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Iguana

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Although called green iguanas, these animals are actually variable in color. The adults become more uniform in color with age, whereas the young may appear more blotchy or banded between green and brown. Active dominant iguanas usually have a darker color than lower-ranked iguanas living the same environment. Distinguishing features of this species include a pendulous dewlap under the throat, a dorsal crest made up of dermal spines that run from the mid neck to the tail base, and a long tapering tail. The dewlap is more developed in adult males than females. Within three years, a young, 12 gram hatchling iguana can become a 1 kg adult (de Vosjoli, 1992). Upon hatching, the length of green iguanas ranges from 17 to 25 cm. Most mature iguanas weigh between 4 and 6 kg, but with proper diet can reach up to 8 kg. These large lizards can reach head to tail lengths of around 2 m. Iguanas can live for more than 20 years in captivity, although wild iguanas are thought to live only about 8 years.

Green iguanas have good senses of hearing and smell, and superb vision. Their long tail is also quite sharp, and is snapped in the air as a defense mechanism. The tail can also break off if caught by a predator, but grows back without permanent damage however not to the same length as the original. When frightened, an iguana will usually freeze or hide.

Green iguanas tend to live alone, but may be seen in groups occasionally in good sunny basking spots
They are omnivorous, so they eat both plants and meat. They however tend to eat mostly plants, especially leaves and fruits and use their tongues to help manipulate the food and bite small enough pieces to swallow, with little or no chewing.

Hawks and other large birds are potential predators of juvenile iguanas. Humans are another one of major predators of green iguanas. Humans eat both iguanas and their eggs. One of the best methods for iguanas to avoid predation is their cryptic coloration. Because they look like so much of their green environment, they can remain immobile when a predator has been spotted, and go unnoticed themselves. Young iguanas may be found in small groups, and use the "selfish-herd" or "more eyes are better" strategy to avoid predators. Iguanas prefer to bask in tree limbs that over-hang water so when threatened by a predator they can dive into the water and swim swiftly away.

Iguanas are diurnal, meaning that they are awake during the day.

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Photograph by Douglas Butler

Lady Chancellor Hill, Port of Spain

 

 


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Some of the information for this page was obtained from: Gingell, F. 2005. "Iguana iguana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Iguana_iguana.html.

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Last modified: February 16, 2008