About animals

Traveling with an iguana


In a popular tourist area on the Caribbean Sea in Mexico, an iguana stole a piece of pizza from a vacationer. This is the newspaper Daily Mail, which published a video of what happened in the city of Playa del Carmen.

A tourist filmed a lizard on a wooden table standing on the street. The reptile initially ate part of the prey right there, then jumped with the remaining piece onto the ground. “Come on, take it. The pizza is actually very tasty, ”the man jokingly remarked.

Below, the iguana was waiting for two more of her relatives, who tried to take away food. The record does not show whether they succeeded. As a result, one of the pizza lizards climbed over a nearby fence and disappeared.

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The common iguana was scientifically described by the Swedish physician and naturalist Karl Linnaeus in 1758 in the tenth edition of his Nature System. In subsequent years, at least 17 more species and subspecies belonging to the common iguana were identified, but all of them, with the exception of the Caribbean green iguana, were invalidated.

In the first half of the 2000s, the staff of the American University of Utah Valley (English Utah Valley University) conducted a study of the phylogenetic origin of the iguana using methods for comparing the nuclear and mitochondrial DNA of animals brought from 17 countries. Analysis showed that the species originated in South America, from where it spread to Central America and the Caribbean Islands. Despite the variety of colors and other morphological features, the study did not find unique mitochondrial haplotypes of DNA, but showed a clear evolutionary discrepancy between populations of South and Central America.

The name "iguana" originally comes from the word iwana - the name of an animal in the Taino language (the people who inhabited the islands of the Caribbean and disappeared with the arrival of the conquistadors). The Spaniards began to name the reptile in their own way - iguana, and then from Spanish the word migrated both to scientific terminology and to all modern European languages.

The largest representative of the family: the length of an adult iguana usually does not exceed 1.5 m with a weight of up to 7 kg, although in the forests of South America some individuals can reach a length of 2 m with a weight of 8 kg. Conversely, on semi-arid islands of the Curacao type, the size of lizards is usually 30% smaller than that of animals that live on the mainland.

At birth, the length of the cubs varies from 17 to 25 cm and weighs about 12 g. Despite its name, the color of the iguana is not necessarily green, and largely depends on age and area of ​​habitat. In the south of the range, such as in Peru, iguanas look bluish with black spots. On the islands of Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba and Grenada, their color varies from green to pale livine, black and even pink.

In the west of Costa Rica, ordinary iguanas look red, and in the more northern regions, such as Mexico, orange. In El Salvador, young individuals often appear bright blue, but their color changes significantly when the lizards grow older.

Green iguana is one of the most common species of lizards whose the original range covers tropical regions of the western hemisphere from southern Mexico (Sinaloa and Veracruz) south to central Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, east to the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean - mainly Grenada, Curacao, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, Guadeloupe, St. Vincent, Utila and Aruba. In addition, in the second half of the 20th century, lizards were introduced to Grand Cayman Island, Puerto Rico, the US and British Virgin Islands, the continental states of Florida and Texas, and also to Hawaii.

Habitats - diverse biotopes with dense woody vegetation, mainly tropical rain forests, but also semi-moist forests, mangroves and dry, open zones of sea coasts. He spends most of his life on trees, usually growing along the banks of slowly flowing rivers. Iguanas are active only during daylight hours.

They spend cool nights on thick branches in the middle and lower tiers of trees, however, with sunrise they try to climb higher, where they warm for a long time - the sun baths increase body temperature, and ultraviolet radiation produces vitamin D, which helps digestion. Only after a few hours of genius reptiles go in search of food down in the crown. In inclement or cool weather, the animal keeps on the surface of the earth - in this way it better retains internal heat.

An excellent climber, a lizard is able to fall from a height of 15 m to the ground and not crash (in this case, iguanas try to cling to the leaves with their claws of their hind limbs). The lizard also swims well, while the body keeps it completely immersed in water and extends its legs along the body, and moves with the help of twisting movements of the tail.

In Florida, where iguanas live in the coastal zone, they are considered an invasive species that violates the ecology of this region. Some of the animals fell on the peninsula, along with hurricanes from Mexico and the islands of the Caribbean. Another wave of “immigrants” traveled in the holds of ships carrying fruit from South America.

Finally, some animals were thrown into the street or fled from the owners, or are descendants of such lizards. Iguanas often harm gardens and green spaces. In the wild, they eat the leaves of the rare Cordia globosa tree and the seeds of local species of Caesalpinia - plants that are the main food of extremely rare and protected by the international Red Book of the butterfly Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri. On the island of Marco (Eng. Marco Island) off the west coast of Florida iguanas are occupied by burrows of a rabbit owl - an owl, whose status in the Red Book is listed as vulnerable (category NT).

In the wild, most iguanas begin to breed, starting at the age of three or four years, although some of them are ready for breeding much earlier. The start of the breeding season most often occurs in January or February, however, it can vary depending on the habitat: during the seasonal cycle of humidity fluctuations, mating takes place in the first half of the dry period, laying eggs in the second (at this time, the soil temperature is quite high, and there is less risk death of masonry from problems associated with water), and hatching at the beginning of the rainy season, when young growth gives an abundance of food for posterity.

In the mating season, which lasts about two weeks, the males choose a place for future mating, mark the territory with the help of secretions from pores in the lower part of the limbs, and become aggressive towards rivals nearby. In the wild, direct collisions between them are quite rare, in the event of a threat, the weaker lizard in the event of a conflict prefers to leave someone else's territory rather than enter into battle.

If the possibility of escape is limited (in particular, when kept in captivity), then animals can bite each other. The male’s demonstrative behavior is frequent shaking of the head, inflating of the throat sac and changing the color of the body to brighter, more saturated.For the species, a combination of polygyny with polyandry is typical, that is, often one male takes care of several females at the same time, and the female cohabits with several males. During courtship, males sniff and slightly bite females by the neck.

Pregnancy lasts about 65 days, at the end of which the females leave their traditional habitats along the banks of the rivers, and along the channels of the streams flowing into them, go upstream to dry sandbanks and dunes. A hole is dug in the sand from a depth of 45 cm to 1 m, where the female lays a large number, 20 to 71, of eggs for three or more days.

Eggs are white, 35–40 mm long, about 15.4 mm in diameter, with a leathery and soft, but durable shell. In the event of a shortage of suitable places in one pit, several lizards can take advantage at the same time. In Panama, cases of the sharing of one pit by an iguana and an American crocodile are known, and in Honduras, an iguana and a crocodile caiman (Caiman crocodilus). Having laid eggs, the lizard carefully digs a hole and leaves the place, no longer caring for the offspring.

Incubation lasts from 90 to 120 days at an ambient temperature of 30-32 ° C. Cubs are usually born in May, breaking through the shell with the help of a special fleshy outgrowth on the forehead - caruncles, and getting out to the surface of the earth. By their color and shape, they almost do not differ from adults, but they have only a weakly pronounced crest.

Young lizards are completely independent, although when they are born they can carry a small yolk sac containing the nutrient mixture for the first one to two weeks. The brood holds together for the first year of life. In the group, males cover females with their bodies from predators - a feature noted only in this species among all other reptiles.

In the wild, iguanas live on average about 8 years. In captivity, with proper care, the green iguana can live for more than 20 years.

Unlike most other species of the family, green iguanas are exclusively herbivorous, eating about 100 species of tropical plants, leaves, shoots, flowers and fruits. So, in Panama, one of the favorite delicacies of the lizard is the Jamaican plum (Spondias mombin).

Other types of woody vegetation, the iguanas most often feed on greens and fruits of nature - frankincense (Bursera simaruba), upright tecoma (Tecoma stans), pointed apes (Annona acuminata), panicled amphilophium panicum (Amphilophium paniculatum), merremia ambelella ) and etc.

Young lizards often eat the excrement of adult animals in order to meet their microflora requirements for digesting low-calorie vegetarian foods. Animals are not able to chew food, they only cut large enough pieces with their small teeth and immediately swallow them whole. Occasionally, iguanas drink water, immersing part of their heads in a pond and swallowing it, or lick drops from greenery.

Sometimes in the reference literature there are reports that iguanas in the wild also feed on insects. Another source claims that lizards also eat bird eggs and carrion. However, not a single published academic study confirms that animals absorb proteins of animal origin.

Moreover, all publications say that all the components of a lizard necessary for development are obtained from animal feed only of plant origin, and a protein diet is harmful to their health. Insects and other small invertebrates can actually appear in the stomachs of lizards, however, experts believe that they are swallowed only by chance with plant food: for example, an iguana can swallow an insect sitting on a flower bed, along with a flower.

In addition, a hungry lizard can eat an animal for lack of other food. On the other hand, observations in the Miami Seaquarium and Key Biscayne Island in Florida recorded iguanas eating dead fish. In his book, Philippe De Vozoli asserts that in captivity, without any harm to their health, lizards can eat rodent meat.

In ancient times, the inhabitants of the Mayan civilization believed that the world was located inside a giant house, and four iguanas, which the Indians called itzam, play the role of its walls. Each iguana symbolized a certain side of the world and had its own special color. In the sky, the tails of the iguanas converged, thus forming a roof. This Mayan house was called "itzam-na" (Itzam Na, literally "iguana-house").

In the classical period, in some cities, itzamna was revered as a god, personifying not only the iguana, but everything else. God was so great and comprehensive that he was rarely depicted in the drawings. At the end of the classical period, the use of the image of the iguana as a deity gradually ceased, however, in the 16th century, the Spanish missionary Diego de Landa observed how the Indians sacrificed the green iguana to the gods.

The Indians of the Moche culture, developed in the west of Peru, also worshiped many animals, including the green iguana.

Multiple figures and images of this lizard have been preserved, including at the Larco Museum in Lima. Also one of the most common characters in the figures is a humanoid deity with the head, crest and tail of an iguana. This deity, often in company with another deity in the form of a person with a strongly wrinkled face and round eyes, is one of the key figures in the funeral procession.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animals
  • Type: Chordates
  • Class: Reptiles
  • Order: Scaly
  • Suborder: Lizards
  • Family: Iguanas
  • Genus: Real Iguanas
  • Species: Common Iguana

Here is some more information about all kinds of dragons: Dragon anatomy and further Belttail (Cordylidae) - a dragon in a hand!