GREEN IGUANA TURNS
Written by Cyril Brass
It’s not everyday that one gets to see an orange colored Iguana sunning itself on a lush bush from fairly close range. This particular Iguana is actually a male from the Green Iguana species.
This is what our boat load of travellers viewed during a morning excursion on the interconnecting waterways of Tortuguero National Park in north-western Costa Rica. As the boat drifted quietly past, we all managed to get a close up view until this ancient looking creature realized all eyes and cameras were upon him. With accurate vision and keen sense of hearing and smell, any sight of potential danger the Iguana is quick to flee and escape.
Not surprisingly the Green Iguana is predominantly green with variations in shades, tints and tones. Young hatchlings are a bright vivid green. As they grow the greenness fades somewhat, resulting in a variety of adult colorations. So name Green Iguana is a bit of a misnomer. Besides green, these reptiles can brown, black, grey, turquoise and even orange.
The varied coloration of the Iguana’s body can be the result of one of several factors like the air temperature, the creature’s moods, their surrounding environment and their breeding season. The warmer the temperature is, the lighter and brighter the Iguana becomes. As it is with a calm, happy and unstressed Iguana, brighter tones appear. Their distribution and distinctive appearances of all Iguana species throughout the world is localized by their habitat preference and adaptation.
The most visual change in coloration occurs during the breeding season, when there is a significant increase in orange appearing over the body. This striking pigmentation is not a permanent transformation with the Green Iguana. The orange color is most prevalent in males during the mating season which may last several months. Having this ability to change colors does not make them similar to Chameleons. The Green Iguana is unable to change its body colors according to its immediate surroundings.
Green Iguanas can be found over a large geographical region ranging from southern Mexico through Central America into South America and as well as the Caribbean Islands. Their natural habitat consists of lush tropical rainforest areas near water sources like rivers and streams. This allows them to bask in the hot tropical sun and forage among branches overhanging slow moving water.
These unusual resting places are where I have seen several Green Iguanas enjoying their day in the bright sunshine. So when you are looking for birds, monkeys and sloth high up on branches and vegetation in the tropical jungles also be on the lookout for sun bathing Iguanas. As with all reptiles being cold blooded creatures, the Iguana needs an external heating source to warm up their bodies.
The Green Iguana is an arboreal lizard spending majority of their day high in the forest tree tops only descending to mate, lay eggs or change trees. If there is a need to escape quickly from the overhanging trees, they will dive into the water below.
On another boat excursion in the waterways of Tortuguero National Park, drifting slowing along a narrow channel, our group heard a loud splash further on up. All eyes and cameras focused on the rippling water, to determine what had fallen from the trees above. From the water surface an Iguana’s head emerged. In little time, this skillful swimmer crossed to the other side of the river disappearing into the thick underbrush.
In all my travel adventures, I never thought I would need to watch out for falling Iguanas.
The Green Iguana ……. a prehistoric looking reptile…….an excellent climber and swimmer…….a creature with varied colorations.
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