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What is a Green Iguana?

By Vicki Hogue-Davies
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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A green iguana, also called a common iguana, is a lizard found in the rain forests of Central and South America. The green iguana is one of the largest lizards in the Americas. Its average length is more than 6 feet (2 meters), including the tail, which makes up about half its length. They are green in color, hence the name, but they can be a variety of shades from very bright green to grayish green, depending on their age and sex.

Like other reptiles, green iguanas are cold-blooded animals. They are herbivores that spend most of their lives living under the rain forest canopy. Green iguanas eat leaves, fruits and flowers. The average lifespan of green iguanas living in the wild is 20 years.

Green iguanas have long claws for climbing the trees where they live. Their long, hard tails can be used as defense mechanisms against predators and to help them balance when climbing. Like many other lizards, green iguanas can drop their tail to enable escape if they are caught. A dropped tail often will regrow, but not always.

To reproduce, green iguanas build nests in sandy soil to deposit their eggs, and go on their way. After about 90 days, the eggs hatch. The 1-foot-long (.30-meters-long) hatchlings are on their own when they are born and are very vulnerable to predators.

In Central and South America, green iguana meat is popular among some people. In areas where they are eaten, green iguanas are sometimes referred to as "chickens of the trees" or "bamboo chickens." They are hunted in the wild, and although they are not considered an endangered species, hunting has caused population concerns in some countries. They also are captive-bred for food.

Green iguanas are popular as pets in some countries. They can be found for sale at pet stores. More and more often, green iguanas are being captive-bred for the pet trade, but their removal from the wild for the trade is still of concern.

Other types of iguanas include the Fiji banded iguana, the Galapagos Islands marine iguana and the desert iguana. The Fiji banded iguana, found only in the Fiji Islands, is believed to have evolved from the green iguana. The Galapagos Islands marine iguana, found only in those islands, can swim and live in the sea. Desert iguanas, which grow to a length of approximately 16 inches (41 cm), are found in the United States and Mexico.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Green Iguana?

The Green Iguana, scientifically known as Iguana iguana, is a large arboreal lizard native to Central and South America. It's known for its vibrant green coloration, which can vary in shade from bright green to a duller greenish-brown. These reptiles are primarily herbivorous and can grow up to 5 feet in length, including their tail.

Where can Green Iguanas be found in the wild?

Green Iguanas are found throughout Central and South America, from Mexico to Brazil. They inhabit a range of environments including rainforests, swamps, and coastal areas. According to the IUCN Red List, they are adaptable and can also be found on some Caribbean islands, thriving in both wild and urban areas.

What do Green Iguanas eat?

Green Iguanas are mainly herbivorous, feeding on a diet of leaves, flowers, and fruit. They have a preference for foods that are high in calcium, such as dark leafy greens. Juvenile iguanas may occasionally consume insects, but as they grow, plant matter constitutes the majority of their diet.

How long do Green Iguanas live?

In the wild, Green Iguanas typically live for around 10 years, but in captivity, with proper care, they can live up to 20 years or more. Their lifespan is influenced by factors such as diet, environmental conditions, and predation pressures. Captive iguanas that are well-cared for often outlive their wild counterparts.

Are Green Iguanas endangered?

As of my knowledge cutoff in 2023, Green Iguanas are listed as "Least Concern" by the IUCN Red List, indicating they are not currently considered endangered. However, they face threats from habitat destruction, hunting, and the pet trade, which could impact their populations in the future.

Can Green Iguanas be kept as pets?

Yes, Green Iguanas can be kept as pets, but they require specific care to thrive. They need a large enclosure, proper temperature and humidity, UVB lighting, and a diet rich in calcium. Potential owners should be prepared for a long-term commitment and be aware of the iguana's needs for space and specialized care.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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