Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Iguana Go Swimming

If you spend much time on the suspension bridge over the Río Puerto Viejo, you’ll eventually notice some large green forms in the uppermost reaches of the trees on the river banks.



They’re green iguanas (there are five in the picture above), and the largest individuals are dominant males surveying their territory. If you look even closer, you’ll see a number of females in the trees as well; they’re smaller and don’t have the bulk or the orange tint of the mature males. The males will typically have a few females in their harem, and they’ll undertake vigorous territorial displays if they feel another male is getting too close. Mostly though, they spend their time lounging about and perhaps chewing on some leaves.

Most are familiar with the small, bright green juvenile iguanas you see in pet stores, rather than the large, territorial beast, but make no mistake they are the same animal. Iguanas make suitable pets for only the most dedicated pet-owner, they can get massive, with a potentially dangerous bite and whip-like tail. They are a formidable adversary for any potential predator. Next time you’re considering a new potential pet, consider these iguanas, lazily lounging about 200 feet up in the forest canopy and think hard about whether you can replicate their needs in your home.

Iguanas are high-divers too. When threatened, they will jump out of their tree and into the surrounding water, probably crashing through a ton of branches in the process. This strategy will surely dissuade any hungry cat from coming after the iguana, but it just might make a hungry caiman’s day.

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