Iguanas are found near rivers, lakes, swamps and other bodies of water in the tropical forests of Central America, South America, Mexico and the Polynesian islands. They mainly feed on eggs, insects, leaves, fruits and flowers. Iguanas have an average lifespan of 8 years in the wild, depending on species, and 10 to 20 years in captivity.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Reptilia
Order - Squamata
Suborder - Iguania
Family - Iguanidae
Genus - Iguana
Species - I. iguana
Common Names - Green Iguana, American Iguana. Several other lizards in the family Iguanidae are called "iguana", including the Galapagos Marine Iguana, the Rhinoceros Iguana, and the Rock Iguana.
Iguanas range in color from brown to green and can change their coloring depending on factors such as their temperature and mood. They typically become lighter in color as the day gets hotter and darker in cooler temperatures. The green iguana, which is one of the most common species, has a large dewlap below its throat and a crest of spines along its back. Iguanas vary in size based on their species. Green iguanas weigh an average of 15 pounds and measure around 5 feet in length as adults.
Green iguanas breed during the dry season. Fertilized eggs develop in females for 59 to 84 days and are then laid in nests where they incubate for 90 to 120 days. Females can produce up to 65 offspring at a time. Iguanas do not provide any parental care once their eggs are laid.
Iguanas use visual cues, such as bobbing their heads or extending their dewlaps, to communicate with other iguanas and guard their territory. They usually fight over basking space, which they need in order to regulate their temperature and properly digest their food. When iguanas are startled, they typically freeze or find a place to hide. They can also deliberately lose part of their tail to escape predators and regrow it afterwards.
Some iguana species are still found in their historic range, although others have experienced serious population declines due to habitat loss and capture for the exotic pet industry.
Several iguana species are listed as critically endangered, including the Galapagos pink land iguana, the Fiji crested iguana and the Utila spiny-tailed iguana. Others are considered endangered, vulnerable or near threatened. Conservation efforts vary depending on the species, but most species at risk are protected by legislation.
Green iguanas are endangered in much of their natural range because they are being over-hunted for food. However, they have become an invasive species in some U.S. states, including Texas and Florida. These populations are thought to have originated with escaped or releaesed pets.