In the large family of reptiles, the iguana can be considered the prince of lizards. Indeed, this imposing of the type of the saurians fascinates as much as it impresses, although its way of life is rather unknown to the general public.
What is an iguana?
The full name of the iguana is actually green iguana (Iguana iguana). This giant lizard is part of the Iguanidae family, a family comprising a large number of species, which can be terrestrial, arboreal or even marine.
The green iguana is a lizard usually measuring between 1.20m and 1.60m from snout to tail, although the largest specimens can reach the impressive size of 2m in length, which makes it the largest species in its history. family, and even of his order.
It generally weighs between 1.5kg and 3kg, and lives on average between 20 and 30 years.
The physical peculiarities of the green iguana are numerous, starting with its color. Although it is called a “green” iguana, there are a large number of subjects whose colors can vary, ranging from green to gray, including individuals of bluish, orange or even pinkish color.
However, we find a characteristic common to almost all these varieties of iguanas, since most of them have a row of black or sometimes yellow rings on the tail, which can even extend to the belly in some individuals.
These very particular saurians also have a series of backbones, up to 8cm long in older males, which allow them to defend themselves against their natural predators.
Under the throat, the green iguanas carry what is called a gular dewlap, a skin membrane supported by the hyoid apparatus, which serves both for thermoregulation (regulate the temperature of their body), for the struggles of territory, as well as for sexual displays.
Finally, the legs of green iguanas have five fingers ending in long, sharp claws, serving them both to hunt when they are young, but also to defend themselves, as well as to cling to the bark. trees for easy climbing.
The distribution air and the iguana way of life
We can find green iguanas in a very large area of distribution on the American continent. We can thus observe in South America, in an area going from the south of Brazil and Paraguay, to the north of Mexico as well as in the Caribbean islands. It will also be found in North America, since specimens live in particular in southern Florida, Hawaii and in the Rio Grande valley in the state of Texas.
Green iguanas are semi-arboreal animals with a marine tendency. Thus, they will be found mainly in wooded areas, near a body of fresh water.
Green iguanas are very passive reptiles. Indeed, they spend the vast majority of their life perched on a tree, in full sun, warming their bodies in cold blood.
Moreover, this tree in question represents the territory of a male, which he often shares with a harem of females. Because yes, the green iguanas are very territorial animals, especially the males, who will not hesitate to come down from their tree to hunt another male passing through his territory, although he can be an exception in rare cases, for younger individuals who do not pose a real threat to them.
Green iguanas are also very good swimmers. During a period of too much heat or when they have to move, they do not hesitate to swim in waterways, their tail serving as their rudder. However, the water must be at a high enough temperature (around 25 ° C), because as with all reptiles, too low a temperature would lower their body temperature because of their naturally cold blood, and they would risk die of hypothermia.
Green iguanas are herbivorous animals, but only once they reach maturity. In fact, until they are three years old, young iguanas will need animal proteins for their growth. We can thus find young iguanas chasing various insects, as well as spiders.
Once adult, their diet will change, and will consist only of leaves, flowers and a few exotic fruits that they will seek at the feet of trees or even sometimes directly on its branches.
The reproduction of iguanas
The breeding season for green iguanas is between December and February. When he spotted a female with whom he wishes to copulate, the male walks towards her, nodding his head up and down. If she accepts it, copulation can begin. If on the contrary she refuses, the male will be violently rejected with tail, claws and bites.
Since green iguanas are oviparous animals (which lay eggs), the female once fertilized will lay her eggs in a warm and sunny area during the driest period of the year, namely at least February. She will dig a hole in which she will bury between 20 and 80 eggs, taking care to leave an air pocket to oxygenate the eggs. Then, she will leave and continue her life, a female iguana does not take care of her young.
Much of these eggs will not hatch. The small iguanas that are lucky enough to see the light of day will hatch in April or March, when food is most abundant, and will remain among siblings for the first years of their life, as they will be very vulnerable to predators, such as birds, certain snakes, and above all their biggest predator: the lizard Jesus or basilisk, an aquatic reptile that loves young iguanas.
A very particular behavior has even been observed in young green iguanas, since the males would position themselves in the front line against predators to defend the females, even if it means sacrificing their lives. It would be the only species in the world to do so.
The iguana and the men
The green iguana is valued for its flesh, as well as for its eggs, mainly in the islands of South America. Certain rather barbaric practices were practiced in particular, such as hunting the females to eviscerate them and thus eat the mother as well as the eggs she carries. Fortunately, these practices are now prohibited, although poaching unfortunately still persists today.
Iguanas are also very popular reptiles among terrarists. Indeed, their bright colors as well as their docile side when they are young attract many reptile lovers.
Once adult however, their large size as well as their behavior which pushes them to sometimes want to be dominant, and therefore sometimes aggressive, cause a lot of abandonment on the part of poorly prepared and irresponsible terrarists.
If owning this animal in captivity interests you, take the time to learn about the living conditions it requires, even as an adult, and about the animal in general. Now you know everything there is to know about the green iguana in the wild. This very peculiar prince of the lizards has continued to amaze us with his behavior both intelligent and savage, as well as his majestic physique.