Florida, as one of the U.S.’s southernmost states, is home to a wide variety of tropical plants and fantastic creatures. But did you know – the largest iguana found in Florida is not only the state’s largest; it’s the most massive iguana species on Earth! The stunning green iguana makes a visual splash with a spine of protruding orange spikes and a gigantic, hanging gullet. Read on to learn about Florida’s green iguana and discover exciting facts about this reptilian giant.
The Largest Iguana in Florida
The green iguana is the largest in Florida, but it makes its home in several tropical climates spanning North and South America. These beasts can be found everywhere, from Mexico to Brazil to, of course, the tropical haven of Florida. Interestingly, this species is the only iguana listed as of Least Concern by the IUCN. These reptiles aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
How Big Was the Largest Iguana?
Most iguanas display slight signs of sexual dimorphism, with males displaying greater length and mass than females. Green iguana males can stretch well over five feet long and stand on the scale at up to 17 pounds of body weight, although exceptional specimens can get slightly larger. Females are typically slightly less heavy – weighing no more than seven pounds – but can stretch just as long. However, some of Florida’s most giant green iguanas have reached nearly seven feet long!
According to The Green Iguana Manual, the largest green iguanas ever recorded weighed reached 20 pounds. While there are reports on the Internet of larger green iguanas, these are based on speculation and haven’t been verified.
How Large are Most Iguanas?
Iguanas are larger than most types of lizards in the reptile family, though exact lengths and weights are entirely determined by genetics. Green iguanas definitely represent some of the most massive specimens in the family. Iguanas can range from about seven inches to the green iguana’s nearly seven feet, depending on the species. Each iguana’s environment, food quality, and (when kept as a pet) lack of predators and enclosure size can also greatly influence the size of one.
As such, captive iguanas are almost certainly more massive than their wild counterparts. Still, this is only a rough estimate of general influential factors – unique specimens vary significantly in size and weight, despite most iguanas following the above general rule of thumb.
Where Do Green Iguanas Live?
The green iguana, in particular, boasts an extensive range that stretches across North, Central, and South America. They favor tropical climates and spend most of their lives in the rainforest canopy, where they rest and find food. These lizards usually only descend from the treetops to mate, lay eggs, or transition to a new tree home.
How did the Green Iguana Arrive in Florida?
Interestingly, there are no iguana species that are native to Florida. The green iguana was one of three main species brought to Florida by humans from nearby islands. They came via cargo ships or independent releases, most of which occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. Given a lack of natural predators and plenty of territory to roam, green iguana populations exploded into uncontrollable and indeterminate numbers. Florida’s tropical climate and swampy environment are perfect for these massive reptiles, with plenty of diverse food and animal life on which to feast.
Green iguanas today are considered beautiful but, unfortunately, invasive nuisances. The diets of these largest iguanas have incurred severe damage to Florida’s flora and fauna, while their feces and burrows harm both natural and manmade structures. Florida government agencies have urged residents to try and cull populations by hunting or using their meat to downsize the serious damage they cause.
Are there any Iguanas Larger than the Green Iguana?
The green iguana is among the most massive species of these noble lizards, but others come close or take the cake in other measurements.
For example, while the green iguana can weigh up to 20 pounds, the blue iguana claims the prize for the heaviest of these lizards. Blue iguanas can clock in over 30 pounds, according to measurements from the specimens at the San Diego Zoo. The oldest-ever lizard also was a blue iguana: one individual lived to be 69 years old in captivity.
The Mexican spiny-tailed iguana is one more lizard that deserves ranking alongside the king-sized green family. These sociable, spine-backed reptiles grow to just under five feet long and share their rocky habitats with plenty of fellow lizards.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Chepko
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