By: Tim Bortoli
Iguanas are lizards best known for their distinct appearance which features a series of spines that run down their back. The iguana name is sometimes used for a number of related species in the same family, but there are actually only 2 species of true iguanas. The Green Iguana, also called common iguana, are found throughout the northern and eastern portions of South America. as well as throughout Central America and into Mexico. The Lesser Antillean Iguana is only found in the Lesser Antilles, which is a group of volcanic islands in the Caribbean Sea. Let’s find out what these lizards eat and what makes them different from other species commonly called iguanas.
What do iguanas eat?
Both species of iguana are known to primarily be herbivores (plant eaters). The diet of the green iguana is made up of leaves, fruit, flowers and shoots. It feeds on approximately 100 different types of plants and can adapt its diet to fit the available foods. Juvenile green iguanas are known to eat the feces (poop) of adult iguanas so that they acquire the healthy gut bacteria required to digest a plant heavy diet. There is some evidence that this species also eats meat, such as insects and birds eggs, but this may only occur when other food isn’t available.
The Lesser Antillean iguana also feed on leaves, flower, fruit and shoots from about 100 species of plants. They are also known for eating meat in rare cases.
Other species commonly referred to as iguanas, such as the rock iguanas and the marine iguana from the Galapagos Islands, have varied diets. Most of these species are similar because they are primarily herbivores. Some species are known to be occasional meat eaters and some primarily feed on meat.
Iguanas make popular pets and almost a million are imported into the United States each year. Green iguanas in captivity should be fed leafy green vegetables and other fruits and vegetables such as; squash, mango, parsnip and collards. Vitamin and mineral supplements are also available and ensure the iguana is getting all of its required nutrients. Some experts recommend a small amount of protein, such as the occasional grasshopper. However, this is controversial and should be checked with your veterinarian.