Green Iguana

green iguana


Name: Green Iguana
Scientific name: Iguana iguana
Range: American tropics 
Habitat: Trees above water
Status: Not endangered (yet)
Diet in the wild: plants
Diet in the zoo: flowers, fruit, and leaves
Location in the zoo:  Education Center

Physical description:

            The green iguana grows from 10 in at birth up to 7 ft.  Two-thirds of its body length consists of its tail and is covered in scales.  This lizard has a large head and a rounded snout;  each of its limbs has five digits with long sharp claws attached to each.  Under their chin and neck hangs a loose, comb-edged flap of skin called a dewlap.  They are bright green in color, which dulls with age.

General information:

             They live in the trees of the tropical Americas, usually above water.  They lay eggs into a nest which measures 3 to 6 ft long and 2 ft deep.  In a three month period, these animals lay approximately 20 to 45 eggs.  The males and females of this species are normally told apart by the size of their head, dewlap, and scales.  The males have the larger heads, dewlaps, and scales. 

Special anatomical, physiological or behavioral adaptations:

               The claws and tail mentioned above are used by the iguana for climbing.  The claws grab hold while the tail keeps the lizard balanced.  This tail has another function as well, it acts as a main self-defense feature; when approached by a predator, they distract the attacker by thrashing their tail (sometimes they even break part of their tail off....don't worry, it grows back). They also have comb-like spines from their neck to the last third of the tail, which makes it more difficult for the iguana to be swallowed by predators. 
             The green iguana does not possess a temperature regulation system.  Because of this, the iguana must depend on its behavioral adaptations to maintain body temperature.  When they need to be warmer, they either lay directly in the sun or beside something reflecting the sun.  When they need to cool, obviously, they rest in the shade. 

Comments about the green iguanas of the Fort Worth Zoo:

             The iguanas at the zoo have a diet of fruit, plants, and flowers.  They are housed in the reptile and amphibian section.  Although their cage is big, it is small compared to these beasts. 

Personal Observations:

             These quiet creatures never really move too much.  In fact they seem quite lazy.  When they do move, their gestures are sluggish and minute. 


Links and Sources

Green Iguana at The Wild Ones

Green Iguana at the Hogle Zoo

Green Iguana at the Sedgwick County Zoo

Green Iguana at

Green Iguana at University of Michigan Animal Diversity Site

Russell, Anthony P.  "Osteologyof Reptiles."  American Zoologist, 38(4)  Sept. 1998. 

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Page author:
Catherine Jenkins 
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