Magellanic iguana

A tree dwelling reptile native to Chile and Argentina

Cristina Willner

Magellanic iguana


A tree dwelling reptile native to Chile and Argentina


It is not an iguana in the traditional sense but rather part of a genus of lizards predominantly found in southern Argentina and Chile, including Patagonia. These hardy lizards are named for the Magellan Strait, indicating their geographic distribution. Despite sharing the common name “iguana,” they belong to the family Liolaemidae, not Iguanidae, which includes the true iguanas.

Adapted to cooler climates, this species exhibits a robust and versatile diet. As primarily herbivorous reptiles, they feed on various vegetation, including leaves, flowers, and fruits. However, they are opportunistic and can also consume insects, which provides them with additional protein and other nutrients necessary for their health.

The Magellanic iguana is a diurnal reptile, which means it is active during the day when it can bask in the sunlight to thermoregulate. Unlike some of their tropical cousins known for their swimming prowess, they are not typically associated with water, nor are they known to take deliberate leaps into bodies of water.

These lizards are more commonly found on the ground or in low vegetation and are superbly adapted to the harsh, windy conditions of the Patagonian steppe. They are agile and can move quickly to catch prey or evade predators, utilizing the dense brush or rocky crevices for protection.

The Magellanic iguana faces threats similar to those of other lizard species worldwide. Habitat destruction due to human activities, such as overgrazing by livestock and oil drilling, poses significant challenges. Additionally, introducing non-native species can result in predation or competition for resources. The pet trade and illegal hunting also put pressure on populations as individuals are removed from their natural environment.


Population est.
Tierra Del Fuego, Santa Cruz

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No