Iguana Vocabulary: Most Commonly Used Terms

Here are some terms on Iguana Vocabulary.

Sorry if you thought this article was about the things that iguanas commonly say because it isn’t.  Iguanas do not talk, at least not to MY knowledge.

These are just a few terms associated with iguanas that we thought you might find helpful.  Listed here also are terms associated with the tropical iguanas located on the Galapagos Islands, specifically the Galapagos land iguana and the marine iguana.

Amblyrhynchus cristatus – the scientific name of the Galapagos marine iguana, the only marine lizard in existence.  These iguanas eat marine algae from the sea and primarily live on the Galapagos rocky coastal shore.

Arboreal – tree dwelling animals.  Iguanas are aboreal lizards in their native habitat.

Archipelago – a series of islands in a chain or scattered cluster, such as the 19 island archipelago known as the Galapagos.  These island clusters are often caused by volcanic activity, earthquakes or erosion.  They are more commonly formed in open sea waters, not usually near large land masses.

Brachylophus – iguana classification of three iguana species found on the Tonga and Fiji islands in the South Pacific.

Brumation – the reptilian equivalent of hibernation.

Caudal Autotomy – the ability of an iguana to “snap” off, or self amputate, part of its tail if threatened or in danger as a means of escape.  The fracture planes in the iguana’s tail bones allow this capability.

Caudal Crest – the crest of the iguana located on the back portion of the iguana’s body.

Chordata – in the classification of organisms, the green iguana’s official “phylum” is termed Chordata.

Cloacal vent – located on an iguana’s underside where the body meets the tail.  The vent contains iguana reproductive organs.  This is also the area from which iguanas pass urinary and digestive wastes.

Conolophus – classification name for the land iguanas native to the Galapagos Islands.  The specific number of species in this class is a matter of some dispute, however current taxonomic records suggest there are three main species.

Ctenosaura – more commonly known as spiny-tailed iguanas, this is a classification of iguana species found on the islands of Mexico, Panama, and in certain areas of Colombia.

Cyclurae – a specific genus of iguana, commonly referred to as rock iguanas.  These are large iguanas found primarily in the Caribbean Islands.  There are variations in the colorings among the different species of these iguanas.

Deposition – the laying of iguana eggs by an iguana female.

Deposition Site – the egg site of an iguana female where her eggs are deposited.

Dewlap – the large skin flap on a green iguana’s throat.  Not simply a decoration, it aids the iguana in maintaining temperature control and serves as a communication method.

Dipsosaurus dorsalis – more commonly known as desert iguanas, primarily found in Mexico and the Southwestern United States (Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona)

Diurnal – animals that sleep at night and are active during the daylight hours.

Dorsal Crest – the crest just above the rear caudal crest and just behind the Nuchal crest on an iguana’s back, the middle crest area.

Dysecdysis – abnormal or problematic shedding of the skin of reptiles.  Problems are typically a cause of environment or nutrition.

Ecdysis – normal shedding of the iguana’s skin, not to be confused with abnormal shedding, which is known as dydecdysis

Femoral pores – located on an iguana’s inner thighs, these pores aid in communication and marking territory.  During breeding season, the male pores exude a scented waxy substance which they spread to mark territory.

Fracture planes – the bones located in an iguana’s tail allowing the animal to self amputate or “snap off” part of its tail to escape predators and other dangers.  This ability is also known as caudal autotomy.

Galapagos land iguana – iguanas that live on the Pacific Galapagos Islands.  The islands are owned by Ecuador and are located off of the west coast of South America, approximately 600 miles west of Ecuador.  The islands are located on the equator and are considered to be in a tropical climate.

Gavage – force feeding an iguana against its will using a small tube inserted into the animal’s throat.

Genus – in the classification (categorizing) of animals, genus falls between family and species.  The genus of a green iguana, specifically, is Iguana.  Its family is Iguanidae, and its species is iguana.

Glottis – skin flaps in the iguana’s throat at the tracheal opening that seal inhaled air in the lungs and prevent the animal from “inhaling” its food when it eats.

Gravid – the term for a pregnant female iguana carrying fertilized eggs.  The term “gravid” is not isolated to iguanas; it is also used to refer to other animals distended or swollen with eggs, such as fish for example. Origin:  the Latin word gravidus, derived from gravis when means “heavy.”

Gular – of or pertaining to the throat.

Hatchling – term used to refer to a baby or newborn iguana, the “hatchling” of an iguana egg.

Helithermic – term referring to animals who bask regularly in the sun to increase their body temperatures.

Hemipenes – dual male iguana reproductive organs located near the vent.  These are usually inverted until breeding time, and then they become everted or erect.  Only one hemipenis is used at a time during the breeding process.

Herbivore – an animal that feeds on vegetation.  Iguanas eat leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables (only certain types, be sure to study a proper iguana diet before feeding).

Herpetoculture – the keeping of live amphibians and reptiles, whether as a hobby or for commercial breeding activities.

Herpetology – comes from the Greek word herpeton, which means “creeping or crawling animal.”  It is the study of amphibians and reptiles, including frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, snakes, lizards, turtles, crocodiles, iguanas, etc.

Homeothermy – term used to describe animals that maintain a constant body temperature.

Hypercalcemia – condition in which the blood calcium level is very high.  This condition is not common among confined (captive)  iguanas.

Hypocalcemia – a condition in which blood calcium levels are very low.  Common in gravid female iguanas.  This is a serious condition that can result in the inability to deposit eggs, and sometimes even death.

Iguana – the formal classification name for green iguanas.  Termed from the genus, Iguana, and the species, iguana.

Iguanidae – in the formal classification of a green iguana, Iguanidae is the family level of the classification.

Jacobson’s organ – the highly sensitive organ that allows iguanas to flick their tongues to obtain sensory information such as scents and tastes from objects and the air.  The name comes from its discoverer, Danish surgeon Ludwig Jacobson.  The ducts of this organ are located on the roof of an iguanas mouth.

Jowl – located on an iguana’s jawline, the animal will sometimes “puff” them out as part of their defensive mechanism to make themselves look larger.  Male iguanas use their jowls as sort of an intimidation factor and boast their masculinity.

Keratin – a waterproof protein that comprises the iguana’s outermost layer of skin.  Keratin is the same protein that makes human nails hard.

Metabolic Bone Disease – caused by calcium deficiency (hypocalcemia.)  Mild cases can be treated with calcium supplements and a proper living environment.  More severe cases should be treated by a reptile veterinarian.

Nuchal Crest – the crest located on the iguana’s neck area.

Oviparous – species of animal that lays eggs.  Land dwelling animal eggs are fertilized prior to deposition, whereas water dwelling animals lay the eggs, and they are then externally fertilized by the male.

Oviposition – the process of laying eggs by oviparous animals.

Parietal Eye – the “third” eye of the iguana located on the topmost part of the head.

Poikilotherms – cold-blooded animals whose body temperatures fluctuate based on the climate of their environment.  Derived from the Greek word poikilos, meaning varied, and thermia, meaning heat.

Protozoa – one celled animals that reside inside an iguana’s digestive tract.

Reptilia – in the classification of organisms, the green iguana’s official “class” is termed Reptilia.

Rostral – of or pertaining to the rostrum, or snout, area of an iguana.

Rostrum – the snout of an iguana, including the nose and nostrils located at the very forefront of its head.

Sauria – in the classification of organisms, the green iguana’s official “suborder” is termed Sauria.

Sauromalus obesus – classification name of the chuckwalla species of iguana.

Squamata – in the classification of organisms, the green iguana’s official “order” is termed Squamata.

Subtympanic scale – found only on the green iguana, located just under the iguana’s ear.  This scale is large and opalescent.

Tympanum – the exterior ear of an iguana, located just above the sub-tympanic scale and behind the eye.

Vent – located on the underside belly of an iguana.  See Cloacal vent above.

I am the editor-in-chief at MyPetReptiles.com. I have been a reptile enthusiast for over a decade, and during this time I have kept and bred a variety of different reptiles such as bearded dragons, geckos, and chameleons. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and experience with others to help them provide the best care possible for their pet reptiles.

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