The Green Iguana is a large lizard and is probably the largest species in the iguana family. Also known as the “Iguana Iguana” or “Common Iguana” it is native to Central, South America, and the Caribbean Islands. They are common in Guadeloupe Archipelago, mainly in Grande Terre Island, Les Saintes Island and Basse-Terre Island.
The Green Iguana can weigh up to 18 pounds (8 kg) and can reach a length of five to seven feet (1.5 to 2 metres). Males are larger than females. This iguana has a long body covered with soft leathery scales, a long tail, short legs and feet with five very long toes with sharp claws on the ends, used especially for climbing. The tail is very long and can be 2/3 of the total length; the iguana generally used it as a weapon and for balance when climbing on trees. Green iguanas possess a row of spines along their backs and along their tails which helps to protect them from predators. At the base of their heads, they have a spiny dorsal crest and a dewlap underneath their chins. The dewlap is particularly developed on males.
Green iguanas have excellent vision, enabling them to detect shapes and motions at long distances.
Green iguanas have very sharp teeth that are capable of shredding leaves and even human skin. These teeth are shaped like a leaf, broad and flat, with serrations on the edge. The teeth are situated on the inner sides of the jawbones which is why they are hard to see in smaller specimens. Individuals could reach 25 years in age.
The ground colour of the Green Iguana may vary depending of the geographical range. It becomes darker with age and gets dark stripes on the side of the body and on the tail. Female and juvenile male iguanas are much brighter than an adult male.
Green Iguanas are very diurnal and also arboreal. They live in the light-shade mosaic of trees along rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps, as well as in relatively open, arid areas if food resources are sufficient.
The species is a generalist herbivore, feeding primarily in the morning, with a diet that includes leaves, flowers, and fruits of a wide range of shrubs and trees. Juvenile Iguanas will more easily feed on insects, spiders, eggs and small vertebrates.
Green iguanas are oviparous with females laying clutches of 20 to 71 eggs once per year during a synchronised nesting period. The female green iguana gives no parental protection after egg laying, apart from defending the nesting burrow during excavation.
The hatchlings emerge from the nest after 10–15 weeks of incubation. Once hatched, the young iguanas look similar to the adults in colour and shape, resembling adult females more so than males and lacking dorsal spines.
Famous places where you’ll find the Green Iguanas in Guadeloupe Archipelago
- Les Saintes Islands, more precisely in the botanical garden of “Napoléon Fort” in Terre-de-Haut Island.
- Southern Grande-Terre
- Eastern coast of Basse-Terre, known as the Windward Coast
Since the 10th of February 2014, the Green Iguana is no longer listed as a protected species in Guadeloupe Archipelago. Indeed, the Green Iguana population is currently expanding to the detriment of the endangered Lesser Antillean Iguana (Iguana delicatissima) population.