Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Land Iguanas that Time Forgot

Spiny-tailed Iguanas are a common sight around the Palo Verde Research Station. They are one of the few animals you can reliably find in the heat of the mid-day sun. These are big animals, reminiscent of dinosaurs as they haul their three-four foot long bodies across the grounds.

Males must live a stressful life, their entire day is spent proving their worth to females while simultaneously trying to intimidate any other males within sight. They are commonly engaged in dominance displays, which involve vigorous head bobbing. Some males will try to find the highest point in the area, perhaps in the hope their display will be more visible to any other nearby lizards.
Typically relatively skittish creatures (for their size), the lizards around the station are accustomed to humans and allowed me to get relatively close for pictures. They may appear vicious but these animals are generally herbivorous. Though they're mostly a danger only to leaves and fruit, any attempt to capture them would result in vigorous tail thrashing and biting, and potentially severe injuries.

At evening, when there territorial displays are complete, they will retreat into burrows and other holes to wait for the next day to arrive, when they start all over again.

How many ticks can you find on this animal?

We will be leaving Palo Verde early tomorrow morning. For the next several days we will be at Cabos Blancos, an isolated site along the Pacific Ocean, where we will explore the unique habitats and perhaps fit in time for snorkeling and tidal pool exploration. Afterwards, we will travel to Cuerro de la Muerte, a high elevation mountain site where the dominant habitat type is oak woodlands, I've been told it will remind me of back home. We were assured we'd need thermal underwear, a wool cap, and a jacket for nights at this site...In Costa Rica. At both sites (nine total days), I expect to be without phone or internet access.


Charles said...

4 ticks!

ramblingwoods said...

Yuck..poor creature.. Dave if you change your blogger comments setting to 'pop-up' instead of the default 'embedded', it will be much easier for people to comment as some browsers like my firefox won't display it properly so I had to use IE....Michelle

Matt said...

I still have scars on my right hand from a female I grabbed mid-body there at the station on the sidewalk. She reached back and opened me up nicely.