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

What did Swanson really say?

A single mis-read sentence leads to decades of misinformation and confusion

©1999 Melissa Kaplan


When reading books and journal articles about iguanas, the ones which state that iguanas are insectivorous when young or during the course of their lives, the authors all cite one particular source. Further investigation, however, shows that apparently one person misread the actual article cited, while everyone else just assumed that person read it correctly. Oops!

Authors, be they biologists, veterinarians, or pet care book writers, all refer to earlier sources for their statements regarding iguanas-as-omnivores. Trace these sources back far enough and you come to:

Swanson, P.L., 1950. The iguana Iguana iguana iguana (L.). Herpetologica 6(7): 187-193.

The only sentence in Swanson that refers to juveniles is: "Very young iguanas are probably almost entirely insectivorous, but I have made no personal observations on their feeding habits." [emphasis mine]

It took only one person to mis-read or misunderstand this sentence to condemn 50 years of pet iguanas to deadly diets in captivity.

See Dr. Adam Britton's excellent article, Animal Protein Issue, for further information and analysis.

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