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Wild Green Iguanas

Information About Iguanas In The Wild

Green Iguana Distribution Map (Iguana iguana)

Iguana Distribution - Habitat

Iguanas reside over a large geographic area and can be found in the tropical and sub-tropical forests of Southern Mexico, as well as Central and South America. They have also been found as far as Paraguay and the Caribbean Islands. The iguana distribution map on the right depicts the vast range at which green iguanas can be found natively.

Iguanas typically prefer lower altitudes in areas near water. They spend a vast amount of time high above the ground hidden within the forest canopy, typically utilizing trees that extend over waterways. (A natural escape route for wild iguanas when confronted by a predator.)

Iguana Diet

Iguanas are herbivores and they eat an array of vegetation found in their native habitats. According to research done by Wouter D. Marken Lichtenbelt, it was observed that the iguanas were selective and that changes in seasonal food availability led to periodic changes in the consumed plants.[1]

Unfortunately the native plants that iguanas eat are not available in your local grocery store. The truth is, very little information is actually known about what native plants are consumed. Research has been done on the stomach contents of wild caught iguanas (which helped educate everyone on the fact that iguanas do NOT eat animal protein as part of their regular diet) and a short list of some of the plants they consume were listed. Below are some of the plants that have been noted as being eaten by wild iguanas. [1][2][4]

Acacia tortuosa
Amphilophium paniculatum
Annona acuminata
Antirhea acutata
Bourreria succulenta
Bursera bonairensis
Bursera simaruba
Capparis flexuosa
Capparis frondosa
Capparis odoratissima
Caesalpinia coriaria
Cardiospermum grandiflorum
Cecropia peltata
Centrosema plumieri
Cephalocereus lanuginosus
Ceratophytum tetragonolobum
Cereus repandus
Chamaesyce densiflora
Cissus sicyoides
Citrullus sp.
Coccoloba swartzii
Commicarpus scandens
Condalia henriquezii
Cordia alba
Cordia currassavica
Coutarea hexandra
Cucumis sp.
Cyperus sp.
Erythalis fructicosa
Ficus sp.
Genipa americana
Gouania lupuloides
Guapira sp.
Haematoxilon brasiletto
Ipomea sp.
Laportea aestuans
Lemairocereus griseus
Machaonia otonis
Malpighia emarginata
Merremia quinquefolia
Merremia umbellata
Metopium brownei
Momordica charantia
Operculina pteripes
Pisonia aculeata
Pithecellobium oblongum
Pouteria sp.
Randia aculeata
Sapium biglandolsum
Serjania curassavica
Spondias mombin
Stictocardia tiIiifolia
Tecoma stans
Trichilia trifolia

Feral Populations

A feral iguana is a descendant of a domesticated iguana that has escaped from their owner, were intentionally released when they became too large for the owner to handle or are the offspring of iguanas that were freed during destructive hurricanes or other natural disasters. it is also believed that the original small populations in the Florida Keys were animals that were stowaways on ships carrying fruit from South America.[3]

Feral populations of iguana are documented as residing in South Florida, California, Texas, and Hawaii. They were also noted as drifting to Anguilla due to Hurricane Luis in 1995, by floating on natural rafts from Guadeloupe and have since established a breeding colony.[5]

Additional Resources - References

1. van Marken Lichtenbelt. Optimal foraging of a herbivorous lizard, I. iguana. 1993
2. Rand et al. The diet of a generalized folivore: Iguana iguana in Panama. 1990
3. Youth, Howard (2005), "Florida's Creeping Crawlers", Zoogoer 20 (3)
4. Melissa Kaplan. Plants Consumed by Iguanas in the Wild, 2002
5. Censky, Ellen (December 27, 1998), "Rafting Iguanas and a Job in Storrs", Article (The NY Times)
6. Animal Protein Effects On Iguanas (Iguana iguana)

Attribution

Author: Richard Brooks