Iguanas are large arboreal lizards native to Central and South America, typically characterized by a dewlap and spiny crest running down their back, to the tail. Basically, only two species belong to genus Iguana, the green iguana and the Lesser Antillean Iguana.
Though the desert iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis) and marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) are commonly referred to as iguanas, they actually don't belong to this genus. Desert iguana, native to the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, is the lone species of genus Dipsosaurus, while marine iguana, endemic to the Galápagos Islands, is the lone species of genus Amblyrhynchus.
Iguana Geographical Range and Natural Habitat
The natural habitat of these reptiles spans the tropical areas of the planet, with green iguanas inhabiting the tropical rainforests of South America and Lesser Antillean iguana inhabiting the Lesser Antilles, a group of islands towards the southeast West Indies.
The green iguana, also referred to as the common iguana, is found in the rainforests of Central and South America. This iguana species can grow up to a length of 1.5 meters, from its head to tail, and weigh up to 20 lbs. They are excellent climbers, and are seen on the trees for most of the time. Their primary range spans Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands. Green iguanas are also found in pockets in certain parts of the United States, including Texas and Hawaii, where they are considered pests.
Lesser Antillean Iguana
The Lesser Antillean iguana, as its name suggests is endemic to the Lesser Antilles. This lizard species, typically characterized by ivory scale on their head, can grow up to a length of 16 inches excluding the tail, which is almost double the size. Being herbivores, these lizards feed on flowers, fruits, leaves, shoots, etc. They are found on several islands of the Lesser Antilles, including Antigua, Dominica, Anguilla, Saint Barth, etc. The most prominent factor responsible for the declining numbers of Lesser Antillean iguanas is habitat destruction.
Iguana Habitat in Captivity
Over the last few years, iguanas have become quite popular as exotic pets. They grow very quickly in size and hence, you need to make sure that the tank wherein you house your pet is large enough to facilitate free movement. Ideally, the habitat should be at least double the length of your pet and around 6 feet in height; though a larger space is always better. Being natural climbers, they need regular exercise or else they can develop serious health problems such as muscle weakness. The substrate for this habitat can be made from newspaper, paper towels, or a carpet.
Iguanas are cold-blooded animals, so you need to make sure that their habitat is kept warm. Ideal temperature during the day shouldn't be below 80ºF. More importantly, the humidity levels should be around 65 to 75 percent, which will make it quite similar to their natural habitat. You also need to make sure that there are hot and cold regions within the habitat. The hottest part of the tank should be around 90ºF - 95ºF, which will be an apt basking spot for your pet iguana.
As we mentioned earlier, Lesser Antillean iguana population has gone down drastically, such that the species has been declared vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Though the green iguana hasn't been affected as yet, authorities have come up with some norms to curb the trade of this species, so as to ensure that their population doesn't suffer in future.