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The species differs from other U.S. iguanid lizards in being larger and more robust, lacking extended toe tips, lacking head spines and enlarged middorsal scales, and having no overlapping scales at the upper edge of the orbit.
They bask on rocks during the day. They are inactive in cold temperatures or extreme heat. Chuckwallas in Arizona make their homes in rock crevices. A frightened chuckwalla will retreat into a rocky crevice and wedge itself in sideways by inflating its body. The following is from Prieto and Ryan (1978), “in a challenge display a male chuckwalla compresses his trunk, partially extends his dewlap, orients laterally toward his opponent and performs rapid head nods with partial flexion of his front legs. The head nodding follows a specific sequence: 2 complete up and down movements, two intermediate nods and 2 shorter nods.”
Mating occurs from May to June. Chuckwalla laid one clutch of 5-16 eggs from June to August; the eggs are laid underground. The clutch size increases with the female body size. Females may only lay eggs every second year.