Common Iguana

Common Iguanas are widely spread all over the tropical forests of America, ranging from southern Mexico to Paraguay and south to Brazil. With its whip-like tail and massive head it leaves an imposing impression. Because of its prominent throat skin and back thorns this tree lizard looks quite dangerous.

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The Iguanas might seem dangerous, but they're not aggressive at all

Common Iguanas are quite large in size, being as long as 2 metres and weighing up to 4 kg. Its nails are extremely long and curved, allowing the reptile grab and hold on to trees, as well as dig up the soil. The long, muscular tail is three times longer than the body and it can be used as a defensive weapon. Common Iguanas are grayish green, with sharp thorns on the back line and darker scales formed in stripes all body long.

These tree reptiles mostly inhabit swamp areas or sea shores, usually in tropical forests. The Iguana is a great climber and can leap from one branch to another. The Iguana “uses” all parts of the trees, climbing from the very bottom to as high as 30 metres. That doesn’t mean that the Iguanas only live in the trees – they descend to the ground in evenings to search for food. They are rather skittish and will often stay in places that have an emergency escape path, for instance they often rest on branches that hang above water, and if in danger, the Iguana jumps in the water.

The diet of the Common Iguana depends on its age. Mature animals mostly feed on vegetation, although sometimes also catching small mammals or birds. Younger iguanas, that can be distinguished by their lighter colouration, feed on bugs, spiders, small invertebrates and other creatures. The Iguanas keep developing all their life, growing bigger and bigger, and they often store fat reserves to avoid starvation when food is scarce.

The mating period depends on the area inhabited. After copulation, the female digs about a 30 cm deep hole. The hole maintains the necessary temperature for the eggs, as well as protects them from predators. The quantity of eggs depends on the size of the female – it ranges from 25 to 60 eggs. After laying eggs, the female fills the hole with soil and runs across the soil a few times to brush up the area, making it unable to tell that it has been recently dug. Young Iguanas hatch after 65 – 70 days and they’re already about 20 cm long.

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A Common Iguana hatching

Common Iguanas don’t have many natural predators – if in danger they can use their tail as a whip, and also charge the enemy attacking with its sharp claws and teeth. Against humans, however, the Iguana is relatively defenseless and it’s widely hunted for its meat by the natives, and the eggs are also considered a delicacy. Because of these human actions the population of Iguanas is decreasing, although they won’t be facing extinction anytime soon.

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