Iguana iguana

CLASS: Reptilia
ORDER: Squamata
FAMILY: Iguanidae

6.5 feet (mostly tail), 20 - 30 pounds, 8 inches long at birth, male larger; continue to grow as long as alive.

From south America to Mexico

Tropical, prefers trees and water

Wild - Some insects when young, just vegetation when adult (fruit, flower buds, vegetables)

Zoo - Fruits, vegetables


  • Can live 10 - 12 years in captivity, shield-large colorful scale, diurnal (active in daytime)
  • Male more colorful than female; spines are longer on male; tail is 3/5 of body
  • Green in color; can change color but not as rapidly as chameleon can, black ring pattern around the green tail
  • Claws are sharp (required for climbing) and may grow rapidly, tongue is short, thick and only slightly notched
  • Teeth are round or root and blade-like with serrated edges towards the tip
  • Spines of the dorsal crest seem to grow from enlarged scales along midline of body -- when tips are broken from spines they regenerate but not fully.


  • May let go of tail if all else fails; tail regenerates but will be black in color; uses tail as dangerous weapon
  • May bite, hisses at dogs; may make snorting noise as a means of clearing salty fluid from nostrils
  • Can jump long distances, double jointed, can live a longtime without water or food; sheds like a person would with a sunburn, needs moisture to be able to shed.


  • Can swim -- can stay underwater for 30 minutes to escape enemies.
  • The zoo does not promote or encourage having wild animals such as iguanas for pets. Not a terrific pet, not affectionate, fairly long-lived (10 - 12 years), can have some nutrition problems, relatively inexpensive, easy to house and feed, quiet, odorless, rarely belligerent to humans, clean.
  • Rests on your shoulder for warmth, not affection.
  • Likes to climb on furniture, drapes (ruins them), book shelves, etc.
  • Happy to live alone. Can be paper trained. Not very intelligent. Opens mouth to display annoyance. Terrified of dogs. From tropics -- popular food, easy to keep alive at store without food and water. "Chicken of the tree" (spen majority of time in trees).
  • Spread dewlap when irritated/upset. Loves hibiscus flowers. Eggs are a delicacy in South America. Hatch from eggs in burrows in earth, lay average of 30 eggs.

One report describes a small island in Gatum Lake, Panama Canal Zone. Very few lizards live on an island but 150 - 200 females swim out to the island every year to lay eggs, mostly in February. The eggs hatch in April of early May. The young swim to the main land. Iguana do not reproduce well in captivity.

CITES App. II; Not endangered. However, some wild populations are in danger because of capturing iguanas for the pet trade and food. Zoos in Central and South America do raise iguanas to be released in the wild.