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Iguana in Mexico.jpg
a spinytail iguana in Mexico
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Iguanidae
Genus: Ctenosaura
Wiegmann, 1828
Ctenosaura similis, Costa Rica

Ctenosaura is a lizard genus commonly known as spinytail iguanas or Ctenosaurs. The genus is part of the large lizard family, Iguanidae and is native to Mexico and Central America. The name 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".


The species range in size (total length, including the tail) from about 12.5 centimetres (4.9 in) to well over 1 metre (39 in). The distinctive feature of this genus is the presence of enlarged, spiny scales on the tail.


Ctenosaurs are generally omnivorous, feeding on fruits, flowers, foliage, and small animals.


C. similis and C. quinquecarinata are popular as pets.

Invasive species[edit]

At least two species, Ctenosaura pectinata and Ctenosaura similis, have been introduced into southern areas of Texas and Florida.


The world record sprint speed for lizards (21.5 miles/h or 34.6 km/h) was attained by the Costa Rican spiny-tailed iguana, hence the nickname "Iguana" from the jungle guard Andrés Pmorado (Ctenosaura similis).[1][2]


The genus Ctenosaura represents the most diverse group of iguanas with 13 currently recognized species and at least two unrecognized species.[3][4] These species inhabit lowland dry forests, below 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) elevation, on both coasts of Mexico and Central America.[3] All species of Ctenosaura fall within one of seven clades.[3] Distributions of these clades fall geographically within well established areas.[3] Closely related species show allopatry whereas species from divergent clades show sympatry.[3]

Image Species Common name Authority Geographic range
Nyíregyháza Zoo - Black iguana.jpg Ctenosaura acanthura northeastern spinytail iguana (Shaw, 1802)[5] Eastern Mexico
Amneville Ctenosaura bakeri 27 08 2010 2.jpg Ctenosaura bakeri Baker's spinytail iguana Stejneger, 1901 Utila island off Honduras
Ctenosaura clarki Balsas armed lizard Bailey, 1928[6] Western Mexico
Ctenosaura conspicuosa San Esteban iguana Grismer, 1999 San Esteban Island, Gulf of California
Ctenosaura flavidorsalis yellowback spinytail iguana G. Köhler & Klemmer, 1994 Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala
SpinyTailedIguana CtenosauraHemilopha.jpg Ctenosaura hemilopha cape spinytail iguana (Cope, 1863)[7] Southern half of Baja California, Mexico
Ctenosaura macrolopha Sonora black iguana Grismer, 1999 Sonora, Mexico
Honduran spinytailed iguana.jpg Ctenosaura melanosterna black-chested spinytail iguana Buckley & Axtell, 1997 Honduras
Ctenosaura nolascensis San Pedro Nolasco iguana Grismer, 1999 San Pedro Nolasco Island, Gulf of California
Ctenosaura oaxacana Oaxacan spinytail iguana G. Köhler & Hasbún, 2001 Oaxaca, Mexico
Ctenosaura oedirhina Roatán spinytail iguana de Queiroz, 1987 Roatán, Honduras
Ctenosaura palearis Vivarium Tournai 27122015 1.jpg Ctenosaura palearis Guatemalan spinytail iguana Stejneger, 1899 Guatemala
Ctenosaura pectinata at the Denver Zoo-2012 03 12 0691.jpg Ctenosaura pectinata Mexican spinytail iguana (Wiegmann, 1834)[8] Western Mexico. Introduced to southern areas of Texas and Florida.
Ctenosaura praeocularis Honduran club tail iguana Hasbún & G. Köhler, 2009 Southeastern Honduras
Spinytailediguanan.jpg Ctenosaura quinquecarinata club tail iguana Gray, 1842[9] Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Black Spiny-tailed Iguana-27527.jpg Ctenosaura similis black spinytail iguana Gray, 1831[10] Mexico, Central America, and Colombia. Introduced to southern Florida.


  1. ^ Garland, T., Jr. (1984), "Physiological correlates of locomotory performance in a lizard: an allometric approach" (PDF), American Journal of Physiology, 247 (5 Pt 2): R806–R815, PMID 6238543
  2. ^ Malfatti, Mark (2007), "A Look at the Genus Ctenosaura: Meet the World's fastest lizard and its kin", Reptiles Magazine, 15 (11): 64–73
  3. ^ a b c d e Buckley, Larry; Pagel, Katelyn; Villela, Oscar (2007). "Evolution of Spiny-tailed Iguanas (Genus Ctenosaura): How Identification of Species Groups and their Relationships Can Help with Conservation Priorities". Iguana: Journal of the International Iguana Society 14 (4): 248-251.
  4. ^ "Ctenosaura ". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
  5. ^ "Ctenosaura acanthura ". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
  6. ^ "Ctenosaura clarki ". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
  7. ^ "Ctenosaura hemilopha ". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
  8. ^ "Ctenosaura pectinata ". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
  9. ^ "Ctenosaura quinquecarinata ". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
  10. ^ "Ctenosaura similis ". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 January 2008.

Further reading[edit]

  • Frost DR, Etheridge RE (1989). "A Phylogenetic Analysis and Taxonomy of Iguanian Lizards (Reptilia: Squamata)". Univ. Kansas Mus. Nat. Hist. Misc. Publ. 81.
  • Frost DR, Etheridge R, Janies D, Titus TA (2001). "Total evidence, sequence alignment, evolution of Polychrotid lizards, and a reclassification of the Iguania (Squamata: Iguania)". American Museum Novitates (3343): 1-38.

External links[edit]

  • Genus Ctenosaura at The Reptile Database
  • Garland T Jr (1984). "Physiological correlates of locomotory performance in a lizard: an allometric approach". American J. Physiol. 247 (Regulatory Integrative Comp. Physiol. 16): R806-R815. PDF