What Do Iguanas Eat In The Wild?

Iguanas, commonly known as green iguanas, are invasive specifies in Florida, United States. However, research shows that these species are not native to Florida. The native range of iguanas extends from tropical parts of South America to Central America, and the Caribbean islands.

Undoubtedly, they can cause significant damage to infrastructures, such as sidewalks and seawalls. Researchers have also found that some adult iguanas adopt pink and orange colors at certain times of the year.

In this post, we will specifically talk about what do iguanas eat in the wild. Make sure you read this article thoroughly so that you grasp all the essential information and get the most out of it.

What Do Iguanas Eat?

Typically, wild iguanas spend most of their life in the upper parts of trees. Most often, they eat leaves and receive the ultraviolet (UVB) rays of the sun, which helps in their overall digestion and bone growth.

That’s why these species are known as “folivores” instead of herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores.  

Iguanas feed on a wide range of leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables. Leafy greens make up 70% of their diet, followed by 20% vegetables.

These reptiles have a variety of tastes, which means they prefer different foods. More interestingly, iguanas prefer collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, endive, escarole, and dandelion greens in the wild.

Besides, they stay away from chard, spinach, and kale because these food items can negatively impact their body, especially in terms of calcium uptake.

Iguanas can likewise feed on bell peppers, carrots, squash, yams, zucchini, and parsnips if these things are available in the wild.

In the tropical environment, for example, in Central American territories, iguanas find good fruits like apples, papaya, grapes, strawberries, bananas, berries, cherries, kiwi, and persimmons.

Some species of native iguanas can feed on insects in the wild, which vary by location.

For example, online research shows that in South America, Central America, and other parts of the continent, iguanas sometimes eat worms, flies, crickets, spiders, and ants.

However, most iguanas are strict herbivores. They can’t easily process intense proteins and fats found in animal tissues because their digestive system is not specifically designed for it.

Again, you should keep in mind that the diet consists of leafy greens and flowers. They have a digestive system, which efficiently extracts essential nutrients, including proteins and vitamins from plants, including green leaves.

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What Do Young Iguanas Eat In The Wild?

Iguanas are reptiles that come from eggs. Online research shows that the mother iguana lays about 40-50 eggs by digging a hole in the ground. It is her nest where she lays eggs and cares for her baby iguanas after their birth.

What do baby iguanas eat in the wild?

Research evidence shows that adult iguanas do not require a lot of proteinaceous diets. The reason is regular feeding on insects can harm their health.

Unlike adult iguanas (folivores a.k.a leaf eaters), the young ones are both herbivores and carnivores. That’s why it won’t be wrong if we say baby iguanas are omnivores.

Baby iguanas feed on different insects such as snails and carrions. Eating snails and dead animal meat can cause various a wide range of health conditions, such as kidney diseases and cardiovascular problems.

Like adult iguanas, babies need calcium and vitamin D for their proper metabolic functions. Babies get these nutrients by feeding on green leaves. In contrast, dead animal meat contains purines, which put higher strains on their kidneys.

It means their kidneys fail sooner, causing distressing and rapid death.

What Do Adult Iguanas Eat In The Wild?

Iguanas are not always folivorous creatures because they eat insects in the wild to balance their protein requirements. The bulk of green iguanas in the wild eat foliage, fruits, and flowers. These species eat plant-based food that favors their digestive system and metabolism.

Most of the flowers and foliage wild iguanas eat come from greasewood. Iguanas also eat flowers of sand verbena, which is a favorite food item for desert iguanas.

Some iguanas also eat fecal matter, which is either their own or from other reptiles. Adult iguanas in the wild are not very likely to eat insects. At the same time, they don’t have any predisposition for yellow plants and leaves.

Research shows that wild iguanas eat tree snails, grasshoppers, and birds’ eggs. According to Adam Britton, a famous zoologist, protein-rich food items are not useful for iguana’s digestive system. It can cause kidney disorders and eventually premature death.

Moreover, leafy greens are by far the most essential part of the iguana’s diet, particularly for adult iguanas. Iguanas have 85% leafy food content is their stomach, which is primarily healthy for their digestive systems. 

Fruit & Vegetables Iguanas Can Eat

Leafy GreensVegetablesFruits
KaleCucumberApple
CollardCarrotsKiwis
ParsleyPeasStrawberries
Mustard GreensOkraTomato
Turnip GreensBell PepperGrapes
Romaine LettuceSproutsMelons
DandelionsLeaksPeaches

Remember, most often, these reptiles will feed on green leaves and flowers. However, if fruits and vegetables are available in the wild, they won’t hesitate to eat them.

It is because veggies and fruits provide them essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that balance the overall homeostatic function of the body.

What Do Cuban Iguanas Eat In The Wild?

In general, scientists say that the Cuban iguana is an herbivore, which means over 90% of its diet consists of leaves, vegetables, fruits, and flowers.

Cuban iguanas feed on 30 different plant species, including olives, red mangrove, black mangrove, thistle, pear, rock shrub, and various other types of grasses.

Cuban iguanas are quite different from green iguanas in terms of traits. For example, the skin of male iguana ranges from brick red to dark grey.

Likewise, the female Cuban Iguana is olive green with bands or dark stripes on the body. Cuban iguanas rarely eat animal matter. They feed on corpses of crabs, fish, and birds in the wild.

Compared to various other reptiles, wild iguanas, particularly Cuban iguanas suffer from the osmoregulation problem. It means these iguanas need potassium to maintain their metabolic needs.

Because Cuban iguanas feed on plants, they need to consume more plant matter to get the right amount of potassium.

While most Cuban iguanas feed on leaves and flowers, some of them eat wax worms, mealworms, and crickets. Waxworms are a rich source of fat for iguanas, and that’s why they eat them to keep up the fat content.

So, considering the above factors, I must say that primarily, these iguanas are herbivores unlike green iguanas, which are folivores (leafy green eaters). They feed on leaves (both green and yellow), flowers, and fruits.

In general, they live on rocks and are good climbers. While searching for food, if they are threatened, they will leap from great heights, often from a branch, and escape.

When they are in need of carrion or snail the Cuban iguana is tough enough to land on hard ground and catch its prey.

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What Do Rhinoceros Iguanas Eat In The Wild?

Another question that arises in the mind of reptilian lovers is what do Rhinoceros iguanas eat in the wild? Let me answer this question-based question so that you know about its food and diet behavior.

Before I tell you about the diet of this species, I will briefly give you some information on its habitat so that you can associate it with the food.

The natural habitat of the Rhinoceros iguanas is desert and dry forest. What does this mean? It means the natural habitat of this species does not make available leafy greens for them.

Besides, these species live in an environment that receives little rain every year. In simple words, they live in an arid and sun-drenched environment.

So, mostly shrubs, small trees, mesquite, and cacti surround the burrows that these species usually inhabit.

Remember, iguanas, in general, exhibit a significant amount of flexibility while choosing their habitat, and the interesting thing is that the Rhinoceros iguanas are no exception.

These reptiles have a variable diet both ontogenetically and seasonally.

Like the Cuban iguanas and green iguanas, they eat a wide variety of leaves, flowers, seeds, and fruits. It is essential to know that sometimes, these reptiles also eat animals, such as land crabs, insects, and dead carrion of fish and birds.

Baby Rhinoceros iguanas will often take insects, including snails/grasshoppers, and other small animals. These iguanas look for a food source, such as a fruiting bush, and defend it from other animals.

Other species, such as Hypomelanistic iguana, Chuckwalla, Spiny Tailed Iguanas, Grand Cayman Iguana, Fiji Banded Iguana, and Galapagos Land Iguana eat leaves, flowers, vegetables, and fruits.

Edible Plants For Wild Iguanas

Most reptilian enthusiasts want to know about edible or non-toxic plants for iguanas. These reptiles are hindgut fermenters requiring special bacteria and flagellate microbes to ferment foods that contain high levels of fiber.

They need this mechanism for the absorption of nutrients in the lower intestines, which is then used by the body. That’s why they feed on plants. Let me talk about some of the most edible plants for wild iguanas.

Opuntia

Also known as pear cacti, Opuntia is the most edible plant for iguanas. The pads and fruits of this plant are a good food source for iguanas.

However, there are some forms of Opuntia, which have larger spines that are dangerous to the health of iguanas.

Likewise, it is important to know that the pear cacti plant is not suitable for green iguanas and other tropical reptiles.

However, they are a good food source for other kinds of iguanas, such as desert iguanas and Cuban iguanas because they live in dry habitats.

Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis

Although there is no solid evidence of the origin of this plant, many people call it the Chinese hibiscus. The plant grows large, which is beneficial for iguanas in terms of food. In general, Hibiscus is safe for these reptiles to consume.

Some varieties of hibiscus flowers are neurologically toxic while others are completely safe for iguanas. By nature, iguanas will tend to avoid the toxic ones.

However, if they are removed from their natural habitats, they can eat the toxic ones.

Epipremnum Aureum

Also known as the golden pothos, this plant is best for iguanas and other reptiles in the wild. However, some forms of this plant have potential toxicity, but then again, it is safe for iguanas to consume.

The plant is toxic for other wild animals, such as dogs.

Invasive green iguanas eat golden pothos. Iguanas do not eat it most often because it can cause mild digestive issues. Well, it might be true, but there is still a need for more research.

Nephrolepis Exaltata

Nephrolepis exaltata is also known as sword fern or Boston fern. Although it is a famous houseplant, it also grows in the wild. There are many structural differences between wild and domestic varieties.

Generally, the plant is non-toxic for human beings and animals, including dogs and cats. Similarly, the wild form of this plant is suitable for iguanas to consume. So, iguanas can eat this plant if it is available in their habitat.

Boston fern is most suitable for green iguanas, exists in a tropical environment. It is a dense, bushy plant and a rich source of essential nutrients like phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium for iguanas.

What Foods Are Toxic For Iguanas In The Wild?

Like any other reptilian species, iguanas look for food that keeps them healthy. Some people believe that all animal species are conscious about their food safety.

However, this is not the case because scientists believe that animals removed from their native habitats can eat things that are harmful to their health.

In general, wild iguanas avoid eating dead meat and insects. They stick to leaves, flowers, plants, and fruits. However, some plants, such as kale are a rich source of goitrogens that can cause thyroid issues in wild iguanas.

As mentioned above, iguanas removed from their native habitat tend to eat kale, which causes serious complications.

Moreover, spinach in the wild is a harmful choice, especially for green iguanas. It is a plant with high levels of oxalate content that can lead to the binding of calcium absorption in iguanas.

As a result, the problem can cause metabolic bone disease. Sometimes, it even causes premature death of these reptiles.

Furthermore, iguanas will avoid eating animal protein, such as dead meat, carrion, insects, etc. It is because they are obligate folivores or herbivores.

Their bodies can’t process animal proteins, but when they eat animals, it can put strains on their liver and kidneys. Thus, this causes liver or kidney failure and leads to the death of the iguana.

Toxic plants for wild iguanas are Amanita, Azalea, Baneberry, Black locust, Boxwood, Daffodil, Ergot, Foxglove, Ghostweed, Honeysuckle, Ivy, Lantana, Lobelia, Malanga, Mexican breadfruit, Moonseed, Narcissus, Periwinkle, Pokeweed, Rosary peas, and hundreds of other plant species.

There is an entire list of plants that are toxic to iguanas.

Iguanas gain a protein boost from plant-based food that is valuable for weathering harsh climates, especially during winter.

Iguanas are herbivores and folivores, which means they eat plants to keep their body healthy and fully functional. I think this is the reason they live for up to 60 years.  

Conclusion

Iguanas are lizards and lizards are reptiles. According to the San Diego Zoo, there are around 4,675 lizard species. Other reports show that there are about 6,000 lizard species.

Most lizards are carnivores in nature, which means they consume meat. Typically, their diet is spiders, ants, cicadas, and other small animals. Some lizards even eat shells, such as snails.  

Besides, some lizards are omnivorous, which means they eat both animals and plants. When it comes to omnivores, some iguanas eat both plants and carrion.

However, since leafy greens make up 85% of their diet, scientists are still not sure about categorizing them as omnivores.

Some lizards, such as green iguanas are folivores because they feed on leafy green plants in the wild. If available, these iguanas also eat wild fruits and vegetables to fulfill their nutritional requirements.

People have been seeing these species in Florida for over 60 years. However, in recent years, their numbers have soared. Green iguanas are native to South America, Central America, and the eastern Caribbean.

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