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©Getty Images

What are iguanas?

Iguanas are large reptiles. They are part of the lizard family.  There are many different species (kinds) of iguana, such as greeniguanas, Fijian banded iguanas and Fijian crested Iguanas.  There are also marine iguanas and desert iguanas.

Habitat and distribution (where they are found)

Iguanas  are found in tropical areas of  Mexico, Central America, some Polynesian islands such as Tonga and Fiji, and the Caribbean. Some species live in dry habitats such as deserts of New Mexico and Arizona,  while others live in tropical rainforests where it's warm and wet.  

A group of marine iguanas. ©Getty Images

A group of marine iguanas. ©Getty Images

One species lives on land and feeds in the sea near the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. They are marine iguanas,  the only lizard species that swims in the sea. Scientists believe their ancestors floated from South America to the islands on bits of wood, and had to adapt to the harsh environment in order to survive. Now the marine iguanas on each of the islands are different in size, shape and colour. Their adaptations include short snouts and small, very sharp teeth in order to scrape algae off rocks, and the flattening of their tails so they can move through the water in a similar way to that of crocodiles. The algae and seaweed they eat is very salty, and they have developed special glands to clean the salt out of their blood.

Appearance and Behaviours

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©Getty Images

Some species can grow as large as 1.8m long, including tail. They generally have a row of spines down their backs. They have excellent eyesight, and use their vision as they move through the forest looking for food.  

Many iguanas live in trees, where they lie still, using their colour to camouflage themselves.  Like all reptiles, iguanas need the sun to warm the outside of their bodies because their bodies can't do it from the inside. This means iguanas are generally active during the hours of daylight.

Iguanas are not fierce and some kinds are popular as pets.

Diet

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©Getty Images

Iguanas are omnivores, although they eat mostly plants such as fruit, leaves, berries and flowers.  However, they do eat insects also. Marine iguanas eat seaweed and sea algae. 

Iguana Life cycle

All species of iguana lay eggs. After mating with a male iguana, a female digs a nest and lays up to 70 eggs in it. She buries the eggs. The young hatch after about 10 - 14 weeks, although much longer for the  Fijian crested iguana,  and dig their way to the surface.  Baby iguanas grow slowly. They become adults and able to mate when they are 2 years old. Some iguanas can live for 30 years. 

Conservation and Threats

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©Getty Images

A number of species, including Fijian crested iguana,  Galapagos pink land iguana, Utila spiny-tailed iguana,  are classified as Critically Endangered.

A number, including the green iguana, or West Indian iguana, and the Fijian banded iguana are classified as Endangered.

Some, including the marine iguana and the Santa Fe land iguana are classified as Vulnerable.

Some are classified as not being of concern, or else not enough information is available to make a decison.

Read about the Fijian crested iguana

http://www.australiazoo.com.au/our-animals/reptiles/lizards/fijian-crested-iguana

Read more about marine iguanas here.

http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/marine-iguana