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About Iguanas


The term Iguana is often used to refer to all kinds of lizards falling under the family Iguanidae. However Iguana is actually a genus under the family Iguanidae. There are two species under the genus Iguana – Iguana iguana (Green iguana) and Iguana delicatissima (Lesser Antilean Iguana).

Green Iguanas

Green iguanas are arboreal lizards meaning that they live in trees and bushes. They also like to live in trees near water where the green iguanas are known to dive in when frightened or threatened. They can dive from heights of 40 feet and leave unscathed. They range over large geographical areas in Mexico, southern Brazil, Paraguay, and the Caribbean Islands. Being the most common pet iguana there is green iguanas can be found in captivity all over the United States and other countries. The green iguana’s average length is approximately 2 meters from head to the tip of its tail and usually weighs around 5 kg. Green iguanas are herbivores. They like to eat shoots, flowers, and leaves. It was once thought that baby green iguanas eat insects to supplement their diets but that has since been proven false. Baby green iguanas like the adults are strictly herbivores. As mentioned earlier, green iguanas dive into bodies of water when threatened. When there is no water nearby green iguanas simply exhibit their ability to run quickly and flee from the threat. When circumstances deem flight impossible then green iguanas puff up their bodies and extend their dewlaps to appear bigger and proceed to bob their heads in an effort to frighten away their perceived enemy. When all else fails it is the only time green iguanas resort to biting and lashing its tail. A green iguana bite to humans usually means stitches. Due to their popularity as pets the green iguana deserves its own section where pet iguana care and maintenance would be discussed.

Lesser Antillean Iguana

The lesser Antillean iguana is unique among iguanas in that they lack the large subtympanic plates found in other iguanas. Males usually grow up to 17 inches (43 cm) long while females grow up to 15 inches (39 cm) long. The lesser Antillean iguana live in the islands of Anguilla, St Martin, St Estatius, St Barthelemy, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Commonwealth of Dominica, and Martinique as well as in other islets. They live in xeric scrub, dry scrub woodland, littoral woodland, and in lower parts of transitional forests. Lesser Antillean iguanas are herbivores with their diet consisting mostly of leaves, flowers, and fruits of a wide variety of shrubs and trees. They especially love to eat fresh leaf growth and ripe fruits. Adult males become territorial especially during breeding season. They usually show territoriality through head bobbing and side-walking displays. Fights among male lesser Antillean iguanas are quite rare but when they happen it often involves head-to-head pushing. Fighting sometimes leads to crest damage as well as severed limbs and even heads. Lesser Antillean iguanas are currently considered to be endangered. They have actually become extinct in some islands like St Kitts and Nevis and are near extinction in Basse terre and St Estatius.

Threats to the iguana include:
• Habitat loss and fragmentation due to agriculture;

• Loss of communal nest sites due to coastal developments;

• Introduced predators like cats & dogs that love to kill and eat iguanas;

• Indian mongooses that love to eat juveniles and iguana eggs;

• The hunting of iguanas for their meat;

• Road kill which is very common during migration; and

• Hybridization of lesser Antillean iguanas with common iguanas.

Genus Brachylophus

The genus Brachylophus has two species of iguanas under it – the Fiji Banded Iguana (B. fasciatus) and the Fiji Crested Iguana (B. vitiensis). Both species are considered to be the most geographically isolated iguanas in the whole world. It is theorized that both species evolved from the Green iguana (Iguana iguana). Both species of iguanas are also considered to be endangered due to habitat loss and more importantly introduced predators (mongooses and domestic cats). They are protected by Fiji and international laws.

Fiji Banded Iguanas

The Fiji banded iguana is an arboreal lizard spending most of its time in trees and bushes. They can be found in Fiji, Tonga, and other Pacific islands. The Fiji banded iguana has different colorings for male and female. Male Fiji banded iguanas are emerald green with broad lighter bluish band while the females are solid green with occasional spots in their body. Both sexes have red eyes and yellow nostrils.

Fiji Crested Iguanas

Little is still known about the Fiji Crested iguana which was discovered only in 1979. The Fiji Crested iguanas are found only in small numbers on the Yasawa Islands and are only significant in number in the remote island of Yaduataba. Yaduataba is at present declared to be a sanctuary managed by the National Trust of Fiji. The Fiji Crested iguana is considered to be an extremely endangered species so that conservation efforts regarding it are in full force. One of the threats to the Fiji crested iguanas are crazy ants. Crazy ants can potentially decimate the iguana population in Yaduataba so that even now action plans are being drawn for the future control of these ants.

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8/28/2015  5:8:10