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Sea Life, Animals
& Exhibits

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Green and Teal Iguana

In Central America, where iguana meat is frequently consumed, iguanas are referred to as “bamboo chicken” or “chicken of the trees.” They generally live near water and are excellent swimmers. If threatened, they will leap from a branch, often from great heights, and escape with a splash to the water below. They are also tough enough to land on solid ground from as high as 40 feet and survive. The two prominent nostrils on the iguana’s head are used to expel a saline solution to regulate its body’s salt level.

Habitat

Found mostly in the southern United States (as an invasive species), Mexico, Central America, and South America.

Diet

Adults are herbivorous, eating fruits, leaves, flowers, young shoots and grasses; juveniles may also eat insects, snails, and other invertebrates.

Behavior

Green iguanas typically breed in the dry season. After a gestation of about 3 months, females lay 20-70 eggs in a burrow in the sand. Nests are up to a meter deep and may be shared with other females when nesting space is limited. Females return to the nest several times but do not guard their eggs. After a 3-4 month incubation at an ideal temperature of 88°F, the young all emerge at the same time, opening their eggs with special teeth called caruncles.

Predators

Predators of the iguana include hawks, eagles, large snakes, large mammals (including coatis, jaguars, ocelots and margays), lizards, and humans. Their eggs may also be eaten by many animals, including crocodiles and caimans. The iguana uses a number of clever tricks to escape its enemies. One tactic is to dive underwater, where it can hold its breath for up to 30 minutes. Another way it avoids predators is by staying perfectly still among the leaves, so that its green body blends in with its background. If attacked by a predator, an iguana can inflate the flap of skin (dewlap) under its chin and bob its head up and down to make itself look larger and more threatening. It can also lash out at an attacker with its tail, which doubles as a whip. If necessary, the tail can even come off (the iguana can grow a new one).