Introduction To The Green Iguana
The green iguana is a beautiful species of lizard. Over the years they have become a very popular companion for many reptile enthusiasts. Although they can make wonderful pets, they are not for everyone. In fact, about 9 out of 10 iguanas die each year due to negligence, ignorance, and poor husbandry. This is in part a result of their cheap price tag and their initial size when sold.
In order to help change these statistics, iguana owners need to better educate themselves on where iguanas come from in the wild and what their environmental needs were in their natural habitat.
By better understanding your pet from an inside perspective you can learn to better meet those needs in captivity.
Iguanas are diurnal, arboreal, folivores. Simply stated, they are daytime, tree-dwelling, leaf eaters. Although they are not prone to reside in trees at all times, it is known that iguanas are most secure when they have reached the highest point in their habitat. In most instances, iguanas are more than likely to be in the vicinity of water, as they are extremely aggressive swimmers.
An iguana will leap from a tree limb of great height, to awaiting water below when frightened or when danger is present. While pressing their forelimbs and hind limbs to the side of their body, they will use their powerful tails to sail them across the water somewhat in the fashion of a snake. In this graceful manner, they can easily escape danger.
Iguanas can be found in the tropical and sub-tropical forests of Central and South America. They have also been seen in Paraguay and the Caribbean islands. Recently, wild iguanas have also been found roaming Florida where they have readily acclimated to the surroundings and have begun breeding. You can learn more about the Invasive Iguanas of Florida here: Invasive Florida Iguanas. The Floridian iguanas are an introduced species. Unfortunately, their introduction is a result of sweeping hurricane winds, captive (pet) escapees, as well as intentional releases. Those iguanas that were released have helped carve the over-population Florida is experiencing now. They are the direct result of poor research and ignorance.
Although most iguanas are found in relatively humid climates, they can also be found in dryer climates. There is even a species of iguana that resides, preferably, in the vicinity of salt water.
Iguanas require natural sunlight to aid in the digestion of food and to regulate body temperature. (Thermo-regulation.) They spend most of their day basking in this sunlight while taking the occasional break to forage for food. Foraging for food appears to take place in sporadic bursts beginning in the morning and carrying on into the afternoon.
Iguanas are a solitary creature leading very desolate lives, only interacting with other iguanas when breeding or protecting their territory. To mark his territory, males secrete a wax like substance to warn other males of his presence. Females use this wax as a way of identifying the location of a male iguana during the breeding season.
Iguanas, when confronted by another male, will expand their dewlap (the sack found below the jaw) and rapidly bob its head. This warns the intruder that he has come to close and should vacate his territory. Occasionally the two males will fight over the territory and attack one another with their powerful claws and teeth. They also use their tails as a whip, which can easily tear the flesh.
During the breeding season, expanding the dewlap and head bobbing can also be used to "show off" in front of a female. In order for a male to copulate with a female, he must first show his strength by overpowering her and holding her down with his extremely strong mouth until she subdues. There are times that the female gets injured during this violent courtship but that is the way of nature.
As with most animals, iguanas are somewhat mysterious creatures and although information on them is readily available, there is still much to learn about these beautiful reptiles.
Author: Richard Brooks
Green Iguana - © Fred Hsu [CC-BY-SA-3.0]