February 18, 2014
I have to tell you the story of these unusual creatures. It seems that there are a lot of them in Key West. What brought my attention to these guys was a drive on a back street in Key West. I always assumed that Iguanas were very slow moving. Well, let me tell you that this one Iguana raced across the street as fast as a cat would. We were both shocked, with our mouth opened, to witness this. That’s when I decided to capture more of them with the camera. The beach at Truman Annex is beautiful and no Iguanas present, but on the south end there is a huge breakwater with a quarter mile of huge rocks… a perfect place for Iguanas to live. I’ve seen them from a distance, but now it was time to get closer. Of course, I am also using a 300mm telephoto lens. I have included a few pictures of these creatures. There is one reddish Iguana that is huge. I have not been able to get a picture of him yet. The Iguanas only come out to sun themselves in the mid afternoon, when it’s very hot. This big guy only shows up if it’s close to 90 degrees. It hasn’t been in that range for a couple of weeks. I’ll keep watching for this Iguana which I believe is in the neighborhood of five feet long. Most others are a couple of feet long.
Anatomy and physiology
Iguana can range from 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 m) including their tail. The two species of lizard within the genus Iguana possess a dewlap, a row of spines running down their backs to their tails, and a third "eye" on their heads. This eye is known as the parietal eye, visible as a pale scale on the top of the head. Behind their necks are small scales which resemble spokes, known as tuberculate scales. These scales may be a variety of colors and are not always visible from close distances. They have a large round scale on their cheeks known as a subtympanic shield.
Iguanas have great vision and can see shapes, shadows, colors, and movement at long distances. Iguanas use their eyes to navigate through crowded forests, as well as for finding food. They use visual signals to communicate with other members of the same species.
The tympanum, the iguana's ear drum, is located above the subtympanic shield and behind the eye. Iguanas are often hard to spot, as they tend to blend into their surroundings. Their scale colors are a mode of hiding from larger predators.
Damage caused by iguanas includes eating valuable landscape plants, shrubs, and trees, eating orchids and many other flowers, eating dooryard fruit like berries, figs, mangos, tomatoes, bananas, lychees, etc. Iguanas do not eat citrus. Burrows that they dig undermine sidewalks, seawalls, and foundations. Burrows of iguanas next to seawalls allow erosion and eventual collapse of those seawalls. Droppings of iguanas litter areas where they bask. This is unsightly, causes odor complaints, and is a possible source of salmonella bacteria, a common cause of food poisoning. Adult iguanas are large powerful animals that can bite, cause severe scratch wounds with their extremely sharp claws, and deliver a painful slap with their powerful tail. Iguanas normally avoid people but will defend themselves against pets and people that try to catch them or corner them. The teeth of a green iguana are designed to shear plant material, but can deliver a painful bite to people and pets.
Karen Wheeler, University of Florida, Ft. Lauderdale
As for myself, I am undecided wether I like them or dislike them. They are gross looking from a distance. When you look at them close up, I wonder what all of their features or parts are used for. Are the males multicolored to attract females? Yes, I’m told.
That is what we did and saw!