ChuckwallaPhoto by: azglenn (Creative Commons)
ATTRIBUTION: an anglicized version of the Cahuilla word čáxwal
The anglicized noun chuckwalla (variant: chuckawalla) – a
derivative of the Cahuilla word čáxwal – is the only Cahuilla word to
have been formally adopted into the English lexicon. The Cahuilla
language belongs to the Takic branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family.
Chuckwallas are generally found in the rocky desert areas of
southeastern California, western Arizona, and adjacent areas. Various
species also inhabit coastal islands. There are five species of
chuckwalla, all within the genus Sauromalus; they are part of the iguana family, Iguanidae.
A very bulky lizard, some chuckwalla species can reach an overall
length of about 16 inches (40 cm); their tails are long and notably
thick, tapering to a blunt tip. Loose folds of skin characterize their
necks. Their bodies are covered in small, coarsely granular scales.
Males are generally larger than females.
Primarily herbivores, chuckwallas feed on leaves, fruit, and the
flowers of annuals and perennial plants with insects representing a
supplementary prey. They are said to prefer yellow flowers, such as
those of the brittlebush (Encelia farinosa). Chuckwallas are harmless to humans and may live for 25 years or more.
Males are seasonally and conditionally territorial, using a
combination of color and physical displays, namely "push ups,"
head-bobbing, and gaping of the mouth to communicate and defend their
Chuckwallas are active during the daytime and are dormant at
night. They are exothermic, spending much of their mornings and winter
days basking. These lizards are well adapted to desert conditions and
are active at temperatures of up to 102°F (39°C). Chuckwallas hibernate
during the cooler months.