lizard It belongs to the genus of herbivorous lizards called Iguaninae. The word derives from the original Taino name of the species, iwana.

In addition to the two species of the genus Iguana, there are other related genera in the same famialia that include the word iguana, where they include the west indian iguana (Cyclura) And desert iguana (Dipsosaurus) of the southwestern United States and Mexico.

In the Galapagos Islands inhabit: Marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus) and a terrestrial form (Conolophus). This last genus includes the pink iguana (C. pink), which lives on the slopes of the Lobo Volcano on Isabela Island (Albemarle). All iguanas are egg layers.

Photo of a common iguana (Iguana iguana)
Photo of a common iguana (Iguana iguana)

Species

Within the genus iguana there are only two species: the common iguana (Iguana iguana) which is the most widespread and Caribbean iguana (Very delicate iguana) which is in danger of extinction.

The common iguana is green with bands that form rings on the tail, the females are grayish green and weigh half that of the males. They also possess atrophied poisonous glands that produce a weak and harmless venom.

Features

The adult iguana can measure between 1,5 - 1,8 m in length, including its tail. And it can weigh about 6 kg, although some specimens can measure more than 2 m in length and weigh up to 8 kg.

To be able to process and digest food, they must have a much greater force in the jaws than carnivorous or omnivorous reptiles. Therefore, the skull has developed a strong force in biting and efficient processing of food. In addition, the teeth are acrodental, that is, their teeth sit on the surface of the jaw bone. The teeth are small and serrated, designed to grip and cut food.

Both species have a dewlap and a row of elongated scales that start at the midline of the neck and end on the tail. On their cheeks they have a large round scale known as the subtympanic shield. Behind this shield is located the eardrum, behind each eye.

They are covered by scales that cover different areas of the body. For example, large, round tuberculous scales are spread around the lateral neck region between thicker scales and are tighter than those on the ventral side. These scales have a great variety of colors and are not always visible at close range.

It has impressive watery vision that can see shapes, shadows, colors and movement at great distances, allowing it to capture moving prey. It is also used to navigate through forests in search of food, communicate with other members of its species, and to detect predators.

Like other reptiles, it has a three-chambered heart with two atria, one ventricle, and two aorta with a systemic circulation.

The muscle is very light in color, due to the high proportion of fast glycolytic muscle fibers. These fibers are not very vascular and are low in myoglobin, which gives them a pale appearance. The high density of fibers allows you to move quickly for a short period of time, but it is inefficient when it comes to long-term movements, since cellular respiration is anerobic.

As in other species of lizards, they have a pale scale located on the back of the head that marks the parietal eye. This organ is photosensitive to changes in lighting and helps it detect day and night.

Two green iguanas
Two green iguanas

Behavior

The youngest iguanas stay in lower areas, while the adults prefer the higher areas of the treetops. This habit allows them to sunbathe without going to the ground. The only exception is when the female goes down to the ground to dig a burrow.

It communicates with each other using visual signals through rapid eye movements that others are able to easily pick up due to the excellent vision.

Habitat

The iguana usually prefers forests, although they can adapt to more open areas.

They spend time in the treetops and prefer to have plenty of water nearby so they can dive.

Distribution

The iguana is native to the tropical areas of Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Food

The iguana is classified as an omnivore, but most wild individuals tend to prefer a herbivorous diet, with ripe fruits being one of the favorite foods, along with green leaves.

The rest of the diet is composed of the leaves, buds, flowers and fruits of fig trees belonging to the genus Ficus, although they also feed on many other trees.

The digestive system harbors bacteria that ferment plant material. When it is young it feeds on small invertebrates and some birds and mammals.

Predators

The green and brown colors of their scales allow them to go unnoticed by predators by camouflaging themselves with the environment.

Being good swimmers, they can dive to defend themselves from some predators. In fact, they choose high branches to bask in the sun so that in case they have to flee, they can quickly jump into the water to escape.

Reproduction

The iguana have a promiscuous or polygamous mating style during the dry season. Mating is done during this stage to ensure that the young are born in the rainy season.

Males become territorial and mark their territory using a pheromone secreted by the femoral pros on the dorsal side of their hind limbs. During mating, males shake their heads, extend and retract their jowls, caress and bite the neck of females, and occasionally change color.

Once the female chooses the male, the male straddles the female and holds her in place by biting her shoulder, sometimes leaving scars on the female.

Males have two hemipenis. During copulation a hemipenis is inserted into the female's cloacal orifice. Females can store sperm from other pairs for several years to be fertilized in the event that no males are found within their territory.

After copulation, the eggs are laid in various nests with a total that you would see between 30 - 50 eggs.

The eggs are allowed to incubate between 70 - 150 days. At birth, the young will be about 7,6 cm in size. During this stage, coatis and other omnivores will be vulnerable to predators.

State of conservation

and the Lesser Antillean Iguana, which is native to the Lesser Antilles and is in danger of extinction due to habitat destruction, introduced wild predators, hunting, and hybridization with introduced green iguanas.

Relationship with humans

The iguana has been used as food by various cultures over time. In rural areas they remain an important source of protein.

Popular culture

The common iguana is a very popular species as an exotic pet for many humans.

List of other interesting animals

A mole enjoying his favorite food, the earthworm.