Are you interested in learning more about iguanas?
Or maybe you have a pet iguana, and you want to find out what do iguanas eat in the wild to better care for your captive iguana?
If so, you’re in the right place!
Today we’re learning all about what iguanas eat in the wild, with a particular focus on the five most common iguanas found in the Americas today.
Let’s dive right in.
Iguanas are primarily herbivores, frugivores, and folivores, meaning they primarily live on a diet of plants. However, with over 30 different types of iguanas in the wild (all living in various climates and regions), their diets vary depending on the species.
Table of Contents
A Brief Introduction to Iguanas
Iguanas are native to a large geographic area, including Mexico, the Caribbean islands, southern Brazil, and Paraguay.
Although not native to the U.S., there is now an extensive population of feral iguanas living in the wild in southern Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and parts of Texas.
Iguanas, one of the largest lizards in the Americas, are highly adaptive creatures and are found in numerous environments, including deserts, tropical forests, and even in the water.
We will now examine the five most common types of iguanas, uncovering their habitats and discovering what they eat in the wild.
Green iguanas (also known as American iguanas) are the most common iguana found in the Americas.
They are large creatures, sometimes growing as long as 6′ feet in length and weighing 20 pounds.
Green iguanas are arboreal, meaning they live up in the canopy of trees for most of their lives, only coming down occasionally to change trees, mate, or lay eggs.
This means much of their food is found and consumed in the trees.
What do Green Iguanas Eat in the Wild?
Green iguanas in the wild are primarily herbivores, meaning their diet consists almost entirely of plants like leaves, fruits, and flowers.
Since they are found in numerous regions across the Americas, plant availability in their specific location and habitat determines the types of plants they eat.
For example, in Panama, the wild plum is one of the green iguana’s favorite foods.
On rare occasions, green iguanas in the wild have been known to eat eggs, leaf-dwelling insects, and snails.
The desert iguana is one of the most common lizards found in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts (northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States).
Pale cream or gray-tan are medium-sized lizards growing to be about 24″ inches in length (snout to tail).
Their habitat is primarily in sandy, dry, desert scrubland regions, usually within the territory of the creosote bush.
However, they are also found living in rocky streambeds and areas of tropical deciduous forests and subtropical scrub.
Desert iguanas possess the unique ability to withstand high temperatures, often staying out in the heat long after other lizards have retreated.
What do Desert Iguanas Eat in the Wild?
Like green iguanas, desert iguanas are also primarily herbivores.
They subsist on fruits, buds, and the leaves of local perennial and annual plants found in their habitat.
One of their favorite food sources is the yellow flowers found on the creosote bush.
The chuckwalla iguana, much like the desert iguana, lives in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts and is also found in southern California, parts of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.
These lizards are stocky, with thick tails, wide bodies, prominent bellies, and flat midsections.
The common chuckwalla grows to be around 15″ inches long.
What do Chuckwalla Iguanas Eat in the Wild?
Making their homes primarily in lava flows and in rocky regions within the territory of drought-tolerant scrub, chuckwallas subsist mainly on fruits, leaves, and the flowers of local desert plants (like brittlebush and creosote bush flowers).
Found exclusively on the Galapagos islands, marine iguanas are the only lizards who spend time in the ocean.
These remarkable iguanas have adapted to a lifestyle on the island, which includes:
- swimming along rocky shores (they can dive up to 65′ feet underwater)
- the ability to ingest salt water
- removing the salt by “sneezing” it out from special “salt glands”
- unique capability to shrink in size during times of food shortages (especially during weather events like El Nino)
Once the food supply is normal, they return to their original size.
What do Marine Iguanas Eat in the Wild?
Marine iguanas feed in shallow ocean waters and are herbivorous like other iguana species, subsisting on marine algae growing underwater and along the islands’ rocky shores.
When feeding, marine iguanas swim along the bottom in a snake-like motion, grazing algae.
We have a post dedicated to marine iguanas if you want to learn more about these lizards.
Spiny-tailed iguanas, native to Central America, are commonly found in Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, and in feral populations in South Florida.
They prefer to live in a rocky habitat with nearby trees for climbing and plenty of rocks and crevices to hide in.
The spiny-tailed iguana holds the Guinness Book of World Records list as the world’s fastest lizard, with a sprinting speed of up to 21 miles an hour!
What does the Spiny-Tailed Iguana Eat in the Wild?
Like other iguana species, the spiny-tailed iguana is primarily an herbivore, living on leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit.
However, they are opportunistic eaters, meaning when available and necessary, they will consume eggs, small animals and rodents, fish, birds, and arthropods.
What do Iguanas Eat in the Wild?
So to answer our original question, “what do iguanas eat in the wild?” we have discovered they mainly subsist on plants, including flowers, fruits, and leaves.
However, as highly adaptive creatures living in various climates and regions, iguanas also consume small animals, eggs, and insects when necessary.
We hope the information in this post was helpful and gave you greater insight into iguanas, allowing you to better care for your pet iguana or simply motivating you to learn more about these unique lizards!