Iguana Life and Breeding Habits

Green iguana (Iguana iguana) distribution map

Image via Wikipedia

Green iguanas (Iguana iguana) are a reptile species that is found throughout much of Central and South America and in the Caribbean. This tropical creature does well in hot, humid areas, so it should be no surprise that colonies of iguanas that have descended from escaped pets are actually thriving in parts of Florida, too. The green iguana is one of the most common pet reptiles and also one of the largest reptiles that’s commonly kept as a pet.

Green Iguana Appearance

The green iguanas are born from eggs, and at the time they hatch they will be about 6-8 inches long. However, within a few years these cute little babies will grow into massive lizards of five to six feet in length. A fully adult iguana weighs an average of fifteen to seventeen pounds.

While juvenile iguanas are typically a bright green color, the name ‘green iguana’ isn’t always an exact fit. They can vary in shade from grayish to emerald green to brown. Their color will depend on their health and mood as well as the temperature and living environment.

You’ll notice that adult iguanas have a dewlap, or a flap of skin that hangs down under their chin which is especially noticeable on the males. They have a row of spines running down their neck and back, and also have a third ‘eye’ known as the parietal eye in the middle of their forehead. The parietal eye is sensitive to light and is associated with the pineal gland. It helps to regulate the iguana’s circadian rhythm and also hormone production for thermoregulation. Because of this, it’s important that pet iguanas are given periods of light and dark each day, typically 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark.

Green Iguana Habitats

Green iguanas are arboreal lizards, meaning that they prefer to spend their time in the treetops of the jungles where they live. This behavior allows them to bask in the sunshine above the leaves, which is their main method of controlling their body temperature.  It also affords them protection from predators, as their body color blends in well with the leaves and shadows. The female iguanas will leave the trees to dig burrows in the ground for laying their eggs. They prefer to live near water and are excellent swimmers. If predators come close, they’ll often make a quick escape by diving down into the water and swimming away.

Iguana Development

When iguanas mate, it takes about 65 days until the female is ready to lay her eggs. The number of eggs she’ll lay depends on the size of the iguana, but typically there will be from ten to thirty of them. Sometimes, females will share nests, especially in areas where there isn’t a lot of space for digging. Females are ‘hands-off’ mothers, and don’t guard their nests, although they will occasionally pop by to visit. The eggs will hatch about 90 days later.

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