The black spiny-tailed iguana was first described by British zoologist John Edward Gray in 1831. The generic name, Ctenosaura, is derived from two Greek words: ctenos (Κτενός), meaning "comb" (referring to the comblike spines on the lizard's back and tail), and saura (σαύρα), meaning "lizard". Its specific name is the Latin word similis meaning "similar to", a common description found in Linnean taxonomy when referring to a new taxon.
Spiny Tailed Iguana - Ctenosaura similis
Ctenosaura similis, commonly known as the black spiny-tailed iguana, black iguana, or black ctenosaur, is a lizard native to Mexico and Central America that has been introduced to the United States in the state of Florida. It is the largest species in the genus Ctenosaura and has been recorded as the fastest-running species of lizard.
Black spiny-tailed iguana
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Iguana similis Gray, 1831
Ctenosaura completa Bocourt, 1874
Ctenosaura similis – Bailey, 1928
Black spiny-tailed iguana have distinctive black, keeled scales on their long tails, which gives them their common name. They, along with C. pectinata, are the largest members of the genus Ctenosaura. The males are capable of growing up to 1.3 meters (4 ft 3 in) in length and the females are slightly shorter, at 0.8–1 meter (2 ft 7 in–3 ft 3 in). They have a crest of long spines which extends down the center of the back. Although coloration varies extremely among individuals of the same population, adults usually have a whitish gray or tan ground color with a series of 4–12 well-defined dark dorsal bands that extend nearly to the ventral scales. Males also develop an orange color around the head and throat during breeding season with highlights of blue and peach on their jowls.
Diet and behavior
Black spiny-tailed iguanas are excellent climbers, and prefer a rocky habitat with plenty of crevices to hide in, rocks to bask on, and nearby trees to climb. They are diurnal and fast moving, employing their speed to escape predators but will lash with their tails and bite if cornered. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the running speed of this species at 21.7 mph or 34.9 km/h making it the world's fastest lizard.
They are primarily herbivorous, eating flowers, leaves, stems, and fruit, but they will opportunistically eat smaller animals, eggs, and arthropods. Juveniles tend to be insectivores becoming more herbivorous as they get older.
The black spiny-tailed iguana is native to Central America, and has the widest range of all Ctenosaura species from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to northeastern Nicaragua and western Panama on the respective Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It is commonly found throughout Costa Rica, Honduras and has been reported in Colombia. In addition to its varied appearance it may interbreed with other Ctenosaur species throughout this range.
The black spiny-tailed iguana has been introduced to South Florida and reproduces in the wild in several feral populations. On the south-eastern Florida coast, black spiny-tailed iguanas have been found on Key Biscayne, Hialeah, and in Broward County. On the south-western Florida coast, it has been discovered on Gasparilla Island and in adjacent areas, throughout Lee and Charlotte counties. This iguana has also been introduced to several islands in the Caribbean. As this species will opportunistically feed on small vertebrates, such as fish, rodents, eggs, birds, and even hatchling sea turtles it may pose a threat to endangered native species.
Ctenosaura similis, Costa Rica
Mating generally occurs in the spring. Males show dominance and interest by head bobbing; eventually the male will chase the female until he can catch her and subdue her. Within eight to ten weeks, the female will dig a nest and lay clutches of up to 30 eggs. The eggs hatch in 90 days with the hatchlings digging their way out of the sand. These juveniles are typically green with brown markings, although all brown hatchlings have been recorded as well.
PHOTO CREDIT: KELLY PAUL
This is a young male Ctenosaura melanosterna.
In tree, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
Commercial usage :
In some parts of Central America, the black spiny-tailed iguana, colloquially called the "chicken of the trees," is farmed alongside the green iguana as a food source and for export for the pet trade [see iguana meat]. Although it is heavily hunted it does not appear to be endangered in any of its native territory.
Ctenosaura similis, Tulum, Mexico
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Iguanas of Mexico, Black Spiny Tailed Ctenosaura Similis
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Care Articles :
1- SPINY-TAILED (BLACK) IGUANA
Adult Size: To 4 feet, though most max out at closer to 3 feet
Range: Central America, and now established in parts of Florida
Habitat: Forests to fields they are habitat generalists
Captive Lifespan: More than 20 Years
Care Level: Advanced
Spiny-tailed iguanas look impressive with bold bands and spiny bases of their tails, so many are tempted to assume they’re just like green iguanas in temperament and behavior. Baby spiny-tailed iguanas are also bright green like green iguanas, but that color fades quickly as they grow. Nervous and flighty, they do not make very good pets as a rule.
Spiny-tailed iguanas spend more time on the ground than in trees, though they are excellent climbers when the need arises. Young spiny-tailed iguanas also stay up off the ground more, probably to avoid being eaten by larger specimens. Small ones are largely insectivorous, but vegetative matter makes up an increasingly significant portion of their diets as maturity approaches. Homeowners in Florida complain that they eat the flowers and new leaves off hibiscus and other décor plants in their yards.
Burrows are home for spiny-tailed iguanas, so a large cage with an underground refuge will keep them happiest. They are day-active only, and spend long hours soaking up the sun to reach the toasty warm body temperature they prefer.
Don’t acquire one of these iguanas if frequent handling is your goal. Most spiny-tailed iguanas remain nervous, biting viciously and lashing with their tails at whatever annoys them. They can calm down with diligent effort and abundant food, but most new owners forsake the effort before results can be seen. The majority of spiny-tailed iguanas in the pet trade come from the wild, thus their wild behaviors.
2-Spiny Tailed Iguana Care Sheet
BY KELLY PAUL
As yellow Mexican spiny-tails mature, they exhibit increasing amounts of yellow coloration.
PHOTO CREDIT: KELLY PAUL
Spiny-tailed Iguanas (Ctenosaura spp.)
Spiny-tailed iguanas (Ctenosaura spp.) are native to hot and dry areas of Mexico and Central America. They can make great pets or display animals. Despite laws to protect them, most spiny-tailed iguana populations are declining in the wild due to hunting, loss of habitat and poaching for the pet trade. Every effort should be made to purchase captive-born-and-bred animals because they generally are hardier and less skittish, and purchasing them helps take pressure off wild populations.
Spiny-Tailed Iguana Availability
Spiny-tailed iguanas are gaining popularity in the U.S., with increasing numbers being bred in captivity. Wild-caught spiny-tails are also available, most commonly the club-tailed iguana (C. quinquecarinata). There are also introduced populations of the black spiny-tailed iguana (C. similis) and Mexican spiny-tailed iguana (C. pectinata) in Florida, and many of these two species are sold in the pet trade.
PHOTO CREDIT: KELLY PAUL
This is a male Mexican spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura pectinata).
Spiny-Tailed Iguana Size
Spiny-tailed iguanas range in size from the small Yucatan spiny-tailed iguana (C. defensor), which reaches an overall length of 10 inches, to the black spiny-tail, which can grow to 5 feet.
Spiny-Tailed Iguana Life Span
Spiny-tailed iguanas can be long lived, easily living to 15 years of age. Many male spiny-tails can live up to 25 years of age or more.
Spiny-Tailed Iguana Housing
Caging requirements for spiny-tailed iguanas vary depending on the species and size of spiny-tailed iguana you keep. Below are my recommended minimum enclosure sizes for a single spiny-tail or a pair.
Smaller spiny-tailed iguanas measuring less than 18 inches in overall length: 36 inches long, 24 inches wide, 24 inches tall Spiny-tails with lengths of 18 to 40 inches: 4 feet long, 24 inches wide, 24 inches tall
Larger species, such as the black spiny-tailed iguana: 6 feet long by 24 inches wide by 30 inches tall.
PHOTO CREDIT: KELLY PAUL
This is a male San Esteban Island spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura conspicuosa).
Spiny-Tailed Iguana Lighting and Temperature
Spiny-tailed iguanas are sun-loving saurians. Outdoor enclosures are great for them. Indoor enclosures should have full-spectrum bulbs running two-thirds to the entire length of the enclosure, in addition to a basking bulb (or two, depending on the size of the cage) at one end. To provide maximum health benefit from the full-spectrum lights, basking shelves or other sites should be situated no more than 10 inches from the bulb(s).
The ambient temperature in the enclosure should be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit with basking areas reaching 95 to105 degrees.
Spiny-Tailed Iguana Substrate and Accessories
I use cypress mulch substrate with my spiny-tails. I live in Arizona where it is very hot and dry, and I mist their enclosures in the morning to replicate the high morning humidity of their natural habitat. Rabbit pellets can also be used, but do not mist these. Provide plenty of branches and/or corkboard for your spiny-tails to climb on. Various hide spots, such as cork bark hollows of appropriate size, should also be provided. I like to include live edible plants, such as hibiscus, of which both the flowers and leaves are edible, in my spiny-tail enclosures. Purchase plants at least 30 days before you plan to use them, as many systemic pesticides and fertilizers may remain active in the plants and soil for at least 30 days.
PHOTO CREDIT: KELLY PAUL
Outdoor cages are ideal for spiny-tailed iguanas.
Spiny-Tailed Iguana Food
Feed adult spiny-tailed iguanas a wide range of food, such as mixed greens, shredded carrots, mulberry and hibiscus leaves, and edible wild plants such as purslane, clover, dandelions, greens and flowers. Seasonal fruit and vegetables can also be offered (mine love figs). I feed baby and juvenile spiny-tails the same as the adults, except I also give them some insects, particularly crickets about half the size of the young lizards’ heads. I have also offered Zoophobas, tomato hornworms and silk worms. I have never fed vertebrate prey such as mice to my Ctenosaura, but know keepers who have with no harmful effect. Calcium and vitamin supplements should be provided two to three times a week (gravid females should receive supplemental calcium every day). Dry commercial iguana diets are also available.
Water misting is my preferred method of watering, particularly for baby spiny-tails, as they will drink the droplets off the plants. I also keep a water dish inside the enclosure; be sure it’s heavy enough so it doesn’t tip over. Misting into the water dish can help draw your spiny-tails’ attention to it. Do not mist if you use rabbit pellets as a substrate.
Spiny-Tailed Iguana Handling and Temperament
Spiny-tailed iguanas have been considered ill tempered, but this is not true for all Ctenosaura, especially in regard to captive-born-and-bred animals that behave differently than their wild-caught counterparts. Captive-born-and-bred Mexican spiny-tails (C. pectinata) and Baker’s iguanas (C. bakeri) can make great pets with very little effort. The San Esteban Island spiny-tailed iguana (C. conspicuosa), Sonoran black iguana (C. macrolopha) and Honduran black-chested iguana (C. melanosterna) can also tame down quite nicely with a little effort and patience. Wild-caught Guatemalan spiny-tailed (C. palearis) and club-tailed (C. quinqucarinata) iguanas can make great display animals, and with time they will often take food from your hand.
A great way to build trust and calm new Ctenosaura is by hand-feeding them. Once they are comfortable with your presence and are taking food from your fingers, you can begin to pick them up. When picking up a pet spiny-tailed iguana, it is best to approach slowly and place your hand palm side up in front of the lizard. Try putting your other hand behind it and gently coax the spiny-tail onto your hand. Never restrain your animal by the tail, as it can break off. Every spiny-tailed iguana is different. Some are so tame and inquisitive they seem to enjoy human interaction. Others are a little flighty and require a bit more patience when interacting. Any spiny-tailed iguana that does not like to be handled will still make a fine display animal.
Kelly Paul is a hobbyist with a lifelong interest in reptiles. He has bred more than two dozen species, including six Ctenosaura. He has been a guest speaker at several events, including the International Herpetological Symposium. Email him at email@example.com.
IGUANA -- Introduction
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IGUANA -- Introduction