Green iguanas are the most common of all the reptiles in the iguana family. They are the iguana that is most often sold as a pet. Usually when you see them in the pet store, they are less than a foot long, but in three years will grow to their adult size of four to seven feet long. It takes some doing to care for a reptile of that size. In spite of that, most iguana lovers treat their pet as one would a puppy that is bound to grow into an adult-size dog. People who failed to do a little research before purchasing their iguana, however, often do not take proper care of their pet and it dies prematurely or ends up the object of a reptile rescue.
There are seventeen different species of green iguanas, and not all green iguanas are green. Many of these iguanas take on brownish and grayish tinges as they age. Others come in different colors because of specific breeding or because of their place of origin. These include red, blue, black, orange and pink. Some green iguanas are an incredibly bright green while others are more of a duller shade. Their native origin can be anywhere from Mexico through Central and South America to countries in the Caribbean. There are feral populations in Florida, Texas, and Hawaii. Most of these developed from iguanas that pet owners released into the wild because they were unable to take care of them. It is illegal to own a green iguana in Hawaii.
Green iguanas are prolific climbers and many spend most of their life in trees. Because they are cold-blooded, they need to bask in the heat daily and will stay close to the ground to keep warm in cold weather. During especially cold weather in Florida, green iguanas of all sizes were seen dropping to the ground in parks and even backyards in an attempt to stay warm. Often, these large reptiles can be displaced or relocated by hurricanes and other big storms. This is how many ended up inhabiting islands.
Green iguanas are often recognized by their dewlap under the chin and the long row of spines along their back or tail. The dewlap becomes very large when the iguana is angered or showing off for a female. Male iguanas of breeding age can become very aggressive, and even those kept as pets since they were born can become unpredictable during breeding season. The green iguana reproduces by the female laying eggs. One hatch usually consists of anywhere from twenty to one hundred young.
Iguanas are herbivores, meaning they eat only plants. Their diet consists of a variety of vegetables and fruits, such as turnip greens, dandelion greens, mustard greens, to which can be added red and green squash, green and red peppers, kale, spinach, berries, melons, bananas, etc. Green iguanas in captivity must have their food chopped up into small pieces.
An interesting characteristic of the iguana is that they have good eyesight but not from two eyes but three. The third eye is on the top of their heads and allows them to see light, dark, and motions from above. This is helpful when climbing in trees.
Humans need to take special precautions around green iguanas, even if the creature is quite tame and you have owned it for a long time. They will still exhibit aggressive behavior from time to time. Large iguanas have very sharp teeth, plus an iguana who is upset will strike with his tail as well. Most of the injuries to humans from green iguanas could have been avoided had proper precautions been taken.