Nonnatives - Mexican Spinytail Iguana

Mexican Spinytail Iguana - Ctenosaura pectinata


Florida's Exotic Wildlife. Species detail.

First year:

Extirpated year:

Established status: Populations are confirmed breeding and apparently self-sustaining for 10 or more consecutive years.

Estimated Florida range: 1 county  At least 10 years

Statewide trend: Unknown status

Threats to natives: Unknown, but may feed on smaller vertebrates and occupy burrows of other species.

Species Account: This species is native to the Pacific drainage of southern Mexico and is apparently established only along Old Cutler Road in Miami (Wilson and Porras 1983). Adult males may exceed 1.2 m (4 ft) long. Adults are tan or buff colored with black bands, but breeding adults develop orange coloration on their sides. Babies are greenish colored. A prominent vertebral crest is present, and there are whorls of spiny scales on the tail. This species can be distinguished from the black spinytail iguana by having 2-14 scales separating the dorsal and tail crests, 3 complete rows of intercalary scales between the whorls of enlarged scales on the tail, and lacking dark dorsal crossbands (Khler and Streit 1996). This alert, wary lizard is often seen basking on piles of rubble and building materials, but they return to their burrows when frightened or at night (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). Reports of this species on Gasparilla Island and elsewhere (Butterfield et al. 1997, Bartlett and Bartlett 1999, McKercher 2001, McCoid 2002a) are erroneous and represent the black spinytail iguana instead (Krysko et al. 2003, Townsend et al. 2003).

Habitats: Coastal upland, Exotic plant community, Low density suburban development, areas peripheral to core urban areas, and small towns, Recently disturbed, early successional community

County First Year Extirpated Year Breeding status   Notes
DADE 1960s


At least 10 years Miami (Wilson and Porras 1983); the only Florida specimens of this species that have been conclusively identified came from Old Cutler Road (Townsend et al. 2003)


Bartlett, R. D., and P. P. Bartlett. 1999. A field guide to Florida reptiles and amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas. 278pp.

Butterfield, B. P., W. E. Meshaka, Jr., and C. Guyer. 1997. Nonindigenous amphibians and reptiles. Pages 123-138 in D. Simberloff, D. C. Schmitz, and T. C. Brown, editors. Strangers in paradise. Impact and management of nonindigenous species in Florida. Island Press, Covelo, California.

Eggert, J. 1978. The invasion of the wish willy. Florida Wildlife 31(5):9-10.

Köhler, G., and B. Streit. 1996. Notes on the systematic status of taxa acanthura, pectinata, and similis of the genus Ctenosaura (Reptilia: Sauria: Iguanidae). Senckenbergiana Biologica 75:33-43.

Krysko, K. L., F. W. King, K. M. Enge, and A. T. Reppas. 2003. Distribution of the introduced black spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura similis) on the southwestern coast of Florida. Florida Scientist 66:141-146.

McCoid, M. J. 2002a. Geographic distribution: Ctenosaura pectinata (spinytail iguana). Herpetological Review 33:321.

McKercher, E. 2001. Ctenosaura pectinata (Iguanidae) on Gasparilla Island, Florida: colonization, habitat use and interactions with Gopherus polyphemus. M.S. Thesis, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA. 117pp.

Townsend, J. H., K. L. Krysko, and K. M. Enge. 2003. The identity of spiny-tailed iguanas, Ctenosaura, introduced to Florida, USA (Squamata: Sauria: Iguanidae). Herpetozoa 16:67-72.

Links to more information

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