Essential Iguana Facts for First-Time Owners
When you take care of an iguana for the first time, it is probably best to acquaint yourself with the biology and basic behaviors of an iguana, so you will know if there is something wrong with your new pet reptile.
The first thing to learn about iguanas is that they are reptiles and so , they need a constant source of heat and UV rays in order to remain healthy. Iguanas will not be able to function in a habitat that has a temperature that is less than 79 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is also necessary for your iguana to get the correct amount of UV rays so the iguana can metabolize calcium and other minerals. Without UV rays, your iguana could suffer from bone mineral disorders that may sometimes cause the death of these magnificent reptiles.
The iguana’s anatomy
Like most other reptiles, your iguana has a pair of eyes for scanning the environment for food and potential predators. It also has a pair of ears that are protected by a fairly wide portion of skin called the subtympanic shield.
The iguana also has spines along its back; these pliable spines are called the caudal spines and, over time, these will grow long and hard. Iguanas also have a flap of skin under their lower jaw called the dewlap.
Iguanas are herbivorous (they feed on plants only), so they are equipped with very small, yet very sharp, teeth that are designed to rip apart fibrous plant matter.
You must be careful when bringing your hand near the iguana’s mouth, because those teeth can cause serious tears in your skin. If you look closely at the top of the iguana’s head, you will notice a prominent, light patch of scale.
This light patch of scale is called the parietal eye, or third eye. The iguana uses its third eye to detect changes in light in a given area. It is believed that this primordial eye is also used to detect flying predators, so the iguana can make a run for it before becoming some other animal’s lunch or dinner.
Reptilian body language
Iguanas sometimes feel threatened , and if you don’t observe its body language closely enough you could get bitten or hit by its massive tail. Unlike dogs and cats, iguanas will not vocalize a lot before biting, so be careful especially if the iguana you have has not been tamed yet.
The large wad of skin or dewlap under the iguana’s jowls, is also used to communicate. In the wild, an iguana may raise its head to extend the dewlap to signal a simple “hello” to members of its own species.
If your igunaa has an extended dewlap it may mean that it is trying to protect its territory from the human owner or from other iguanas. During mating season an extended dewlap may mean “I want to mate” (this only applies if there are female iguanas in the same enclosure, and it’s mating season).
If your iguana has been tamed, and has gotten used to you, an extended dewlap may mean that it is a little drafty and it is trying to make itself feel warmer.
Here are some other body language signals that you may want to memorize:
1. Bobbing head – “I’m the big man around here”
2. Bobbing head (to owner) – “Hello!”
3. Bobbing head (fast) – “I’m threatened and I’m ready to fight”
4. Bobbing head (fast, side to side then up and down) – “I’m threatened do not go near me!”
5. Flicking tongue – “Just exploring the air. Possibly eating something.”
6. Flicking tongue – “I’m about to take a bite out of something.”
7. Sneezing – “I’m purging my system of something.”
8. Whipping tail – “I’m about to attack.”
9. Squirming – “I do not like being held.”
10. Head and front legs stretching – “I feel good and I feel happy!”
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