Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Mikey: Journal of a Rock Iguana

Blue Cayman Rock Iguana, Cyclura nubila caymanensis (Lesser Caymans) x C. lewisi (Grand Cayman Blue*)

© Melissa Kaplan


Photo of Mikey, C. nubila, taken August 1999.  Copyright 1999 Melissa Kaplan
Photo taken August 1999

More recent photos of, and writings about life with, Mike can be found in my Lizards-in-Scarves blog...

Hatch date: September 12, 1997

Purchased: May 9, 1999
from David Blair

Received: May 11, 1999
via Express Mail (USPS)

Size upon arrival:
SVL: 6.5" STL 17"

Size at 6 years (9/11/03):
SVL: 20" STL: 49"; Weight: 21 lb.

Size at 13 years (09/12/2010):
SVL: 22.5" STL: 52.5"; Weight: 22lb.

Past writings, in reverse chronological order...

I hadn't measured him since last year, as I thought he'd finally stopped growing.

Aparently not. He's grown another inch SVL and VTL, making him 22" SVL and 52" STL. He's too comfy right now sprawled out on his basking area for me to gather him up to weigh him. Maybe tomorrow...


SVL: 21 inches; STL 50.5 inches

My, how time flies! Nothing much to report, other than what's been reported before. Same breeding season stuff, same "I wanna get Sluggo" stuff, same rearranging all the stuff that isn't actually furniture in the living room, same daily bath stuff (including splashing around when he wants me to come add more hot water).

One event that did happen is that Sidney, my goddog, came to stay for a weekend. On Friday, Mikey was a little tentative going about his daily routine. On Saturday, he was more comfortable slipping through the den from bathroom through the kitchen to his room. On Sunday he actually marched up to Sidney to check him out. Sidney just did as many big dogs do: stood there quietly, eyes flicking between watching Mike and pleading with me to please make the big scary iguana go away.

Mike was happy he 'made' the big dog stand still, and Sidney was glad for the praise and cookie treats he got after Mikey walked away.

I finally got some film developed, and have uploaded some of Mikey's photos. My friend Karen, Sidney's keeper, has great photos of him in action...away, however, from the scary presence of an iguana.

A friend of mine adopted a doberman pinscher from the pound several years ago. I only recently have been able to be around furred mammals again, and have fallen deeply in like with Sidney, enough to foolishly volunteer to provide a home for him should anything happen to my friend. The possibility of his staying here for a few days while my friend and her husband went out of town came up. To see how my lizards and tortoises and Sidney related to each other, my friend brought Sidney over one afternoon to introduce him to my house, yard, and kids.

I should take a moment to mention that Sidney is larger than your average dobie. While he isn't as massive as my 154 pound male Akita was, Sid comes close to looking like a fanciful love seat when he's standing at attention. Put another way, when I was sitting on my couch that has a 28" tall back, Sidney's nose, when he was standing behind the couch, poked me in my forehead. My Akita and I saw eye to eye when he stood up with his front paws on my shoulders; with Sidney, I'd be eyes to his neck.

Anyway, the meeting between Sidney and Mikey went well. I put Mike on the floor a couple feet away from Sidney. Sidney, already well acquainted with iguana tails due to meeting Leo, my friend's green iguana, maintained a respectful distance. Oh, he ducked his head a bit to get some sniffs in, but otherwise just waited to see what Mike was going to do.

Spring 2003

Mike pretty much just stood there, alternately glaring at Sidney, then turning his head slightly to glare at me. Glare, glare. Glare, glare. Yada yada yada. Sidney finally decided that, hey, maybe this was a different kind of iguana, one that didn't talk with its tail. So he ventured in a little closer to get a deeper scent, and .... thwack! Mike seemed a little more comfortable with things once he'd said what he had to say, and my friend and Sidney left shortly thereafter, around 5 PM.

Mike doesn't usually descend to the floor in the morning until after I'm up and moving around. The morning after Sidney's visit was a different story. Mike was up earlier than usual, and was determinedly going through the house, re-tracing Sidney's every step. It was like he had to find out every place the Sidney went and what Sidney checked out, or maybe he was just making sure that Sidney wasn't still around somewhere. The next morning, the same thing: up early, stomping through the house, nose to the ground. And just to make very sure I understood his take on the whole introduction-of-large-furred-beast into our rather hermitic existence, he pooped several times in places he knows are not appropriate poop places.

Gotta love 'em!

Just a few months shy of his fourth birthday, Mike's now 15" SVL, 29.75" STL. The growth in the last two years has been amazing, as used to it as I am with green iguanas. His jowls are rounding out and he is leaving the tell-tale melted mozzarella cheese (seminal) deposits when he defecates as well as whenever the mood strikes him. With the advent of spring-like weather, he is starting to roam the house on most days, climbing on everything he can. (His particular joy lately seems to be climbing onto my bed and clearing off the contents of the top of my nightstand, which led to the discovery that, while the $22 bottle of liquid prescription medicine I keep up there may be child-proof, it is not Cyclura proof, as it opened and spilled its nearly full contents on the floor when he knocked it off.)

Mike will eat just about anything in the food bowl, but always waits around before digging in, often for a considerable amount of time if I am in the kitchen, just in case there will be a worm, mouse, cooked chicken or other favored appetizer. He is calmer overall, but still likely to fuss a bit when first picked up. When approached in the ig room and often out of it, he no longer runs, even when I reach up/down to touch him or pick him up.

When his face shows signs of upcoming shed (rostral skin turns white), he even more calm when being held. While he seems to be quieter during these periods, he still actively thermoregulates, using 3-5 different spots regularly in the iguana room, and while not as active outside the IR, still leaves it and cruises through at least one other room each day.

Even though he is bigger (longer, taller and heavier) than Rugwort, the green iguana, he still insists on asserting himself, though generally restricting it to mornings and late afternoons. Once Mikey is down for the night, Rugwort can clamber all over him without reaction.

An interesting note is that Mike is apparently afraid of Sluggo, the 22" STL blue-tongue skink. When Sluggo comes in to bask, Mike goes into full threat mode no matter how high above Sluggo he is (basking shelves range from 4-6 ft above the floor), and will lunge at him when he is on the ground with Sluggo and Sluggo approaches him. This has Sluggo rather confused as he has never experienced such a reaction from any of the green iguanas, regardless of their size. If fact, one of Sluggo's favorite resting places was to worm his way under a large green iguana so that part of the iguana's weight was resting - pushing - on Sluggo.

15.5" SVL; 39.5" STL; 8+ lbs. Spring for Mikey is like spring for a lot of species: a time of restlessness, re-exploring areas not visited since before winter set in, eating like crazy, and wanting to go outside. I set up some planks over my tortoise pen and, using a couple of dog collars and a leash, put Mike on them for sun, fresh air, and al fresco dining on the geraniums and chards growing up out of the pen. Since softball season is starting again, that means a few outings to the ball park on heat-wave nights and some weekend tournaments.

Mike has also become quite communicative about what he wants when it comes to his baths. He pounds on the inside walls of the tub to make enough noise to summon me. Once the water is up to his neck, he lays quietly until the water cools off more than he likes or enough dribbles through the not-quite-tight drain plug to lower it more than he likes. At that point, he splashes around, jumping in and out of the tub, until I come in and top it all off again with warm water. Unfortunately, with water and gas prices (and conservation issues) being what they are, he is unhappy that he only gets 3 top-offs.

When he wants to go outside and I don't respond fast enough to satisfy him (he gives me about half an hour), he has discovered a new trick to catch my attention: he climbs up on the leather couch and stares at me. If that doesn't work, he poops on the couch and stalks off.

SVL: 16.5" STL: 42.5". Rather more time has elapse since my last update than I'd realized, so I'll have to put something together for his fourth birthday.

SVL: 17" STL: 44.5"; 4.5 kg. As is probably evident from his continued growth, Mikey is prospering, eating (and pooping) prodigiously. In the two and one-half years, he has settled into daily and seasonal routines and habits. Despite his now greatly out weighing/massing/sizing the blue-tongue skink, he remains apprehensive and goes into hatched mode (lateral compression, standing on straightened legs, gular skin puffed out) whenever Sluggo comes close. While he is tolerant of most things humans do - and wear - he continues to be freaked out by Hawaiian shirts of any color or pattern. When he spies them in the distance, he raises up his forequarters and bobs. Come any closer, and he shies away, even to the point of refusing belly rubs once the offensive shirt has been removed and set aside. As the season slides from summer to fall, he once again seems to be disappointed that I am not making the overcast rainy days go away.

SVL: 19" STL: 48.5", 6.8 kg. Mikey's 5th hatchday. Mike continues doing more of the same, hating Hawaiian print shirts and plaids, spends a portion of every day trying to find Sluggo, trying to mesmerize me into feeding him mousies instead of veggies, and lacerating my arms and hands everyday when I pick him up to carry him into his bath. People who complain about all the scratches they get from greens should stay away from the razor backed, sandpaper skinned Cyclura...

SVL: 20"; STL 49; 8.18 kg (18 lb). Oh, breeding season is upon us, so Mike spends significant time every day cruising the house, both looking for Sluggo and just generally climbing over, under and into everything he can. He stomps back into the kitchen and iguana room for a while, will lay around and bask for awhile, and then head off and do it again. What seems to relax him is long soaks in a warm bath, and so, along with his usual 30-60 minute bath every day, now he will stomp back into the bathroom after one of his "let's trash the living room" or "I wonder if Sluggo is hiding under the covers in the bed" excursions, jump in, and wait for me to come run another bath for him. If I don't get there fast enough, he climbs to the rim of the tub, then belly flops into the tub, repeating this over and over again until it penetrates whatever brainfog I'm in. It helps when his drags his claws along the porcelain, adding a nice, scrreeeeeeeching sound as a sort of treble accompaniment to the basso thumping of his body.

Tomorrow is Mikey's hatchday, a date now bittersweet, given the thoughts and feelings that will inevitably arise from now on each year at this time.

Mike continues to be Mike. He has his daily routine which includes his bath, pooping, a tour through the den to see if Sluggo is about, into the kitchen to inspect his feeding station, and back into the ig room to bask for several hours. Sometimes he eats before going to bask, other times he waits until the afternoon. Most afternoons, he also goes through the living room, trying yet again to get into the blocked off fireplace, climbing all the furniture and stacks of books and journals he can, and generally trying to displace as much as possible (in retaliation for not being allowed to go into the fireplace. If the front door is open, he will stand up on his hind legs and look out (and try to claw) through the screen door.

On days when he is really restless (especially during late spring and summer), he stomps down the back hall and inspects my bedroom and bathroom, looking for Sluggo. This involves scaling up the bedding to get onto the extra-high bed, and tonguing his way across the king-sized surface. He usually also walks across to my nightstand, knocking everything askew. Now that I keep the base to my cordless phone on there, I sometimes hear a faint beeping, a summons to go in there myself and rescue poor Mike, frozen in place, clinging to the phone base and edge of the nightstand, body pressing down on the Intercom button.

Other times, he heads down the hall to his bathroom, and makes a lot of noise in the bathtub, a signal to me that I am to draw another bath for him. After a couple of hours of soaking in the frequently re-warmed water (no wonder my gas and water bills have skyrocketed the past couple of years!), he hauls himself out, and heads back to eat and bask.

When I picked Mikey up for his bath today, I staggered under his weight. He felt significantly heavier than he did yesterday, for some reason. So, on my way through the den to the bathroom, I grabbed my eyeglasses and got on the scale with him. When I weighed him in July, he was 18 pounds; today he is 21. I will still swear the last three pounds were gained between yesterday and today!

Something Interesting/Odd: Several years ago, a new medical disorder slowly happened to me: hypercoagulable state. For reasons not yet known, this disorder results in the blood growing thick with fibrin and the suppression of the body's natural heparin production, resulting in very thick blood. I didn't realize it was happening, and never noticed any abnormalities as the changes happened slowly over time.

Last April, I began taking artemesinin for babesiosis, an infection from a tickborne organism. Artemesinin contains factors that destroy thrombin, thus thinning the blood. In June, I noticed some blood on the bandage put over my weekly IV site. In July, I started bleeding from scratches from Mikey's claws and dorsal crest (which is like the dorsal crest on the green iguana's tail, only on the Cyclura, entire dorsal crest is hard and sharp from neck to tail-tip). Given that I usually wear shorts and a T-shirt around the house, and Mikey's STL is not much shorter than my CTL (crown-toe length), this means I was ending up with long bloody (later scabby) scratches from shoulder to ankle. The most interesting impact is on my left forearm, that part which supports Mike's weight when I carry him. There is a 5"x2.5" swath of skin that is nothing but a network of tiny scabs resulting from the daily injuries caused by the tiny sharp points of Mike's scales, and the large points and edges of his dorsal crest.

It wasn't until I started bleeding freely again that I realized that not having bled from scratches and punctures over the past several years was very abnormal. Okay, what can I say? It's already been pretty well established that I'm weird. ;) But this Ah-ha! event does point up one of the side effects of keeping these lizards: If you don't like being adorned with scabs and scars, don't get a green or Cyclura iguana. If you or anyone else who will be routinely handling these lizards is susceptible to skin or systemic infections, you might want to think thrice about getting a green or Cyclura iguana.

Tomorrow, we'll celebrate Mikey's birthday by continuing the heat-wave that started today, defrosting a mouse pup or two, and having a pile of mango and banana for dessert.

Go to Journal 1999-2000

Species Update
The Grand Cayman Blue Iguana, previously considered a subspecies of the Cuban iguana, Cyclura nubila, has now been recognized as a unique species, having diverged so far from the Cuban that is can no longer be considered a subspecies of the Cuban. The Grand Cayman Blue Iguana, previously known as Cyclura nubila lewisi, is now classified as Cyclura lewisi.

Read more: Revision to Species Cyclura nubila lewisi, the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana, by Frederic J. Burton, Blue Iguana Recovery Program, Grand Cayman.

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