Close to the Iguana

Donna Adamski

Joined August 2008

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Dreher Park Zoo, Palm Beach, FL
Nikon D70s
F5.6, 1/40
10/25/08 – 269/97

Featured in Dimensions – 3/16/10
Featured in Freedom to Shine
Featured in Dimensions
Featured in All That is Nature
Finished in the Top Ten in the Calendar – Lizard challenge in the All Pets Great and Small group
Finished in the Top Ten in the Reptiles challenge in the Mood & Ambiance group – 6/20/09

The green iguana or common iguana Iguana igauna is a large, arboreal herbivorous species of lizard of the genus Iguana native to Central and South America. The green iguana ranges over a large geographic area, from southern Brazil and Paraguay to as far north as Mexico, the Caribbean Islands; and in the United States as feral populations in South Florida (including the Florida Keys), Hawaii and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

A herbivore, it has adapted significantly with regard to locomotion and osmoregulation as a result of its diet. It grows to 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) in length from head to tail, although a few specimens have grown more than 2 metres (6.6 ft) with bodyweights upward of 20 pounds (9.1 kg).

Commonly found in captivity as a pet due to its calm disposition and bright colors, it can be demanding to care for properly. Space requirements and the need for special lighting and heat can prove challenging to an amateur hobbyist.

The native range of the green iguana extends from southern Mexico to central Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia and the Caribbean; specifically Grenada, Curaçao, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Utila. They have been introduced to Grand Cayman, Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, Hawaii, and the US Virgin Islands.

Green iguanas are diurnal,arboreal and are often found near water. Agile climbers, Iguana iguana can fall up to 50 feet (15 m) and land unhurt (iguanas use their hind leg claws to clasp leaves and branches to break a fall). During cold, wet weather, green iguanas prefer to stay on the ground for greater warmth.6 When swimming, an iguana remains submerged, letting its four legs hang limply against its side. They propel through the water with powerful tail strokes.

Because of the green iguana’s popularity in the pet trade and as a food source in Latin America, they are listed on the CITES Appendix II, which means that while they are not an endangered species, “their trade must be controlled so as to not harm the species in the future”.

Due to a combination of events, the green iguana is considered an invasive species in South Florida and is found along the gulf coast of Florida from Key West to Pinellas County. The original small populations in the Florida Keys were animals that had arrived there due to hurricanes and storms; others were stowaways on ships carrying fruit from South America. Over the years, other iguanas were introduced into the wild mostly originating through the pet trade. Some were escapees and some were intentionally released by their owners, these iguanas survived and then thrived in their new habitat. They commonly hide in the attics of houses and on beaches. They often destroy gardens and landscaping. They also seem to be fond of eating a native endangered plant, Cordia globosa and feeding on Nicker nut (Caesalpinia) a primary food plant of the endangered Miami Blue Butterfly (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri); additionally on Marco Island, green iguanas have been observed using the burrows of the Florida Burrowing Owl, a species of special concern, all of which can make them more of a serious threat to Florida’s ecosystem than originally believed.

In January 2008, large numbers of feral iguanas in Florida dropped from the trees in which they lived, due to uncommonly cold nights causing their metabolisms to go into a “state of suspended animation” in which they lost their grips on the tree branches. Though no specific numbers were provided by local wildlife officials, local media described the phenomenon as a “frozen iguana shower” in which dozens “littered” local bike paths. Upon the return of daytime warmth many (but not all) of the iguanas “woke up” and resumed their normal activities.

The green iguana is established in Maui, Hawaii as a feral species (despite strict legislation)and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. As most reptiles carry salmonella, this is also a concern and a reason legislation has been sought to regulate the trade in Green iguanas.

In the aftermath of two Caribbean hurricanes in 1995 , a group of fifteen green iguanas was found to be living on Anguilla; an island where that species have never been recorded previously. Biologist Ellen Censky, of the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, believes that the new iguanas had accidentally gotten caught on the trees and rafted two hundred miles across the ocean from Guadaloupe, where green iguanas are an indigenous species. By examining the weather patterns and ocean currents, Censky has shown that the iguanas had spent three weeks at sea before arriving on the island.This colony began breeding on the new island within two years of its arrival. Wikipedia

Artwork Comments

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