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Last updated January 1, 2014

Additional Notes on Herbivory in Iguana iguana

©1995 Melissa Kaplan


The latest issue of the Iguana Times (Journal of the International Iguana Society) quarterly (4(3):48-49, Sept 1995) has an article by William Hayes, Biology Dept, Southern College, called What Do Wild Green Iguanas Eat? While he is primarily taking to task the commercial diets and stressing the importance of feeding properly prepared fresh foods, he does do a short lit review, including:

"Wayne Van Devender (1982), at his study site in Costa Rica, provided the first detailed analysis of the diet of green iguanas (15 juveniles and five adults). Whereas the spiny-tailed iguanas also present consumed considerable numbers of insects (juvenile spiny-tailed iguanas in particular), the green iguanas fed exclusively on plants. (The widely held misconception that juvenile green iguanas feed largely on insects stemmed from a single observation published by a scientist in the 1960s.) Both juvenile and adult green iguanas fed mostly on leaves, but they also consumed fruit and flowers. The species of plants eaten was not reported."

Summarizing Rand et al, 1990: "[in the Panamanian green iguana diet] leaves were most prevalent but smaller numbers of flowers and fruit were consumed. Animals, including insects, were absent from the diet."

Summarizing Van Marken Lichtenbelt, 1993: The study recorded the types of foods eaten during the seasons of the year: flowers during the dry Feb-May period to increase water intake; May-August ate young leaves (up to 78% of diet by July); Aug-Sept ate mixed diet of leaves and flowers. No insects or other animal matter was taken.

Hayes's citations:

  • W.D. van Marken Lichtenbelt. 1993. Optimal foraging of a herbivorous lizard, the green iguana, in a seasonal environment. Oecologia, 95:246-256
  • AS Rand, BA Dugan, H Monteza and D Vianda. 1990. The diet of a generalized folivore: Iguana iguana in Panama. J. Herpetology 24:211-214
  • W. Van Devender. 1992. Growth and ecology of spiny-tailed and green iguanas in Costa Rica, with comments on the evolution of herbivory and large body size. pp 162-183 in Burghardt and Rand's Iguanas of the World: Their behavior, ecology and conservation. Noyes Publishing, Park Ridge NJ.

Another interesting article on lizard herbivory I found quite interesting (aside from the chapters in the Burghardt and Rand book noted above):

Zimmerman, L.C. and C. Richard Tracy. (1989) Interactions between the environment and ectothermy and herbivory in reptiles. Physiological Zoology, 62(2):374.

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