A-z - Animals


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iguana one

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Native to the jungles of Central and South America and many islands in the Caribbean, iguanas are large lizards that are also popular with Americans who want to keep them as pets.

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The name iguana comes from the original Taino name for these lizards, iwana. Green iguanas are the most widely known species because they are often kept as pets.

Most pet iguanas are available for very low prices. They are also considered pests in Puerto Rico and some areas of the United States, notably Florida, where they have become an invasive species.

5 Unbelievable Iguana Facts!

jamaican iguana
The Jamaican iguana is the second largest animal native to Jamaica.

© Bohgan Zeleniuk/Shutterstock.com

  • Most iguanas have a parietal eye that is sensitive to changes in light, sending signals to the pineal gland to indicate the change between day and night. Iguanas also have a photopigment called parapinopsin, which is sensitive to the difference between day and night.
  • They have keen eyesight, which allows them to navigate with ease. They also use their eyes to communicate with other iguanas.
  • These animals shed parts of their tails to escape when threatened by a predator.
  • The marine iguanas of the Galapagos Islands are excellent swimmers.
  • One of the funniest facts is that the iguanas of Central and South America are sometimes called "chickens in the trees."

You can check out more incredible facts about iguanas here.

different types of iguanas

There are two main types of iguanas:

Iguana Health and Recreation

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  • green iguana
  • lesser antilles iguana

However, there are ten different iguana varieties to watch out for:

  • green
  • blue
  • Red
  • Albinism
  • orange
  • Snow
  • Black
  • watered down
  • black and white
  • caribbean

scientific name

The scientific name of this animal is iguana iguana .

© Sanit Fuangnakhon/Shutterstock.com

The scientific name of this animal is iguana iguana . It most commonly refers to the green iguana found throughout much of the southern United States.

All iguanas are reptiles belonging to the order Squamata, Iguana, and Iguanidae.

The rhinoceros iguana is mainly distributed on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, and its scientific name is Cyclura cornuta .

The blue iguana's scientific name is Cyclura lewisi . Other genera include the desert iguana Dipsosaurus dorsalis of the Galapagos Islands and the marine iguana Amblyrynchus and terrestrial iguana Conolophus.

evolution and origin

Many believe that marine iguanas evolved from land iguanas that were brought to the Galapagos Islands about 4.5 million years ago and adapted to live on land. Their short, blunt snouts and small, sharp teeth are great for scraping algae off rocks. Their flattened tails allow them to move more easily through the water.


Black spiny tail iguana close-up
Different species of iguanas come in all sizes, ranging from 5 feet to 7 feet in length.

© iStock.com/davemhuntphotography

Different species come in different sizes, ranging from 5 feet to 7 feet in length. Their whip-like tail takes up about half the length of their body. The desert iguana is one of the smallest species, only 24 inches long. The blue iguana is the heaviest lizard, weighing up to 30 pounds.

These animals have different scales that cover different parts of their bodies. Some have larger round scales scattered around the neck surrounded by smaller overlapping scales. The scales on the dorsal body are usually thicker, more closely spaced, and can be a variety of colors.

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These reptiles are difficult to see because their colors often allow them to blend into the terrain, which helps them hide from predators.

The animals vary in color, with some species having blue or gray skin. American iguanas tend to become a more uniform green color as they age.

The scales of young lizards vary between green and brown. The coloration of individual iguanas can also vary depending on the animal's mood, temperature, social status, or health.

When their body temperature is lower, their skin tends to be darker in the morning and paler as the day warms. Dominant males also tend to have darker colors. Some males turn bright orange or gold before courtship.

Distinctive features also include a dewlap under the throat, which is especially noticeable in males. They also have a dorsal crest on their back that starts at the neck and ends at the tail.


Galapagos iguanas warm themselves in the sun by leaning on rocks on Tortuga Bay beach on Santa Cruz Island.
Captive iguanas tend to be more aggressive than wild iguanas. Bites are rare in the wild, but more common in captivity.


These animals have acute vision, which allows them to see shapes, shadows, colors and movement at a distance. Their vision allows them to navigate the terrain to find food and communicate with other members of their species.

In the wild, they rarely fight unless there isn't enough good spot to bask. Sun exposure is important because sitting in direct sunlight to keep warm is essential for body temperature and digestion.

Bite injuries are rare in the wild, but injuries are more common in captivity.

These animals sometimes travel great distances. Females typically return to the same nesting site each year, then return to their homeland after laying eggs. The pups are also scattered over a wide area.


white ash, color image, environment, environmental conservation, forest
Green iguanas are arboreal animals that live on top of forest trees.

©iStock.com/Alex Montacute

Green iguanas are arboreal animals that live on top of forest trees. Juvenile iguanas live on the lower ground, while mature iguanas live on the higher ground. Living high in the canopy allows them to bask in the sun with ease.

They rarely descend to the forest floor except to lay eggs.

Although they prefer forests, green iguanas are well adapted to open areas. When near the surface, they dive below the surface to hide from predators.

When frightened, they usually freeze and thus blend into their surroundings or hide. These animals can lose part of their tail, giving them a chance to escape. A new tail will sprout and grow back within a year, although it will not reach its original size.


Iguanas eat plants, fruits, leaves and flowers.

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Although they are omnivores, most iguanas in the wild tend to eat primarily herbivores. Their favorite foods are fig tree leaves, buds, flowers and fruit.

During the first two weeks after hatching, the young reptiles eat the yolk from the eggs.

Since young iguanas need a lot of protein to grow fully, they tend to eat more insects than adults. They occasionally eat invertebrates or small amounts of carrion, but they prefer leafy greens or ripe fruit.

These animals use their tongues to move their food so they can bite it into pieces small enough to swallow with very little chewing. Older iguanas eat a diet high in calcium and low in phosphorus. Low ambient temperatures can suppress the iguana's appetite.

Typically, eating occurs when the temperature is between 77 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Sun exposure is important for digestion. These lizards may stop eating before molting and when they are about to lay their eggs.

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Predators and Threats

Large birds of prey such as hawks and owls


Large birds such as hawks and owls prey on their young. Dogs and feral cats also prey on iguanas. Humans also eat these animals and their eggs, and use these lizards as bait for crocodiles. The conservation status of most species is of least concern because of their wide distribution.

Habitat destruction is another threat, especially for blue iguanas native to the Cayman Islands. The species is listed as endangered due to its shrinking habitat. Rhino iguanas are listed as endangered species. Rhino iguanas have a stable population only on Beata Island.

Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

Green iguanas by the lake
If females can't find a suitable mate when they're ready to lay eggs, they can store sperm from their former mate for several years.


These animals exhibit promiscuous mating patterns. Courtship occurs during the dry season, when females control large territories where they build their nests.

Males compete for females by shaking their heads, extending and retracting their tufts, nuzzling and biting the female's neck, and sometimes even changing color. Females can also display aggressive behavior if good nesting sites are limited.

Once a female has chosen a male, she marks her territory with pheromones secreted from her hind legs. The male straddles the female during mating, sometimes biting her shoulder to hold her in place. The female then lays her eggs in the nest she creates.

If females can't find a suitable mate when they're ready to lay eggs, they can store sperm from their former mate for several years.

Females lay eggs approximately 65 days after mating. The number of eggs laid depends on her nutritional status, maturity and size. The female lays 10 to 30 white or cream leathery eggs in each nest.

Females sometimes share nests if nesting sites are limited. The incubation period is 90 to 120 days, so the eggs hatch during the rainy season.

Newly hatched pups weigh less than half an ounce at birth but can weigh more than two pounds within three years. Adult animals usually weigh between 9 and 13 pounds, but some animals can weigh as much as 17.5 pounds. Green iguanas reach sexual maturity between three and four years old.

With proper care, these animals can live 15 to 20 years or more. Meanwhile, the San Diego Zoo says some of them can live as long as 60 years old. However, the average lifespan of an iguana in the wild is eight years.


You won't find general estimates of global populations, as many species have fairly wide ranges and are not in danger of extinction. However, the island of Puerto Rico has an estimated iguana population of four million, which means there are about two iguanas for every person on the island.

The total number of marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands is estimated to be between 250,000 and 300,000.

mating and reproduction

Biggest iguana - blue iguana
uanas tend to follow a mating pattern during most of the dry season.

© iStock.com/reptiles4all

During most of the dry season, iguanas tend to follow one mating pattern. Mating during the dry season helps ensure that their offspring hatch during the wet or rainy season when it is easier to find food.

Females tend to control larger areas where they build several different nests. The make will then compete for an area of females and mark their territory with pheromones emitted from the femoral hole on the dorsal side of the hind limb near the tail.

Male behaviors in sexual competition include head bobbing, extension, and retraction. They also snout the female's neck and occasionally change color. Once the female has chosen the male, he straddles the female and holds her in place by biting her shoulders.

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This sometimes leaves scars in women. However, after mating, eggs are laid and hatched in these several nests. This low-level parental intervention in their offspring makes iguanas an example of r-strategy reproduction.

iguana in the zoo

The San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park are home to American iguanas, including the desert iguana native to Southern California, as well as iguanas from other parts of the world, including some endangered blue iguanas.

The zoo has package prices that allow visitors to see the animals in their safari exhibits and more in their natural habitat. The San Diego Zoo also has programs where you can learn about the iguana species.

San Diego is the first U.S. zoo to hatch critically endangered Anegada Island iguanas. San Diego Zoo Global works with local governments and conservation organizations to help breed more vulnerable species.

Breeders use a technique called piloting, where the eggs are incubated in the facility and then the hatchlings are cared for in large pens.

When they are large enough to defend themselves, they are released into the wild. The zoo also runs conservation education programs on several Caribbean islands, teaching residents and visitors important facts about endangered iguanas.

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Although both iguanas and chameleons are reptiles, they differ in some key ways. First off, iguanas are bigger than chameleons. They also have larger eyes, and their tails serve different purposes.

Iguanas are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and other animals.

Iguanas belong to the animal kingdom.

Iguanas belong to the class of reptiles.

Iguanas belong to the phylum Chordate.

Iguanas belong to the iguana family.

Iguanas belong to the order Squamata.

Iguanas are covered with scales.

Iguanas live in lowland tropical rainforests near water.

Iguanas eat insects, fruit and leaves.

Predators of iguanas include hawks, hawks and snakes.

The average number of cubs for an iguana is 3.

Iguanas can live 15 to 20 years.

Iguanas can travel at speeds of up to 21 miles per hour.

These lizards are native to countries such as Brazil, Paraguay, and Mexico in Central and South America. They are also native to the islands of the Caribbean and West Indies. Humans are responsible for bringing them to US states, including Florida, Texas and Hawaii, where they have become an invasive species.

In captivity, iguanas require calcium-rich vegetables. Foods to consider include beets, kale, mustard greens and turnip greens, kale, parsley, bok choy, Swiss chard, alfalfa, lettuce, kohlrabi and dandelions.

Iguanas rarely bite humans, and only in this case will they defend themselves. However, when they attack humans, the bite can be painful.

Green iguanas are friendly as pets, but not as friendly as cats and dogs. Some iguanas will try to escape if given the chance.

They can't kill you, but their sharp serrated teeth can hurt you. If an iguana attacks, it can cause serious injuries to the face, hands, legs and ankles.

Unlike other reptiles such as snakes, iguanas are clean animals that keep away their excrement and therefore maintain a neutral smelling body.

Iguanas range from $19.99 to $500, depending on the species.

Iguanas lay eggs.