I learned a new term today. It’s not a word to be used in daily conversation but interesting, nonetheless. The new term is saurophagy. Its means “the eating of lizards.”
I was a little sad to learn this word in a report about one iguana species, C. similis, eating its cousin,C. bakeri. Normally herbivores, iguanas can be opportunistic consumers. C. similisseem to take the opportunity to eat the hatchling C. bakeri heading to the mangroves.
Like most people with access to the Internet, the first thing I did was search saurophagy. It’s apparently a well-kept secret. Google offered me autophagy which is very different. Autophagy is the destruction of cells during normal physiological cycles.
It took a while to find anything on saurophagy. Most of what I found was lizards-eating-lizards research, which makes sense in places with high numbers of lizards. But of course, lizards have many predators. Those predators are usually just called carnivores, nothing fancy like saurophagy.
Saurophagy is a fun word to know. You just might need it someday for a trivia contest or Scrabble game. And don’t forget, there’s autophagy, too.
To learn more about iguanas, check out this wonderful downloadable resource at Lyric Power Publishing, LLC. Nothing about saurophagy in it, but lots of other information about iguanas and wonderful activity sheets. Full description below.
I have lived with many iguanas over the years, but Stella, a green iguana, is the only one who constantly sticks her tongue out. I’m always afraid I’ll startle her and she’ll cut her tongue with her razor sharp teeth. Fortunately, that has never happened. Her tongue is intact.
So, why is her tongue always sticking out? She’s tasting or “smelling” the world around her. Iguanas don’t smell with their noses like people do. They “taste” the world. Scent particles in the air are collected on the tongue, then brought into the mouth. The particles are analyzed by special sensory cells for identification. These cells make up the Jacobson’s or vomeronasal organ. If you watch an iguana walking, you’ll see her flicking her tongue out. If something is particularly interesting, say a tasty bit of food, the tongue flicks back and forth a lot.
Another interesting thing about iguana tongues is that they are forked! Just like a snake’s tongue. You might also notice that the end of Stella’s tongue is darker. That’s because it is more enriched with blood. The better for tasting!
Today, I wanted to ask you if you knew that Green Iguanas, Iguana iguana, come in different colors? And, if they come in different colors, how do you tell if a lizard is a green iguana?
You look for the subtympanic scale. “What is that?” you ask. Well, I don’t have one, so I had to look it up myself. The subtympanic scale is that large scale on the side of the green iguana’s head. Sub means below and tympanic means ear. So, it’s the big scale below the ear. I have a friend who calls that scale the “jewel.” She always admires the beautiful coloring in the iguana jewels.
Here are some of my green iguana friends, in very different colors. As you can see, they are not just green–but they are all still called “green.” Even the green green iguanas come in different shades of green. It can be confusing, if you ask me.
The native range of the green iguana is southern Mexico to central Brazil and several Caribbean islands. If you don’t live in those areas, why should you know how to identify a green iguana? Because they’re very popular as pets in people’s homes and they have been introduced to many other places in the world, where they don’t belong and can be causing harm. That means they’re “invasive.”
If you enjoy learning while coloring and doing activities, I encourage you to be creative. To learn more in fun ways about iguanas, please see our 30-page workbook full of activity sheets about iguanas, My Unit Study on Iguanas. Remember that the green iguanas you color, don’t have to be green!
Several animals have been associated with books, such as the book worm. In addition, many libraries have instituted “read to the dog” programs and they encourage children to read to their pets. I have neither worms nor dogs. Calliope is my book iguana. Her name means the “muse of long poetry.” My picture books are long poems. Yes, she is definitely a muse for me. Her first enclosure was located beside my writing table. Now, she roams freely around the house, but she still supervises my writing.
An important part of writing is reading, which improves your craft. Calliope decided I had been working on the writing part too much and needed to do some reading. She selected a book for us to relish. She selected Directing a Play by my neighbor and friend, Stuart Vaughan. Stuart and I shared a love of the theater. And this is where I plug my theater scripts. When you buy a copy of the scripts, you get performance rights, as well. It’s a fabulous deal.
If you’re familiar with the theater scene in New York City, you might be familiar with Stuart. He directed Joseph Papp’s “Shakespeare in the Park” shows, in the famous Central Park, in case you didn’t know. We shared a driveway in New Jersey. You couldn’t ask for better neighbors.
When I moved to Arizona, my life situation didn’t allow time for theater, so I spent my time writing fun science-based children’s books. Even though the genre of my writing has changed, I still love creating stories. I enjoy writing these blogs, as well. I hope to bring both enjoyment and factual science to the readers’ lives.
Maybe someday I’ll be able to “act out” again, but I hope you’ll grab some fun for yourself and act out my scripts.
One day, my friend Rango, a Rhino Iguana, and I, a perfect curly-tail lizard, were discussing over Zoom our favorite basking spots. I prefer a nice piece of karst, myself. I like a spot where I can put my front feet up a bit, angle my back to the sun and soak in the rays.
But Rango the Dragon, as I call all iguanas—can you blame me?— lives in a house, not on an island like I do. Oh, she has a lovely place to bask under a suspended heat lamp or in a sunbeam through the window or door. She even has a servant who brings her meals while she basks. I guess there are advantages to living in a house. I have to find my own food and make sure I don’t become a snack for a seagull where I live!
I learned Rango likes to bask at an upward angle, too. Her substrate is flat tile, though, not bumpy karst. So, what does she do? She finds something else to perch on–a comfortable height and something hard that can hold her weight.
The other family members include tortoises of various sizes. Rango has selected the smaller tortoises as her desired perches. I don’t know how the tortoises feel about being used for this purpose, but they don’t wander off.
I admire Rango for her creativity, but I do hope she thanks the tortoises, especially Myrtle, who is a very famous tortoise. She has her own book, for Pete’s sake! That’s it below, a rhyming book favorite of the wee ones! (Human wee ones, that is.)
Thanks for stopping by at Elaine’s author website. Hope you’ll look around. See ya next time!
Hello, friends! It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail! I’m visiting my friend and author of fun science books, Elaine A. Powers. She’s working with Brad Peterson, who is, among other things, a talented graphic artist and animator. He had the idea to educate about reptiles by showing them eating.
Of course, I agreed to help with the videography. (I know—I know what you’re thinking. I love to be in the spotlight, and I do. But, I’m also very curious and I enjoy learning about everything, so I volunteered to be on the filming team.)
As you will see on my YouTube channel Curtis Curly-tail Speaks, many of the family members cooperated. However, some were shy about being filmed while eating, while others were just plain hostile to the idea.
Turquoise, above, a hybrid green iguana, would not let me film her eating. In fact, she continued to glare at me until I left. And, no matter how I tried to sneak up on her, she wasn’t fooled. That is one alert dragon—I mean, iguana,of course!
Speaking of iguanas, they are awfully large, aren’t they? But quite fascinating. Did you know they don’t have vocal cords and make no sounds?
To learn more about them, check out “My Unit Study on Iguanas,” a 30-page workbook filled with fun and educational activity sheets.
The Cayman Islands are a system of three islands located south of Cuba: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. I’ve been privileged to work as a citizen scientist for the conservation of the two types of iguanas found there. The most famous is the Blue Iguana found on Grand Cayman, Cyclura lewisi. Their body color really is sky blue. They were almost lost to extinction, but some hardworking humans created the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and their numbers are climbing. This doesn’t mean they are out of danger, but it is a step in the right direction as they say. You should visit the Blues at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park if you’re ever on Grand Cayman.
I am more interested in the lesser known Sister Island Rock Iguanas (SIRI), Cyclura nubila caymanensis. They’ve also been called the Lesser Caymans Iguana but there is nothing lesser about them. They’re said to be a subspecies of the Cuban Rock Iguana, Cyclura nubila. They are endemic to only the Sister Islands.
Little Cayman has
a fairly large population of iguanas, but Cayman Brac’s iguanas are having a
tough time surviving. Along with the usual human-caused problems, habitat
destruction and feral pets, the iguanas on Brac have a high road
mortality. Because the iguanas enjoy the warm, smooth roads, they are at
risk for being run over by cars. Sadly, over the last few years many of
the local iguanas have died this way.
My friend Bonnie Scott Edwards, who lives on the Brac, asked me to help her spread the word about the iguanas being needlessly killed. I’m always willing to help with causes like this. She had some terrific photos of iguanas both living and dead – I prefer the live ones myself. Then my friend, Anderson, who does great drawings for my books, filled in the blanks with his illustrations for my book, Silent Rocks. The book turned out great and I hope it helps not only to educate people but also tugs at their consciences. Every time an iguana is senselessly killed, a part of the future dies.
Some people wonder about the value of the iguanas. Did you know that many plants require the help of the iguanas to germinate and grow? When seeds pass through the iguana after being eaten, they germinate faster. The iguanas also help with the seed dispersal because it’s hard to make such large, active lizards stay in one place. They go up the bluff, then down the bluff, then up the bluff, then down–well, you get the idea.
However, not just
any iguana will do. Many areas have introduced the Green Iguana, Iguana
iguana, into rock iguana territories. Some research suggests that seeds
passing through the Green’s gut does not help the plants in rock iguana
territories. Only the correct iguana will do. This makes sense, since
many of the plants evolved along with the iguanas. More studies are being done.
Bonnie with her mission to save her Brac iguanas. They’ve put up some
signs reminding people that there are iguanas on the road, so they’ll slow down
and maybe even stop texting. Bonnie also tells them about the dangers of
letting their pets run loose. Iguanas didn’t evolve with large mammalian
predators, so they don’t know that dogs and cats are dangerous. They think
they are just friends they haven’t met yet. It is so sad when they realize
their mistake too late.
Then there’s the
habitat destruction, with the iguanas’ dens being buried during
construction. And lastly, are the poisons. Some rat poisons are the
same color as the iguanas’ favorite flowers. Of course, the rats and mice were
introduced by people, too. So many dangers have come along with people.
The population of the endemic Sister Island Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) on Cayman Brac is in serious decline. These vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. The reduction in population is the result of human activity on their habitat and the threats can only be eliminated by human action.
But people can
also solve these problems and I’m hoping the people on Brac working to help the
iguanas do succeed. Like the blue iguanas on Grand Cayman, the Brac rock iguanas can be brought back from the brink of
I wrote a book
about this important issue. It’s called Silent Rocks. Bonnie’s photos of the iguanas
of Cayman Brac are wonderful.
Iguanas are an important part of my life. They are featured in the children’s book I wrote called The Dragon of Nani Cave, which is an adventure tale starring curly-tail lizards ,Gene and Bony, who live on Cayman Brac. I weave the science of the island into the story, because science can be fun!
I am also the author of the book Silent Rocks, which is for all ages, and is about how to save the endangered Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac.
Most iguanas are found in the Americas and on Caribbean islands. They are grouped into three types: iguanas like the common green iguana, rock iguanas and spiny-tail iguanas. Each has evolved to thrive in their native environment. Unfortunately, through international commerce, the green iguana, Iguana iguana, has been introduced into ecosystems where they don’t belong.
Have you ever
wondered how to tell iguanas apart? Being
able to accurately identify iguana species is important to telling the
difference between native iguanas and the invasive green iguanas. I have
nothing against green iguanas. I’ve known many through the years as pets and
when I operated an iguana rescue. Unfortunately, they are damaging the
ecosystems and out-competing the native species.
live in an environment with many predators. So, greens lay many eggs and adapt
to many foods. They have that in common with rock iguanas, who are also
opportunistic eaters. (Sadly, they’ll even eat human food.)
But back to
the telling iguanas apart. There are now booklets that show the physical
differences. Rock iguanas don’t have the gorgeous subtympanic scale–that’s the
big scale under the ear–that the green iguanas have. My mother called it the
‘jewel.’ It is lovely, in many pretty colors. No other iguanas have that scale.
Greens also have little points on their dewlaps. A dewlap is the piece of skin
under the chin. ( Oooh, that rhymes.) The greens have smooth, striped tails.
Other iguanas have less striped tails. Rock iguanas have that nice
ribbing along the tail, while spiny-tails have keeled scales on their tail
giving them a rough appearance.
I wanted to produce an item that would aid people in correctly identifying iguanas, something that was convenient to carry and interesting to look at. I was asked to make the text rhyme because this helps in memorizing the facts. Anderson Atlas, John Binns and I have prepared these conveniently-sized booklets that people can carry around with them.
Check them out –they’re free. Please use the contact form on the Contact Page to request copies of these brochures for iguana identification.
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