Sunday, May 5, 2013

Creature Feature: Cuban Iguana.

Tip: You can tell how loose a state's animal laws are by how awesome their zoo is. If the reptile house in San Antonio was any indication, there were indeed some loose laws and low paperwork for venomous snakes. I did not expect to see this in the reptile house, either, and since a friend of mine's a big iguana fan, here goes:
Screw sourcing, I took this one.

The lizard lounging above is a Cuban iguana (Cyclura nubila), currently listed as "vulnerable" in terms of conservation. It is primarily an herbivore. This iguana lives in the rockier parts of Cuba, and is closely related to the Cayman Blue Iguana. It does not give a single flip that its island is communist, and walks around Guantanamo Bay quite freely. How fortunate that lizards can still enjoy the island because it's an island.

Cuban iguanas have some weird things about them just by being iguanas. All iguanids have what's called a "parietal eye" on top of their heads. It's a white dot that can detect light and shadow. The iguana's third eye is very active; their real eyes also have red scleras. There's more: their herbivorous diet, in this case, is supplemented by roundworms instead of the multiple stomachs and bacteria that ruminants have. This is just general iguana stuff- bet you didn't know they were strange by default.

Now THAT is eye-popping! Source.

Another weird thing: these iguanas are immune to cacti. Not just "they eat the stuff without getting pricked" - Cuban iguanas thrive around cacti. They make their nests in cacti, probably because other animals will avoid it. The cactus serves as a fortress complete with food. It's hard to get better than that.

Bizarrely, the Cuban iguana is probably the only reptile which has been viewed positively by the U.S. government. In a case concerning the legality of goings-on at Guantanamo Bay, attorney Tom Wilner pointed out that one could be punished for killing a Cuban iguana on-base, but torturing people was A-OK. Interesting argument, and props for looking it up. Not many lawyers would care about iguanas, even if they were endangered. Nicely done. 

Luckily, there are plenty of captive-bred Cuban iguanas. Most of the ones in the pet trade actually come from a feral population released south of Puerto Rico. Zoos breed them all the time. There is literally no need to take these guys off of Cuba, which is a good thing, considering humans, cats, dogs, and swine are responsible for the decline of the native population. They'll make a comeback; maybe the next leader of Cuba will be a lizard. ;)

1 comment:

  1. What about an article regarding Hesperornithes? I mean, aquatic, flightless birds like that are quite interesting.