The Green Iguana reptile is a fairly large lizard that has become popular as a domestic pet.
Where does it live?
The green iguana is native to South America and some portions of central and North America where it typically lives high up in trees in the rainforest. The green iguana can also be found in the wild in the United States as a result of pets being returned or escaping back into the wild.
How big do they get?
Green Iguanas have been known to grow up to 6 feet long and 20 pounds in captivity. That's pretty big for a lizard. Around half of that length is their tail.
Although they are called "green" iguanas, these lizards are sometimes found in other shades and colors besides green including blue, orange, and purple. The color of their skin acts as camouflage, allowing them to blend into the landscape. An iguana's skin is tough and waterproof.
Author: Kaldari, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
What do they eat?
The iguana is mostly an herbivore, meaning that it likes to eat plants including leaves and fruit. They will also eat small insects, eggs, and other non-plant food, but it is thought by some scientists that this is not good for them. They have very sharp teeth to help them to chomp up leaves and plants, but you should watch out for them if you have an iguana as a pet! Iguanas will use these sharp teeth together with their long claws and sharp tail to attack if they feel threatened.
Iguanas have spines along their backs to help protect them from predators. They also have a bunch of extra skin below their necks called a dewlap. This dewlap helps them to regulate their temperature, which is helpful as they are cold-blooded and their bodies don't control their body temperature automatically. The dewlap is also used as a display of aggression or as communication. The iguana will spread the dewlap wide to appear bigger and bob its head up and down.
A young iguana
Author: Photo by Carmen Cordelia, Pd, via Wikimedia
The Third Eye
An interesting feature of green iguanas is their third eye. This is an extra eye on top of their head called a parietal eye. This eye is not quite like a normal eye, but it can help iguanas detect the movement of a predator sneaking up on them from above (like a bird) allowing the iguana to escape. Iguanas have good eyesight with their "regular" eyes as well.
Fun Facts About the Green Iguana
Green Iguanas can survive a fall of 40-50 feet. This works out well since they live in trees (especially for the clumsy ones!).
Green Iguanas are excellent swimmers and will dive into the water to avoid predators.
Hawks are the most feared predators to green iguanas. Iguanas will often freeze and be unable to move at the sound of a hawk's cry.
Their tail can break off if grabbed, but its okay as they can grow a new one.
Not so Fun Fact: Most pet iguanas die in the first year to due poor care. However, some iguanas have lived up to 20 years in captivity with proper care (it is thought they live around 8 years in the wild).