Animal Information

Iguanas ~ Diet, Breeding, and Other Species Information

The earliest known fossil remains of a lizard are of an iguana species in India, the fossil is estimated to be around 220 million years old.

Iguanas are among the world’s most endangered animals. The threats they face include severe habitat degradation by human development and invasive species, as well as harvesting for human use.

There are 350 species of iguanas living around the world today. Only 3 of these species are living and breeding here in Florida:

  • Common Green Iguana
  • Mexican Spinytail Iguana
  • Black Spinytail Iguana

One of the most visually striking members of the Iguanidae family is the Grand Cayman iguana. Also known as the blue iguana, this exquisite creature is one of the few naturally blue-hued animals in the world. It’s also the heaviest of all iguanas.

What did the grape say when the Iguana stood on it?

Nothing, it just let out a little wine!

Iguanas are cold-blooded and thrive in hot climates. That’s why you’ll often see them basking in the warm sunlight.

Whenever the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the lizards’ muscles essentially become paralyzed and they fall into a state of hibernation. This doesn’t happen often in the hot tropics of Central America, but in places like southern Florida, where they’ve been introduced by humans, an unseasonable winter cold snap can literally cause scores of these scaled critters to lose their grip on tree limbs and fall to the ground.

During abnormally cold weather, iguanas are known to modify their behavior. They will burrow underground or hide in caverns and hollows in the heat reservoirs found there. They may enter a state of partial hibernation zoologists call “brumation,” sleeping for the duration of the cold weather to conserve energy and body fluids. During this state, iguanas will appear rigid, their skin color darkened in a natural attempt to increase heat absorption. If disturbed, the reptile will not rouse. Their skin will feel cold to the touch and they will be unresponsive to pain. It can be difficult to determine if they are dead or alive!

While it’s quite an alarming sight to witness, the tumble doesn’t necessarily mean certain death. The reptiles usually perk up again when the temperature rises.

How To Tell Male From Female?

Mature adult male iguanas tend to be noticeably larger than mature females. Males may have bumps on the top of their heads as well as longer spikes going down the length of their back. Males are also more likely to have a large dewlap underneath their chin and large muscles next to their jaws. The muscles give the male iguanas the appearance of having swollen jowls. Male iguanas also have noticeable femoral pores on the insides of their legs.

Young Male Green Iguana

Male green iguanas have a special flap of skin called the dewlap.  This dewlap helps them to regulate their temperature. Male iguanas can raise their dewlap to appear bigger than they really are, either to intimidate predators or impressive females.

Female iguanas tend to have longer, slimmer bodies, smaller heads and do not have bumps on top of their heads. Female iguanas are the only ones who lay eggs. If you notice your iguana has laid eggs, then you can know with absolute certainty that you own a female iguana.

Your veterinarian can probe your iguana’s cloacal vent to determine whether your pet is a boy or a girl. Your veterinarian will be the best person to accurately determine the gender of your iguana, especially if you own a young iguana. Juvenile iguanas are significantly more difficult to correctly sex. If your iguana is less than a year old, a veterinarian will be the only person who can accurately find out your pet’s gender.

Iguana Breeding…

Female iguanas will develop eggs regardless of whether or not they have physically mated with a male. During breeding season, your female may appear thin in the legs and tail with a bulging belly. The bulging belly is visible even with the fact female iguanas may be less likely to eat during the breeding season.

During breeding season you may also notice gender-specific behavior changes in your iguanas. Males are known to become significantly more aggressive, may behave in a territorial manner and even display physically threatening behaviors, including biting and attacking. Some males also turn an orange color during breeding season.

The Tale Of An Iguana Tail…

Iguanas use their tail for balance while climbing and maneuvering. But these long appendages serve as self-defense.

Broken Iguana Tail

When encountering a predator or other threat, the iguana will distract and bewilder its attacker by thrashing its tail. Sometimes the tail will break off and the creature is able to make a quick getaway. (Don’t worry, the tail grows back later.)

In the event that a predator tries to eat an iguana, its tail is equipped with spiky spinal combs that make it a difficult meal to swallow.

Why Are Iguanas So Colorful?

Iguanas are masters of camouflage, blending into their surroundings is their best form of protection from predators. One common question that iguana owners ask has to do with the color of their iguana. People wonder what is “normal” coloring and what is not. To make matters worse, various products in the pet stores claim to enhance your iguana’s coloring.

Wid Caught Green Iguana

It is a common belief that green iguanas can change color as chameleons can. However, this is not accurate. Iguanas are capable of color changes, but only in specific situations. Some situations deal with stress, others with breeding issues, and some simply because the iguana is basking in the sun.

One of the most obvious color changes in the iguana is when it is taken outside for some real sunlight. Most iguanas immediately become dark. Their heads turn dark grey, almost black for some individuals, and the stripes on the iguana’s body become very apparent.

Normal green Iguana with blue hues

Many iguanas have brown marks that appear on their back that are never seen inside and give the iguana a sort of leopard-like markings. The reason they darken is that dark colors absorb more of the sun than light colors do. It’s like wearing a black t-shirt on a very hot day compared to wearing a white t-shirt. The white t-shirt reflects the light better, the black t-shirt absorbs it more. You also feel much hotter in the black t-shirt. When the iguanas start to feel too hot, they lighten up their coloration. This helps them thermoregulate when they are in the sun.

Stress can produce a colorful array of shades that you would never normally see on an iguana. Each iguana responds in its own way regarding color changes due to stress. Once the source of stress is gone the reptile slowly returns to its normal colors.

Iguanas Live 15 to 20 Years Or More!

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Breeding season also produces many color changes in both male and female iguanas. The most notable one is the orange color that males develop as they enter their season. It generally starts on the legs, and the shade of orange can actually vary from a light orange to a very bright, almost neon orange. The color can also change on the sides of the iguana’s body, as well as the tail. The coloration can last for a few months, as that is the normal length of iguana breeding season. Females may also develop some orange coloration, but rarely to the extent that males do. Generally, the color fades as the iguana’s breeding season ends, but some iguanas retain the coloration and always have some orange on them. This is more common in males.

The worst color change an iguana can have is when it is sick. They tend to be brownish in color, and show other signs of illness such as lethargy. Although orange hues are normal for some iguanas, they are sometimes a sign of severe dehydration or kidney disease. If orange coloring appears suddenly in an older iguana and is not associated with the breeding season, a veterinary visit is recommended.

Blue Iguana named Maximus

Blue Iguanas are true beauties. Their blue color makes them stand out from distance. True Blue Iguanas (Axanthic Iguanas) have a gene needed to make a snow iguana (blizzard iguana).

According to the San Diego Zoo, Banded iguana skin is so photosensitive that any part of the skin in shade is a completely different color of green than the skin in sunlight.

Iguana Species

GALÁPAGOS MARINE IGUANAS

  • Amblyrhynchus cristatus albemarlensis ~ Isabela Marine Iguanas
  • Amblyrhynchus cristatus cristatus ~ Fernandina Marine Iguanas
  • Amblyrhynchus cristatus hassi ~ Santa Cruz Marine Iguanas
  • Amblyrhynchus cristatus mertensi ~ San Cristóbal Marine Iguanas
  • Amblyrhynchus cristatus nanus ~ Genovesa Marine Iguanas
  • Amblyrhynchus cristatus sielmanni ~ Pinta Marine Iguana
  • Amblyrhynchus cristatus venustissimus ~ Española Marine Iguanas

FIJI IGUANAS

  • Brachylophus bulabula ~ Central Fijian Banded Iguanas
  • Brachylophus fasciatus ~ Lau Banded Iguanas
  • Brachylophus vitiensis ~ Fijian Crested Iguanas

GALÁPAGOS LAND IGUANAS

  • Conolophus marthae ~ Pink Land Iguanas
  • Conolophus pallidus ~Barrington Land Iguanas
  • Conolophus subcristatus ~ Galápagos Land Iguanas

SPINY-TAILED IGUANAS

  • Ctenosaura acanthura ~ Veracruz Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura alfredschmidti ~ Campeche Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura bakeri ~ Útila Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura clarki ~ Balsas Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura conspicuosa ~ San Esteban Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura defensor ~ Yucatán Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura flavidorsalis ~ Yellow-backed Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura hemilopha ~ Baja California Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura macrolopha ~ Sonoran Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura melanosterna ~ Black-chested Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura nolascensis ~ Nolasco Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura oaxacana ~ Oaxaca Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura oedirhina ~ Roatán Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura palearis ~ Motagua Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura pectinata ~ Guerreran Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura praeocularis ~ Southern Honduran Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura quinquecarinata ~ Five-keeled Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura similis similis ~ Common Spiny-tailed Iguanas
  • Ctenosaura similis multipunctata ~ Providence Spiny-tailed Iguanas

ROCK IGUANAS

  • Cyclura carinata ~ Turks and Caicos Rock Iguanas
  • Cyclura collei ~ Jamaican Rock Iguanas
  • Cyclura cornuta ~ Hispaniolan Rhinoceros Iguanas
  • Cyclura cychlura cychlura ~ Andros Rock Iguanas
  • Cyclura cychlura figginsi ~ Exuma Rock Iguanas
  • Cyclura cychlura inornata ~ Allen Cays Rock Iguanas
  • Cyclura lewisi ~ Grand Cayman Blue Rock Iguanas
  • Cyclura nubila caymanensis ~ Sister Islands Rock Iguanas
  • Cyclura nubila nubila ~ Cuban Rock Iguanas
  • Cyclura onchiopsis (extinct) ~ Navassa Rhinoceros Iguanas
  • Cyclura pinguis ~ Anegada Rock Iguanas
  • Cyclura ricordii ~ Ricord’s Rock Iguanas
  • Cyclura rileyi cristata ~ Sandy Cay Rock Iguanas
  • Cyclura rileyi nuchalis ~ Acklins Rock Iguanas
  • Cyclura rileyi rileyi ~ San Salvador Rock Iguanas
  • Cyclura stejnegeri ~ Mona Rhinoceros Iguanas

DESERT IGUANAS

  • Dipsosaurus catalinensis ~ Santa Catalina Desert Iguanas
  • Dipsosaurus dorsalis dorsalis ~ Western Desert Iguanas
  • Dipsosaurus dorsalis sonoriensis ~ Sonoran Desert Iguanas

GREEN IGUANAS

  • Iguana delicatissima ~ Lesser Antillean Iguanas
  • Iguana iguana ~ Common Green Iguanas

CHUCKWALLAS

  • Sauromalus ater (synonym obesus) ~ Common Chuckwallas
  • Sauromalus hispidus ~ Spiny Chuckwallas
  • Sauromalus klauberi ~ Catalina Chuckwallas
  • Sauromalus slevini ~ Slevin’s Chuckwallas
  • Sauromalus varius ~ Piebald Chuckwallas

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