What are the Different Types of Land Iguana?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

People who wish to see a modern day dragon need look no further than the land iguana. A marine lizard from the Galapagos Islands, the land iguana looks like a fearsome, small dragon with clawed feet, sharp spines, and a long tail. The creatures are considered gentle animals, however, and cannot be found elsewhere in the world.

The marine iguana, which sometimes breeds with the subcristatus iguana.
The marine iguana, which sometimes breeds with the subcristatus iguana.

Most land iguanas are yellowish in color, featuring patches of coloration all over their bodies. These patches can range from red-brown to black to brown. The lizards eat mostly fruit, as well as parts of the Opuntia cactus, which helps to keep the lizard hydrated. Other plants can also be included in the iguana's diet. Though considered herbivores, the Galapagos land iguana will eat some meat, particularly when young, including carrion, worms, and insects.

Galapagos land iguanas are only found on the Galapagos Islands.
Galapagos land iguanas are only found on the Galapagos Islands.

In the wild, the land iguana can live up to 60 years. Weighting up to 35 pounds (10 kilograms), adult iguanas can grow up to five feet (one and one-half meters) long. The reptiles reach sexual maturity between eight and 12 years of age. During the day, land iguanas typically bask in the sun, while they rest in shade provided by cacti and other plants in the afternoon. At night, the animals burrow in the ground to conserve their body heat.

Two types of iguanas in this species exist. Both prefer dry areas in which to live. Due to the cactus in their diets, the iguanas can live without drinking fresh water for an entire season in these arid regions. Both are at risk of falling prey to several animals, including pigs, dogs, and cats. Pigs and rats are also known to root out and consume land iguana eggs.

The Conolophus subcristatus lives on five of the Galapagos islands. They are most abundant on the island of Plaza, as well as Fernandina, North Seymour, and Isabela. Subcristatus has been known to breed with the marine iguana species. Whether or not these hybrids can reproduce is unknown.

Conolophus pallidus iguanas can only be found on the island of Santa Fe. This subspecies is paler than the subcristatus. Pallidus iguanas also have more prominent dorsal spines and more elongated snouts.

Territorial creatures, land iguanas attempt to portray dominance through body movements like head-bobbing. Rather than court females, male land iguanas chase and catch females in order to copulate. After mating, the female iguana leaves to locate an area for burrowing, usually in soft soil. There, she deposits her fertilized eggs, and continues to guard them for several weeks.

Iguana mothers do not guard their nests during the entire incubation period, however. Eggs must incubate for three to four months. Upon hatching, a baby iguana will dig its way out of the nest. It must then survive on its own. Like their parents, baby iguanas often fall prey to other carnivorous animals.

Since all iguanas are cold-blooded, they need a source of heat to survive.
Since all iguanas are cold-blooded, they need a source of heat to survive.
Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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