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Green Iguana (Iguana iguana)

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The Green Iguana

The Green Iguana (Iguana iguana), also known as the common iguana, is the largest of the species. Once commonly found in the wild, it is currently endangered in many of its native locations. Reasons for this include forest clearing and hunting. Iguana meat and eggs are often taken for food, and iguanas are highly desirable pets, so the pet trade is extremely profitable. Even though iguanas are most often farmed for sale as pets, they are still being hunted in the wild, especially the female.

Green Iguanas are found in tropical locations and on small islands. They are spread through Mexico, Central America, and South America, including Brazil and Paraguay. They are also found throughout the Caribbean Islands. They usually make their homes very close to a ready water source and are seen most actively during the day. As they are cold-blooded animals, they spend a lot of time basking on rocks and tree branches in the sun. A lot of time is spent up in high tree branches, up to 40-50 feet (12-15 meters) off of the ground. If threatened, the iguana will then dive from these high tree branches into the water. They are extremely good swimmers, climbers, and divers. They are essentially solitary animals, but they will gather together if there is an especially good place to bask in the sun.

True to their name, Green Iguanas are, in fact, green. When they are born, they are a bright shade of emerald green, which darkens as they age to become a more brownish-green and can even be tan or orange. Adult iguanas have a line of spiny, flexible skin down their backs and tails. This is bigger and more pronounced in the male. Iguanas also have flaps of skin on their neck called dewlaps. These are puffed out when the iguana is threatened or trying to impress the opposite sex during mating and courtship. They also have very long fingers and claws, which help when climbing. Very large in size, the average length for an adult Green Iguana is 6 feet (1.8 meters), including the long, striped tail.

Interesting Fact: The tail of the iguana is very strong and can be whipped at high speed to smack a predator. If caught by the tail, it will break off, allowing the iguana to escape. The tail will then grow back with no evidence that it was ever removed.

Green Iguanas are essentially vegetarians, eating green plants, fruits, and leaves and occasionally eating insects. When iguanas are young, however, the diet is much more varied, and they eat a lot of insects, eggs, fruit, leaves, and even small mammals or birds.

Reproductive age in the Green Iguana can be as early as 16 months of age or as late as two to three years. Females dig burrows close to the water and lay their eggs, sometimes up to 50 at a time. They often will also dig false burrows to try and fool predators and protect their young. Out of these 50 eggs, it is estimated that only about 3-10 baby iguanas survive and live through adulthood. The eggs usually take about three months to hatch, and the young lizards are able to live independently virtually from the moment they are born.

Further Information on the Green Iguana:

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Iguana. Encarta Encyclopedia, 2000.
Iguana iguana. Accessed on 08/23/04 at http://www.vivanatura.org/Iguana%20iguana.html.
Oakland Zoo: Green Iguana. Accessed on 08/23/04 at http://www.oaklandzoo.org/atoz/azgrigna.html.
Green Iguana. Accessed on 08/23/04 at http://www.thewildones.org/Animals/iguana.html.

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