwallas; considered a textbook example of island gigantism
• When faced with danger, they retreat to crevices in rocks and inflate their bodies with air to wedge themselves tightly into the rock.
• Endangered due to hunting, over-collection for the pet trade, and the introduction of feral animals, such as rats and mice that prey on the chuckwallas eggs and dogs and cats that prey upon the lizards
• Diurnal and ectothermic; chuckwallas spend most of their mornings and winter days warming their bodies by basking in the sun.
• Active up to 102°F, but hibernate during cooler months.
• Diet: Creosote bushes and cholla cactus, but will eat any leaves, fruit, flowers, and an occasional insect. They prefer yellow flowers.
• When food is plentiful, males tend to establish a hierarchy with the largest male dominating smaller ones in the area. Secretions from pores on the inner side of the thighs of males may play a role in marking territory. In lean periods, no territories are formed.
• Visually oriented, they use a combination of color, “push-ups,” head-bobbing, and gaping of the mouth to communicate and defend their territories.
• May live for 25 years or more.
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