13 Interesting and Fun Facts About Iguanas

We all know that iguanas are unique in many ways, but they also have some surprising traits that set them apart from other pet reptiles. From their extraordinary length and lifespan to their love for a hot, sticky environment, iguanas never cease to amaze.

Did you know that they’re practically sun worshippers, shedding skin like a form of lizard sunscreen? They have a love for veggies that would put the most ardent vegan to shame, and the fascinating adaptations of their tail and eyes are sure to astound you.

And it doesn’t end there. These smart critters use their body language to communicate, can recognize their owners, and carry a bacteria that’s quite significant to us humans. In the following article, we’ll dive deep into these facts and more, unraveling the incredible world of iguanas.

1. Long Bodies and Longer Lifespan

Now, you may have seen lizards before, those cute little creatures darting under rocks or hanging out in your backyard. Iguanas? They’re in a league of their own. They’re known for their large bodies, often reaching lengths of up to 6 feet, including their impressive tails. Imagine that – a 6-foot buddy lounging around your home. They’re like living, breathing decorations with a taste for adventure.

What’s even more intriguing is their long lifespan. Did you know that iguanas can live for up to 20 years? That’s right; these reptiles are not just your temporary friends, they’re long-term companions!

So, how do they do it? How do iguanas live for so long and grow so large? Well, their secret lies in their diet and genetic makeup. Iguanas are primarily herbivorous, munching on leaves, flowers, and fruits. This plant-based diet is rich in nutrients, supporting their growth and longevity. And genetically, they’re just designed to be larger and live longer than their reptile cousins. It’s like they won the reptile lottery!

2. They Like it Hot and Sticky

Originating from the hot and humid rainforests of South and Central America, iguanas thrive best in temperatures ranging from 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. They love basking in the sun, absorbing its warmth to regulate their body temperature.

Now, you might wonder why iguanas are such fans of hot and sticky environments. Well, as ectothermic animals, iguanas depend on external heat sources for their body temperature regulation. Without enough heat, they can’t digest their food properly or stay active. Humidity plays a critical role too. It helps them stay hydrated and promotes healthy shedding.

3. Sun Worshippers

Iguanas, much like other reptiles, are ectothermic creatures. You might wonder, “Ecto-what now?” Well, in simpler terms, they’re cold-blooded. Unlike us warm-blooded humans, iguanas can’t regulate their body temperature internally. So, they rely on their surroundings for this purpose. Enter: our good ol’ pal, the sun.

When iguanas bask under the sun, their bodies absorb the heat, which plays a significant role in their daily metabolic activities. From digesting food to maintaining overall vitality, the sun is an iguana’s best friend. But there’s another cool part – the sun also helps them produce vitamin D. This vitamin helps them absorb calcium from their diet, which is crucial for maintaining their skeletal health. So, you see, basking isn’t just a pastime for iguanas – it’s a health necessity!

4. Iguanas can Hold Their breath for Several Minutes

While the majority of their time is spent lounging in the sun or munching on leafy greens, they sure know how to play it cool when it comes to aquatic endeavors. Indeed, the extraordinary capability of our pet iguanas to hold their breath is a testament to their adaptability and survival tactics in the wild.

The science behind this amazing feat is quite interesting. Iguanas, like other reptiles, are ectothermic animals. This means they depend on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. Their metabolic rate is far slower than ours, allowing them to lower their heart rate and decrease their need for oxygen when submerged, thereby holding their breath for up to half an hour!

This ability has been vital for their survival in their native habitats, often serving as a getaway strategy from predators. When a threat appears, they dive into the water, remaining submerged and motionless until the danger has passed. Cool, right?

5. Shedding Skin – The Unraveling Iguana Enigma

Iguanas, like other reptiles, shed their skin to accommodate their growing bodies. It’s like outgrowing your favorite shirt and needing a larger one. They shed their skin throughout their lives, although younger iguanas tend to shed more frequently – about every 4-6 weeks – as they grow at a faster rate.

But hey, it’s not all about size, my friends. Shedding also allows iguanas to remove parasites and dirt that might have accumulated on their old skin. Now isn’t that clever!


Take a look at this image above. Isn’t it fascinating to see the old skin peeling away, revealing the shiny new layer beneath? You could almost think of it as an iguana’s way of getting a fresh start!

Now, let’s get scientific for a moment, without the jargon, of course. The shedding process, also known as ecdysis, is guided by hormones. The outermost layer of their skin, the stratum corneum, detaches and is eventually replaced by a newly formed layer underneath. So, the shedding process is essential for their growth and overall well-being. Neat, right?

6. Some Species of Iguanas can Change Color

This color-shifting trick is their way of communicating, regulating body temperature, and even showing off their mood. It’s like wearing their hearts on their scales, literally!

Now, not all iguanas possess this magical trait. The Green Iguana, for example, usually stays true to its name with hues of vibrant green. But, the ones that can change their colors – such as the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana or the Lesser Antillean Iguana – are true artists of camouflage.

7. They Love Veggies

If there’s one thing that gets the iguanas, excited (or as excited as their dignified reptilian selves can get), it’s the sight of their favorite veggies.

As a iguana dad, I’ve got my refrigerator perpetually stocked up with all sorts of green goodness. Leafy greens, bell peppers, and even the occasional splurge on berries, these make up the majority of my iguana’s diet, and boy do they love it. Let me tell you, there’s something incredibly heartwarming about seeing your iguana munch on a slice of bell pepper with gusto.

Why veggies, you ask? Well, iguanas have evolved as herbivores, meaning they are perfectly designed to thrive on a plant-based diet. The wild iguanas of Central and South America can often be seen hanging out in the treetops, leisurely munching on leaves, fruits, and flowers.

The nutritional benefits they get from veggies are plentiful. Just like us, they need a balanced diet to stay healthy. For instance, calcium is crucial for iguanas—it helps keep their bone structure strong and is essential for females during egg production. That’s where dark leafy greens like collards, turnip greens, and mustard greens come into play, as they are rich in calcium.

Vitamin C, found in veggies like bell peppers and parsley, boosts their immune system, while the beta-carotene present in butternut squash and carrots contributes to their vibrant skin health. It’s like nature packed these veggies with a mini pharmacy, specifically designed for our scaly friends!

The all-veggie diet also plays a part in their unique biology. Their digestive system is specifically adapted to break down plant matter. Their hindgut fermentation process (fancy term for digesting plants in the gut) allows them to efficiently extract nutrients from plants, much like cows do.

8. They can Lose Thir Tails

Now, here’s a fact that will make you drop everything – quite literally, just like our scaly friends do with their tails! Yes, you heard it right. Our beloved iguanas have an impressive trick up their sleeve, or should I say, down their backside. They can shed their tails when they feel threatened, only to grow them back later. Sounds like a superpower, doesn’t it?

So, let’s dive a bit deeper into the how’s and why’s of it. Iguanas, like several other lizards, possess a trait known as ‘autotomy’. Now don’t let that fancy word scare you, it just means self-amputation. Yes, it sounds harsh, but trust me, it’s a survival technique ingrained in them by nature.

When a predator latches onto an iguana’s tail, the iguana can contract a special muscle that breaks the tail off at a specific fracture plane. The tail left behind wiggles and squirms, providing a great distraction for a speedy getaway.

Imagine if we could leave our shoes behind when someone steps on them, only for new ones to grow back. That’s life for an iguana! You might wonder, does it hurt? Not at all. It’s much like when we lose a baby tooth – a natural, harmless process.

9. Iguanas Never Leave a Combat

Picture this: two male iguanas lock eyes. The stare-off can last for what seems like ages. Each one asserting its dominance, and neither willing to back down. There’s a specific term for this in the world of reptile enthusiasts: combat behavior. As your friendly neighborhood iguana expert, I can assure you that this type of behavior isn’t uncommon in the wild or in a domestic environment.

Let’s dive a bit deeper, shall we? You see, these reptiles engage in combat as a way to protect their territory, compete for resources, or even to win the favor of a mate. This is a clear demonstration of their survival instinct, which, although it can be quite intense to witness, is crucial for their existence.

10. Extra Eye: A Special Third Eye

Now, before your mind races to images of a pet iguana looking at you with three big, bulbous eyes, let me clarify a bit. This ‘extra eye’, officially referred to as the parietal eye, isn’t exactly an eye in the traditional sense. So, what’s its purpose? Great question, my iguana-curious friend!

The parietal eye, located on the top of the iguana’s head, doesn’t see images like their two primary eyes. Instead, it acts as a sensor for changes in light and dark, helping our scaly buddies perceive changes in their environment—such as a swooping predator from above or the gradual darkening of dusk setting in. Talk about a cool, built-in alert system, right?

11. Iguanas’ Communication

When we say communication, we’re not talking about iguanas penning letters or sending text messages, but they do have their own unique language that they use to express their feelings and intentions.

Iguanas communicate mainly through visual signals. Their social interactions consist of a variety of physical displays such as head bobbing, dewlap extension, body inflation, and tail whipping. These gestures carry specific meanings. A slow, rhythmic bobbing of the head, for instance, is often a signal of dominance, while rapid bobbing could indicate aggression or a threat.

Now, if you’ve had the pleasure of spending time around these wonderful creatures, you’ll notice something unique about their eyes. Not only do they have keen vision, but they also communicate through eye movement! An iguana staring intently at you, or another iguana, might be establishing dominance or expressing curiosity.

12. Iguanas can Recognize Their Owners

Isn’t it wonderful when our pets recognize us? As an iguana caregiver, I can’t help but feel a warm burst of affection every time my scaley buddy recognizes me. And guess what? It’s not just wishful thinking! Iguanas, believe it or not, can indeed recognize their owners by both sight and sound. This ability is a charming trait that truly sets iguanas apart from many other pet reptiles.

Scientific studies and personal anecdotes from many iguana owners, myself included, confirm this fascinating fact. This unique capability is likely linked to their impressive cognitive abilities. I mean, how many pet reptiles can boast that they know their owners?

In my own experience, there’s a particular twinkle in my iguana’s eyes when he spots me bringing his favorite leafy treat. And the soft rumble he makes when he hears my voice? It’s the reptilian version of a cat’s purr! This form of recognition extends our bond beyond the basic caregiver-pet dynamic. It makes me feel like we have a genuine, two-sided relationship.

13. Iguanas Carry Salmonella

Alright, let’s delve into one of the most fascinating, albeit slightly less glamorous, aspects of iguana ownership – our beloved scale-babies and their potential to carry salmonella bacteria. Now, don’t start fretting just yet! As your friendly neighborhood iguana enthusiast, I’m here to shed light on this matter, and trust me, it’s not as scary as it might sound!

Iguanas, like many other reptiles, can harbor Salmonella in their digestive systems. This tiny bacterium doesn’t usually affect them, but in humans, it can cause an unpleasant condition known as salmonellosis, which may bring about symptoms like diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.

Now, you might be wondering, “How on earth did my iguana buddy get salmonella in the first place?” Well, my friends, that’s a fantastic question! The truth is, iguanas and other reptiles often pick up these bacteria from their environment. They can then shed the bacteria in their feces, making anything they come into contact with a potential source of salmonella.

Here’s the deal: it’s all about hygiene. Washing your hands thoroughly after handling your iguana or cleaning their habitat can greatly reduce the risk of salmonella transmission. Using gloves when dealing with their waste and maintaining clean and sanitized terrarium conditions can also be a big help. Remember, these measures aren’t just good for you – they’re good for your scaly friend too! Keeping a clean habitat is an essential part of promoting a healthy and happy life for your iguana.

Filled under: Lizards

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