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  • Cat
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Family: Iguanadae
  • Order/Species: Iguana Iguana

Within the Genus Iguana there is a large variety and different species vary greatly in size, color, behavior and endangered status in the wild.

The large variety of habitats has led to each species having its own unique adaptations.

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Lifespan

Average 8 years in the wild; 15-20 years in captivity, while The San Diego Zoo, which has an excellent breeding program for threatened and endangered species, has documented lifespan of up to 60 years!

Natural Habitat

The Green Iguana (aka common iguana or American Iguana) is native to Central and South America and the islands of the Caribbean and West Indies. They live high in the trees of tropical rainforests. They have unfortunately become a nuisance in Puerto Rico and parts of the southern US, especially Florida, where they have become an invasive species. Humans of course are responsible for bringing them to these places.

Features

The Green Iguana is a large lizard and the longest of all iguana species growing up to 5-7 feet long (including the tail). They also have very long toes and sharp claws with long tails for balance in the treetops. These whip-like tails can make up more than half of their body length. Despite their name, they can be a variety of colors from vibrant green to red, orange and blue. They have tall spikes extending down their spine and a parietal eye on top of their head. This so-called "third eye" is sensitive to light and sends signals to the pineal gland located deep in the brain which produces melatonin which then helps maintain circadian rhythm ("internal clock"). They also have the distinguishing feature of a large dewlap under the throat, which is more developed in males. Their coloration allows for excellent camouflage in the trees, while the colors of individuals can vary based upon mood, temperature, social status, and health.

Diet

Herbivores as adults eating fruits, buds, flowers and leaves; omnivores as young eating small insects in addition to plants. In captivity they require high calcium found mainly in veggies, so Basil and Smaug are fed a salad of dark leafy greens, a variety of fruits, veggies and pellets.

Many natural predators include hawks, owls, snakes, feral cats and dogs and humans - in fact Green iguanas are bred on farms in Central and South America for human consumption!

Basil and Smaug serve as ambassadors for all Iguanas, some of which are very endangered. Threats to their populations in the wild include habitat loss, introduction of exotic animals that prey on them, capture for the pet trade and poaching.

Fun Facts

  • Iguanas have keen eyesight and use visual cues to communicate.
  • They are solitary in nature, but quite docile.
  • More mature iguanas live higher up in the treetops and often only come down on land to lay eggs! However they are very adaptable to living in open areas on land and are very good swimmers.
  • Iguanas are very hardy and though they usually freeze when frightened to better blend in, they can fall up to 50 feet to evade predators without risking injury!
  • They can shed parts of their tail when threatened by predators, allowing escape. The tail can regrow within a year but will be smaller.
  • Due to the fact that they are farmed for food in their native lands, they are often called "gallina de palo" or "chicken of the tree"!
  • They use their sticky tongues to grab food and though they have very sharp tiny serrated teeth, they swallow food whole with little to no chewing.
  • Males compete for females by head bobbing, extending and retracting their dewlap, nuzzling and biting the necks of females and sometimes changing colors!
  • Females can store sperm from previous mates for several years to use when she is ready to lay her eggs if there is not a current suitable mate available!!