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Description: The ornate Green Iguana is a large lizard that can grow to almost five feet in length and weigh up to 20 pounds. Depending on location, the iguana can be green, gray, black, orange, red or blue in coloration. The Green Iguana features a conspicuous set of spines extending from the back and the banded tail. in addition, the iguana possesses a large dewlap, a flap of skin that hangs from the lower jaw. This helps the iguana regulate its body temperature and is also used when attracting a mate or defending territory. The Green Iguana has a special organ called a parietal eye, which is some ways is like a third eye. Located on the top of the head, this “third eye” helps the iguana detect differences in lights and darks and can detect movements and may provide warning of overhead attacks. Iguanas also have very sharp teeth that help in tearing into vegetation and leaves. These teeth can cause serious wounds in humans. The tail makes up about half the total length of the iguana and is detachable if grabbed by a predator. A new tail will grow within a year but it will be shorter than the original.
Diet: Green Iguanas are primarily herbivorous and eat leaves, flowers, fruit, and shoots.
Habitat/Range: The natural range of the Green Iguana extends from northern Mexico through Central America and the southern islands of the Caribbean to central South America. They have been introduced to other Caribbean islands, to parts of Florida, and to Hawaii. It is the largest lizard known to inhabit parts of the United States. Iguanas are adaptable animals that live in forested habitats near water. They are excellent climbers and spend most of their lives high in the canopy. Interestingly enough, Iguanas sometimes fall into a torpor like state when weather gets unexpectedly cold. As a result, dozens may fall out of trees at the same time producing a “raining iguanas” effect. These iguanas may fall from heights of fifty feet or more and land on the ground unhurt. They are also excellent swimmers.
Breeding: Females lay between 20-70 eggs every year. Females offers no protection for the hatchlings that emerge in 10-15 weeks. Young iguanas stay in family groups for the first year of their lives. There is some evidence that supports the assertion that juvenile males protect females from predators during this time.
Status: Green Iguanas are common throughout their range, but many are collected for the exotic pet trade. Iguanas have become popular pets in the United States, where thousands are sold every year. Iguanas are difficult to care for because of their dietary and temperature requirements, and it is estimated that more than half of all iguanas kept as pets die within the first year.