The Angel Island chuckwalla is endemic to Isla Ángel de la Guarda (Guardian Angel Island) in the Gulf of California off the eastern coast of Baja Mexico. The Angel Island chuckwalla is the second largest species of chuckwalla, reaching 17 in (44 cm) in body length and 25 in (64 cm) overall length, and weighing up to 3.1 lb (1.4 kg). The San Esteban chuckwalla (Sauromalus varius) is the largest species reaching 24 in (61 cm) in body length and 30 in (76 cm) overall length, and weighing up to 3.1 lb (1.4 kg). The body color of Angel Island chuckwallas is a dark brown color with transverse black bands which fade into a solid darker brown to black color as the animal ages.
The San Esteban chuckwalla is also known as the piebald chuckwalla or pinto chuckwalla endemic to San Esteban Island in the Gulf of California.While it is abundant on this small island, it occurs naturally nowhere else and is protected under the Endangered Species Act. The male's skin is gray with tan to yellow patches over its entire body, and its face is gray to black. The female is duller in appearance with fewer patches.
The calico chuckwalla is a hybrid between the Angel Island chuckwalla and the San Esteban Island chuckwalla. Both species and their crosses are well adapted to desert conditions and active at temperatures up to 102°F (39°C). The crosses are calico chuckwallas, which are fertile and have the best traits of both species - the brighter coloration of the San Esteban chuckwalla with the calmer temperament of the Angel Island chuckwalla.The Angel Island and San Esteban Island chuckwallas have historically been an important food item by the Seri tribe, native to the area. Before the founding of America, the native people cross-bred Angel Island chuckwallas with San Esteban chuckwallas and translocated them to most of the islands in the Bahia de los Angeles. Most of these populations appear to have died out, but the process was repeated with captive animals by herpeticulturalists in the early 2000s. Because of the long history of crossing these two species, Angel Island chuckwallas in captivity may include genetics of the San Esteban chuckwalla.
We have successfully bred both Calico and Angel Island chuckwallas since 2013. The care and requirements for the two are the same. Food includes cactus (pads, flowers, and fruits), native flowers, greens, shredded vegetables, and commercial iguana pellets. Breeding behavior in the Mojave desert has been observed beginning in May with eggs typically laid from mid-June to mid-July. Hatching occurs late August through mid-September.