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Tonight’s post is about an animal that should not be living in the Tucson area but nonetheless is. This is an immature Spiny-tailed Iguana.
I photographed it yesterday on the grounds of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, where it and several others of the same species roam freely.
Spiny-tailed Iguanas are natives of coastal Mexico and Central America. They are not native to the United States and are certainly not a desert species. These reptiles are native inhabitants of temperate and subtropical forests.
So what are these big lizards (an adult can top out at over two feet long) doing living on the grounds of the Desert Museum? Well, apparently, about 40 years ago a few of them either escaped from captivity or were released on the museum grounds. They found aspects of the museum to be habitat to their liking — the museum has some irrigated forest habitat and a small riparian area — and they’ve lived on the grounds and prospered ever since.
The individual depicted here is a youngster, perhaps no more than a year or two old. It is about 16 inches long. Adults are not only much longer but much heavier than this individual. These iguanas are omnivores, but they especially like succulent plant matter. They are completely harmless to people. This one obviously is used to heavy human traffic on the museum grounds because it completely ignored me. I approached it as closely as about two feet in order to photograph it and it showed not the least concern, although it definitely kept an eye on me.
Photos made with a Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens, assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite. All images made at M setting The first image was shot at ISO 125, f13 @ 1/160. The second and fourth images were shot at ISO 250, f16 @ 1/160. The third image was shot at ISO 250, f13 @ 1/160.