a spinytail iguana in Mexico
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Lacertilia
Family: Iguanidae
Genus: Ctenosaura
Wiegmann, 1828
Ctenosaura quinquecarinata, 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

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 (Ctenosaura similis).[1][2]


The genus Ctenosaura represents the most diverse group of iguanas with 15 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]

Species Common name Authority Geographic range
Ctenosaura acanthura northeastern spinytail iguana (Shaw, 1802)[5] Eastern Mexico
Ctenosaura alfredschmidti Campeche spinytail iguana Köhler, 1995 Mexico and Guatemala
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 Estiban Island, Gulf of California
Ctenosaura defensor Yucatán spinytail iguana (Cope, 1866)[7] Southern Mexico
Ctenosaura flavidorsalis yellowback spinytail iguana Köhler & Klemmer, 1994 Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala
Ctenosaura hemilopha cape spinytail iguana (Cope, 1863)[8] Southern half of Baja California, Mexico
Ctenosaura macrolopha Sonora black iguana Grismer, 1999 Sonora, Mexico
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 Köhler & Hasbun, 2001 Oaxaca, Mexico
Ctenosaura oedirhina Roatán spinytail iguana de Queiroz, 1987 Roatán, Honduras
Ctenosaura palearis Guatemalan spinytail iguana Stejneger, 1899 Guatemala
Ctenosaura pectinata Mexican spinytail iguana (Wiegmann, 1834)[9] Western Mexico. Introduced to southern areas of Texas and Florida.
Ctenosaura praeocularis Honduran club tail iguana Hasbún & Köhler, 2009 SE Honduras
Ctenosaura quinquecarinata club tail iguana Gray, 1842[10] Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Ctenosaura similis black spinytail iguana Gray, 1831[11] 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. 1 2 3 4 5 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 defensor". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
  8. "Ctenosaura hemilopha". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
  9. "Ctenosaura pectinata". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
  10. "Ctenosaura quinquecarinata". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
  11. "Ctenosaura similis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 January 2008.

External links

Wikispecies has information related to: Ctenosaura
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