Lights! Camera! Action! (and Scratches!)

With the pandemic, my reptile talks have moved to video, instead of live, presentations. I talk about reptiles every Thursday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. MST at my Facebook page, Elaine Powers. I hope you’ll join me tomorrow for my Reptile-Side Chat, when the green iguanas and I talk about color, chromatophores, and so much more! C’mon–it’ll be fun! Bring the kids–they’ll really enjoy the iguanas.

I’m discovering that some of my reptiles are not thrilled with new technology. I was surprised that Blue Rock Iguana, the star of my in-person talks, did not have any patience with being viewed over my laptop! Usually, he stays still as I hold him for everyone to see.  Not in front of the computer! He had no patience and had had enough of  being held after a few moments. I did get some impressive scratches upon his departure.

photo of a rock iguana hybrid
Blue likes to escape from his enclosure at home, too!

Calliope Green Iguana wasn’t old enough or big enough for me to take along on talks in 2019 and early 2020.  However, she has grown nicely over the past year and is now an excellent size for talks. Even though she happily rides around on my shoulder at home and, as my writing muse, she is delighted to watch me write, she was not willing to be used for a demonstration during my talk. I hope she reconsiders her behavior, since I plan on using her in future talks.

I do have experience with green iguanas in performance. Two of my iguanas were featured in a television commercial for Corazon Tequila. 

Credits & Description: Company: DEVITO/VERDI, USA, New York Creative Director: Sal Devito Copywriter: John Devito Art Director: Manny Santos Agency Producer: Karen Tomlin Director: Kenan Moran Editor: Jerry Fried The TV Commercial Ad titled GREEN IGUANA was done by Tequila New York advertising agency in United States. It was released in the Apr 2006.

The two iguanas who made it on screen were Jubby (blue) and Algae (yellow). However, four iguanas were taken for the shoot, because I didn’t know who would cooperate. The large male, Jimmy, was a disaster (as I suspected he would be, but the director had liked his looks). I was surprised that Noel had no interest, but Jubby and Algae and turned out to be regular hams. They endured take after take, for three hours! They were filmed from a variety of directions, since the director was intrigued by their performances. This resulted in a fifteen second commercial. I was amused that my iguanas had an acting agent, but I, an actor and script writer, did not!

 

photo of green iguana named Algae
Algae, the TV star

Here are Algae and Noel.

photo of green iguana named Noel
Noel, who said no to fame

graphic Facebook Live Reptile Side Chat

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow on Facebook as the greens and I talk about iguanas.

A Creep or a Convergence?

With Spring, the tortoises wander about more actively. The brumating species, like the Sonoran Desert and Sulcata tortoises, emerge from my bedroom to join the now more ever-wandering red-footed tortoises. I have a heat lamp set up in the front room where the tortoises can sit and bask. Usually, one or two will be utilizing the basking spot at a time. However, one fine day, all the tortoises had a spring in their step and met at the warm spot. They were happy to share the food and the warmth, so they could digest properly.

Normally, the tortoises in the photo above would be called a creep of tortoises, but on this day, they were a convergence of tortoises.

P.S. There are three species of tortoises in the picture. Can you identify which is which?

screen shot from Reptile-Side Chat
April is Iguana Month!

Note: Please join me tomorrow, Thursday, April 8 at 3:00 p.m. MST on my Facebook page for my informative and fun chat about Rock Iguanas, Cyclura species. April is Iguana Month and I will be introducing you to some of my iguana roomies–tomorrow the very handsome big guy, Blue.

#AuthorElaineAPowers
#TortoiseID
#RockIguanas
#ReptileSideChat
#AprilisIguanaMonth
#ElaineAPowers.com
#LyricPower.net
#FunScienceBooks

I Should Have Known the Collective Noun for Iguanas!

Until today, I didn’t know the collective noun for iguanas. I should have, since I’ve had more than one for around 30 years. I knew that a group of tortoises was a “creep,” and it’s a “bale” of turtles. The general term for lizards is “lounge.” I think some of my iguanas are willing to lounge around.

The collective noun for iguanas is a “mess.” Why, you and I might ask? Iguanas may intertwine in large groups, especially when they are gathered around a heat source. It’s hard to tell where one iguana ends, and another begins. They are ectotherms, or cold-blooded, so iguanas get their body heat from the environment or my body, as in this photo of Calliope and me. She is my writing muse, named after the Muse of Long Poetry.

photo of elaine powers with her iguana muse, Calliope

One of my friends from the Southern US mentioned that “mess” refers to something else, as in a “mess of greens.” The greens she was referring to are collard, turnip and mustard greens, all of which are enjoyed by my reptilian family members, too. Of course, in my case, it may be accurate to say I do have a mess of greens: a mess of green iguanas.

How much or many is a mess? It is undefined, but in food, it is usually enough to feed a family.

I’d agree that my mess of greens is always exactly the right amount for my family.

a red. hybrid green iguana
Youngster Chile being his curious self.

 

an older green iguana on grass
Ezra, who is in his 20s, on the grass in my backyard

Book Note: While I haven’t yet written a lot of books about iguanas, I have written one important one called Silent Rocks. It is about how to save the endangered Rock Iguanas of Cayman Brac, and teachers can use it to show how human activity endangers the lives of other species.

I’ve also written an adventure tale that includes an iguana, called The Dragon of Nani Cave. It features two lime lizards, Gene and Bony, who must do the bravest thing possible–find the dragon of Nani Cave, and survive!

 

white book cover with rock iguana photo on cover

book cover illustration with two lizards
The Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring
their island home, where the bravest thing possible is to go see the Dragon of Nani Cave.
An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+
48 pages
Fun and Colorful Illustrations of the many
animals they encounter, including the Dragon,
by Anderson Atlas

Wear Green on Wednesday, March 17th–It’s Green Iguana Day! by Curtis Curly-tail Lizard

Hello, my fine reptile friends! It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail! I’ve been curled up in my den on Warderick Wells a lot lately, but I HAD to peek out because this Wednesday is March 17th, when we all wear green—for Green Iguana Day! Some of my best friends like Ezra above are Green Iguanas and I love to celebrate this day with them. Check out Green Iguana Day in the video starring . . . ME, of course!

Graphic for Curtis curly-tail speaks

And maybe you can watch some of the other videos at Curtis Curly-tail Speaks, where I introduce my reptile friends. You’ll likely learn something fun about other animals that you didn’t know. That’s my job, and I’m stickin’ to it!

Don’t forget to wear green on Wednesday, March 17th!

Book Note: My friend, Allison Andros Iguana is not a green iguana (she has a lovely red head and a black body), but she is very brave! You can learn about the flora and fauna of the Exuma Islands when you come along on our adventure in the latest book in my series: Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away. Elaine A. Powers writes about how the animals of the islands survive hurricanes, and she weaves this into a tale of friendship and courage that is available at Amazon.com. Elaine loves to make science education fun.

children's book cover about Curtis Curly-tail lizard and a hurricane in the Bahamas
Curtis Curly-tail wants to help his friends survive a hurricane. But Curtis is blown away!
What happens to the iguanas on Beach Cay? Will Curtis be blown back home to Warderick Wells?

An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+      30 Pages
Gorgeous Illustrations by  Monique Carroll

 

Fossil Iguana Burrow in The Bahamas?

Even though Rock Iguanas (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) make their dens and escape holes in the limestone karst of the Caribbean islands, the females still need sand to lay their eggs. Females dig a burrow tunnel, lay their eggs in a chamber, then back fill it in—the iguana mothers cover over the entrance area to hide the presence of the eggs. I have watched females dig their dens and after their concealment efforts, I was unable to find the burrow entrance. Once the eggs hatch, the baby iguanas dig their way out of the tunnel to the surface.

Researchers have published an article stating they found a fossil iguana burrow on an island in The Bahamas: First known trace fossil of a nesting iguana (Pleistocene) The Bahamas  by Anthony J. Martin, Dorothy Stearns, Meredith J. Whitten, Melissa M. Hage, Michael Page, and Arya Basu.

Illustration by Anthony Martin of prehistoric iguana burrow

Illustration shows a cross section of the prehistoric iguana burrow, and how the surrounding landscape may have looked during the Late Pleistocene Epoch. (Credit: Anthony Martin.)

Anthony Martin is shown at the top of the page next to the trace fossil of the Pleistocene iguana burrow. (Credit: Melissa Hage.) The fossilized burrow dates back to the Late Pleistocene Epoch, about 115,000 years ago. The island still has iguanas, but they are critically endangered.

“After further investigation, Martin and his co-authors determined that the trace fossil he noticed on the limestone outcrop was that of a nesting iguana burrow. Ample evidence, including a nearby fossil land-crab burrow discovered by Hage, showed that the outcrop was a former inland sand dune, where iguanas prefer to lay their eggs.”

It is reasonable to assume fossilized sand dens would both be difficult to create and to be discovered, so if this is an ancient iguana nesting den, it is very exciting. Several iguana researchers doubt the conclusions of the authors, however. One point in question is that iguanas’ nesting dens are not dug straight down – they angle down slightly from the surface until the desired incubation temperature is found. They nesting chambers are not dug straight down as they appear to be in the fossil.

But that’s the great thing about science. Ideas are proposed and then evidence for and against the conclusions are presented and discussed.

photo San Salvador rock iguanas are critically endangered. Credit Anthony Martin.

The modern-day San Salvador rock iguanas are critically endangered. Credit: Anthony Martin.

One conclusion is certain: The San Salvador Rock Iguana is critically endangered. Hopefully, the current population can be preserved and not become known only as a fossil species.

For more information on iguanas and lizards and tortoises and turtles and snakes and roadrunners and desert plants and even a very special fairy (!), check out all the books here at elaineapowers.com.

January 28th is NATIONAL HAVE FUN AT WORK DAY

Working from Home with our Pets

January 28th is National Have Fun at Work Day and with the pandemic, many people who would go to work in an office or at least away from home, are now telecommuting or video conferencing. We find ourselves trying to convince our companion-animal family members to maintain professional boundaries. (Although, I’ll bet everyone enjoys watching other people’s pets photo-bomb their meetings.)

My household is no different. Meetings that I would attend in person are now virtual through my laptop. Even though my family members are reptiles, they feel the same need as mammals to participate. You’d think noise wouldn’t be an issue with animals that don’t bark, meow or squawk. But, my iguanas get creative. As soon as I log in, Chile Green Iguana (photo above) starts his gymnastics in his wire enclosure. He uses his full length to clank the sides and shelves as much as possible.

photo of Myrtle red foot tortoise pusing chair

Then I feel my chair start to move away from the table. Myrtle Redfoot Tortoise is underneath me, pushing as hard as she can, successfully rolling the chair and me away from the computer.

Calliope Green Iguana
Calliope Green Iguana checking to be sure Myrtle doesn’t roll me too far from the meeting.
Rose Red-foot Tortoise
Rose Red-foot Tortoise stops by so I’ll take a break from work and scratch hr shell.

Other family members merely stop by to see who I am speaking with or to ensure that I am working as I should be.

I hope you, too, are having fun at work, whether it is away from home or at home.  Co-workers can be very entertaining.

Book Note: My co-workers are my inspiration for many of my books. I hope you’ll check them out at My Books.

Don’t Call Me Turtle was inspired by my tortoise, Myrtle, pictured above.

photo of a children's book cover, entitled Don't Call Me Turtle
There are many differences between tortoises and turtles, and the wise tortoise who narrates this book tells us about ten of those differences–in rhyme.
She also says, “Don’t Call Me Turtle!” (Even if my name should be Myrtle.)

Uh, Oh! A Green Iguana Found in Sweetwater Wetlands Needs a New Home

Here is Albert finishing up his recovery in foster care. By the way, he’s very adept at using his magnificent tail for defense!

The Sonoran Desert is not known for its wetlands. That’s why the Sweetwater Wetlands are so special. This isn’t a natural wetlands, but was created by the City of Tucson’s reclaimed water system. Reclaimed water is used exclusively in the wetlands. Visitors have access to the wetlands and the inhabitants through 2.5 miles of pathways.

Surface water attracts wildlife in the desert, so many can be seen in the Sweetwater Wetlands. Being particularly fond of reptiles, I’m curious about what kinds might be there. Several reptiles are known to inhabit the wetlands, such as the Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus), Western Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata), Sonoran Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer affnis) and the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox).

However, recently a reptile was seen that definitely did not belong there. It’s bad enough that Red-eared Slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) have been introduced there, and the Sweetwater Wetlands does not need Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana).

Unfortunately, green iguanas have become invasive in many ecosystems around the world because people release them where they don’t belong, like the Sweetwater Wetlands. Part of my work in iguana conservation is to help people identify green iguanas. If you’d like more information on iguanas, please visit my website and contact me through elaineapowers.com.

After several reports were received about a male iguana in the wetlands, the Animal Experts were called. They had to wade through the water to reach the tree where the iguana was hanging out. Definitely, an incredible adventure. The men were able to successfully retrieve the lizard. You can follow their story on Animal Experts on Facebook.

The iguana was taken to a local reptile veterinarian who discovered he had a large bladder stone. It is suspected that this is why he was released. The staff named him Albert. Surgery was performed to remove the stone and Albert was put into foster care to recover.

photo of large bladder stone removed from iguana
Photo of the bladder stone removed by Dr. Jarchow of Orange Grove Animal Hospital.

A GoFundMe account was set up to help pay for Albert’s medical costs. As soon as he has healed, Albert will be put up for adoption. Hopefully, Albert will find a forever home soon.

Book Note: I wrote a book called Silent Rocks about the critically endangered rock iguanas of Cayman Brac, and how they need the help of humans to survive. If you’d like to help, book information is here and it is available at Amazon.com.

white book cover with rock iguana photo on cover
The endemic Sister Isle Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac is critically endangered. This poignant book shows why* and how we humans can help. Includes many photographs of these magnificent large lizards.
*Silent Rocks can be used to teach how humans endanger many species.

John Bendon’s Works of Art Are Also Important Scientific Records

In my work as a citizen-scientist helping on iguana conservation projects, I had the privilege of meeting the very talented artist, John Bendon, of the United Kingdom. You don’t have to take my word for his talent – some of his drawings are included in this post.  A few years ago, I purchased a couple of his drawings at a fundraiser.  The detail in the drawing is incredible. These are more than accurate scientific drawings—they are works of art. I purchased the prints because of their beauty but didn’t know the story behind the drawings. At a recent conference, John gave a talk. I learned the background of these animals.

John was in the Galapagos on South Plaza Island which has both land (Conolophus subcristatus) and marine (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) iguanas. He came across the animal depicted above and suspected that this iguana was actually a hybrid of the two species. The scale patterns of the iguana he was studying didn’t match either of the other species. Instead, the physical characteristics seemed to be a mix of the two. This lizard has a bit of the yellow coloration found in the land iguanas but also the black coloration of the marine. The head shape is different, too. Fortunately, John was able to reproduce the detail of the scales and head in his drawings. These drawings are not only works of art but important scientific records.

illustration of a marine iguana by John Bendon
The head of a marine iguana by John Bendon

For more works by John and the causes he supports, visit https://www.iucn-isg.org/publications/

For children’s books that include iguanas in the stories, visit My Books at elaineapowers.com.

 

book cover illustration with two lizards
The Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring their island home, where the bravest thing possible is to go see the Dragon of Nani Cave.
An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+
48 pages
Fun and Colorful
Illustrations of the many animals they encounter, including the Dragon! By Anderson Atlas

Interested in Becoming a Citizen-Scientist?

Recently, I posted on my social media about a citizen-scientist opportunity that you could do from the comfort of your home. This project was through Zooniverse.

For an iguana study, people were needed to look at photos and count the iguanas they could see. The scientists took the photos and cut them into little pieces. The resulting 25,000 images were shown 20 times. Four thousand volunteers participated. Two thousand to 10,000 images were classified each day.

photo of chopped up images of iguanas

In some images, the iguanas were challenging to find, while in others they were more obvious.

photo 2 of chopped up pics of iguanas

If you’d like to participate in scientific work, Zooniverse needs help with other projects. This work can be safely done from home, no traveling required, and you can contribute to important conservation efforts.

Book Note: And if you’d like to learn more about the remarkable large lizards called iguanas, grab a copy of My Unit Study on Iguanas from Lyric Power Publishing today! It’s on sale until 12/31/20.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

Humans Have Always Moved Animals–Let’s Do So for the Right Reasons

At a recent conservation meeting in the Caribbean regarding iguanas, there was discussion about establishing additional colonies on islands, so that the lizards would be protected from human-caused threats. The selected islands included their historical homes and new, safe places.
Of course, moving animals is nothing new. Mankind has been moving and introducing animals to new locations throughout history–but rarely has this been beneficial to the native species. Pigs and goats, released to be eventual food sources, have been introduced to islands as natural “livestock pens.” Sadly, livestock often destroy the islands’ ecosystems.
In recent times, iguanas have been moved by people from one island to another, seemingly just because they can. Maybe it happens because the lizards are so attractive and people want some in their previously iguana-free zone, but they are also taken as a food source. Iguanas have been eaten for centuries, although they are now protected from hunting and consumption. Others may think they are helping the iguanas achieve more genetic mixing by adding individuals from one isolated populations to another.
Consequently, scientists prefer to ensure the safety of the iguanas and the island’s environment when translocating them.
Setting up a new community of iguanas is more than just grabbing a few of them and dumping them on their new home. Iguanas are selected by sex, age, reproductive fitness and health status.
Of course, the islands are carefully pre-screened before the iguanas are collected. There must be proper food, no invasive animal species, like mice and rats, den sites and perhaps most importantly, nesting sites. Once the appropriate candidate iguanas have been selected, captured, and examined, they aren’t just plopped onto the island. No, they must wait until the food they ate on their home island has cleared their guts. Iguanas are important seed disperses, but bringing foreign plants onto the receiving island must be prevented. Islands need to be protected from invasive plant species as well.
The possibility of increasing the ranges of critically endangered iguanas is exciting. It’s worth the years of planning that goes into making these projects realities! If you’d like to participate in these efforts, please donate to your favorite conservation organization, or volunteer as a citizen scientist. But don’t pick up an iguana and toss it onto another island!
Some organizations involved in iguana conservation are the International Iguana Foundation, IUCN Iguana Specialist Group, International Reptile Conservation Foundation, The Shedd Aquarium, The Trust of The Bahamas, and The Trust of the Cayman Islands, to name a few.

Book Note: Want to learn more about these wonderful creatures? Go to My Unit Study on Iguanas at Lyric Power Publishing–it’s 30 pages of fun activities and coloring pages for $1.47 until December 31, 2020.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

November 19th is National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day

When I saw that November 19 was National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day, I immediately thought of my favorite soda, Mountain Dew.  I prefer the light citric crispness of Diet Mountain Dew.  I was attracted to the name, slang for moonshine, and its bright green color, of course. The color reminds me of green iguanas.

Mountain Dew was created in the 1940s by Tennessee brothers Barney and Ally Hartman as a mixer for liquor. I’m not surprised since I like to mix Diet Mountain Dew with flavored vodka or rum. The current version of Mountain Dew was released in 1961. My favorite form, diet, didn’t come along until 1988.

Over the years, there have been many debates between lovers of Coca-Cola and fans of Pepsi Cola, but I will always Do the Dew!

Book Note: To have fun learning all about the big lizards, Iguanas, and other reptiles, check out Lyric Power Publishing LLC’s workbooks and activity sheets. Click on My Unit Study on Iguanas to go directly to the download page. Economical, fun and comprehensive, the workbook can be printed as many times as you need!

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

Did You Know Reptiles Have Sleepovers?

Did you know reptiles have sleep-overs, too? While mammals hibernate in cold weather, reptiles brumate.

I’m not just talking about different species cohabitating, or sharing dens, during brumation. No, I’m talking about reptiles sleeping over when they are inside a dwelling–even those that have entire houses to roam and numerous corners to sleep in.

photo of tortoises sleeping together
Flipper, Gladiola and Zoe sleeping together.

Take this group, for example. Flipper, Gladiola and Zoe gather at a door to a room they’re not allowed in. Was this how they wanted to spend the night? No, Gladiola decided to find another bed, but Flipper and Zoe were content and wedged themselves into the corner.

But don’t worry, Flipper and Zoe weren’t alone very long. As you can see in the picture at the top of this post, Calliope Green Iguana had to join in the fun. She didn’t even need any ground space. She was content to use the tortoises for her bed. The tortoises don’t mind.

It’s extra nice when you can sleep with friends. Just ask us humans–many of us are very much looking forward to hanging out with family and friends again. Until then, we will dream of each other and a warmer future . . .

Book Note: Did you know rattlesnakes have sleepovers? And that mother rattlers babysit for each other? Or that the young aren’t born from eggs? You can learn all about these things and much, much more about rattlesnakes in my book Don’t Make Me Rattle! It is packed with information about rattlers for educating your children and to their delight, it is written in rhyme. Teach children to understand, and not fear, these snakes who want only to live in peace and play their role in the great circle of life (keeping vermin in check so they don’t overrun the planet).

*See The “Don’t” Series here.

book cover graphic of rattlesnake

There’s Much More to Me
Than You Know!
I Am Shy and My
Rattle is Only a Warning:
Please, Stay Away!

For All Ages
Reading Level 8+

Bold and Vibrant Illustrations
by Nicholas Thorpe

Written in Rhyme
40 pages

COMPLETE
BOOK DESCRIPTION HERE

 

Let ME Tell You How to Find a Lizard! by Curtis Curly-tail Lizard

Hello, my friends! It’s been a while! I’m just getting back home after the hurricane on Beach Cay. Phew! THAT was an adventure! If you’d like to see what I’ve been up to, Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away is now available at Amazon.com. But I’m back, and my friend, Elaine Powers, author, asked me to tell you how to find a lizard. I’d be happy to!

Some of my lizard cousins live “in captivity” with humans. This living situation has advantages and disadvantages. A caring person will provide hiding spots for young lizards, so they feel comfortable. We lizards retain all our survival instincts in captivity and like to hide from possible predators. And, young lizards are so very tasty. (I hear the seagulls talking about this on my beach. Shudder.)

There is one problem with good hiding places, however. On occasion, it becomes hard for the human to locate their reptilian family member.

The photo above is what Twizzler, a Spiny-tail iguana’s, human saw when looking for the young iguana. Is that a lizard body part? she thought. Or just another piece of the plastic rock formation?

Okay, yes, it was a body part. When she looked behind the rock, she saw identifiable parts of Twizzler, his snout and tail.

 

a rock from an iguana's enclosure
Can you see an iguana knee in this photo? Please comment below and tell me where it is. Thank you! Curtis

And what is the part of Twizzler’s body seen in front of this rock? His human claims Twizzler’s knee is in the picture. I’m a lizard and I can’t see it! Can you? Please make a note for me in the comments, if so. I’d love to know where it is. Thank you for your help.

I do have a clue if you ever need to find a lizard: Remember to look for the tail. We lizards often forget to pull in our tails. Of course, Twizzler could have felt comfortable enough to leave his tail out. After all, there are no predators in his enclosure, and he knows that now.

Now, back to me! Here is my latest adventure story. I just love being the star of Warderick Wells and having my friends see me on You Tube!

children's book cover about Curtis Curly-tail lizard and a hurricane in the Bahamas
In this story, I join Allison Andros Iguana to warn the iguanas of Beach Cay about the impending hurricane. Low lying areas are particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, high rainfall and powerful winds of hurricanes. Small islands or cays here in the Bahamas can be completely washed over. Beach Cay, the setting of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, has entire populations of endemic animals, such as the iguanas like Allison. One powerful hurricane could wipe out her entire species.

Until next time, you all take care out there. Be good to each other–life is short.

Sweet Iguana Dreams, My Friends

Every night I say “Sweet Iguana Dreams” to my iguana family members. Some people would think that is a silly thing to say, since iguanas are said not to dream. But I think they do. Iguanas are diurnal, active during the day and they sleep at night. In fact, they can sleep very soundly. I’ve been known to use this deep slumber to move aggressive iguanas or to clip the long toenails of recalcitrant family members.

Usually, the sleeping iguanas stretch out, with their arms relaxed alongside the torso.

photo of sleeping iguana
Sleeping comfortably and perhaps dreaming!

I’ve had a few hundred iguanas reside in my rescue over several years. Generally, they sleep quietly through the night. Every now and then, I would hear thrashing in the night and find an iguana asleep, rolling, snapping his or her tail, legs running in place. I believe these iguanas were having bad dreams, perhaps trying to escape a predator. Since they had been rescued, I hoped they weren’t dreaming about fleeing an abusive human.

I gently stroked the disturbed lizard’s back until they woke up, eyes wide open, looking around in panic. For some iguanas, this was enough and they would relax and go back to sleep. Others wanted to be held and comforted, which I was always happy to do.

This article in Scientific American gives a good summary about reptiles and REM sleep. See? They do have the potential to dream as you and I do.

May all your dreams be “sweet iguana dreams,” too.

NOTE: To learn more about these fascinating creatures, and for some fun with coloring, cutting and pasting, puzzles, charting, and more, see My Unit Study on Iguanas, proudly published by Lyric Power Publishing LLC.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

It’s a Climbing-the-Walls Kind of Time

Here, my youngest iguana, Twizzler Spiny-tail Iguana, is demonstrating that he is literally climbing the wall.

by Elaine A. Powers

If you’re like me, you’re spending more time at home than usual. Of course, this should help my writing output, but I often get distracted by the news of the world. Fortunately, I live with an assortment of animals who help me maintain my mental wellbeing.

At first my reptiles, many of whom free-roam my house, enjoyed having me around. They’d join in at my work area and sit at my feet, or wander by, walking over my feet or pushing my wheeled-chair. I liked the attention.

But over time, I noticed they weren’t around me as much. They had been accustomed to me traveling and having other caregivers while I was gone. Absence made their hearts grow fonder. Now, they have found favorite spots to hang out in in other rooms, especially the spare bedroom.

Was it something I said? Maybe I’m watching too much news or it’s been too long without me taking a trip. Well, we’ve all got our own space, so we should be content, right?

Nope! Today I realized that my reptiles may be experiencing enough stress to drive them “up the wall.” The phrase means being irritated or angry enough that one feels the need to escape, even if it means climbing up and over walls.

photo of iguana climbing back down the wall of cageTwizzler was eventually able to relax and made his way back down and settled into the day’s activities.

 

 

 

elaine a powers with rhino iguana rango
Here I am with Rhino Iguana Rango. Isn’t she a beauty?

As you can see above, iguanas can become quite large. So, when I wrote The Dragon of Nani Cave–well, the dragon isn’t really a dragon. It’s an iguana and only seems like a dragon to small Curly-tail lizards, the Lime Lizard Lads, who work up enough courage  to go find the dragon (with a little help from their friends). While the lizards are having an adventure, young readers are learning all about ecosystems (and they don’t even know it). That’s what we do around here–make learning about science fun!

Grab a copy today and while you’re at it, click the links below to check out the coordinating activity sheets and workbooks that reinforce the educational material in the book. They are lots of fun and help to pass the many hours at home.

book cover illustration of two lizards

 The Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring their island home, where the bravest thing possible is to go seethe Dragon of Nani Cave.

An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+  48 pages

Fun and Colorful Illustrations of the many animals they encounter, 
including the Dragon! By Anderson Atlas 

Gene and Bony are bored. They go see Old Soldier Crab who tells them wondrous, dangerous creatures live up on the bluff. And, if they go, they must prove themselves worthy and return with a piece of Caymanite.

They must journey through Skull Cave and meet bats, and a cat with sharp teeth. Then they meet Kat, a fellow Curly-tail Lizard and she knows the way to Nani Cave. But she warns there might be more than one dragon.

Meeting one danger after another, they finally arrive at Nani Cave. There he is: the dragon! He’s HUGE! And look at all those teeth!

What will Gene and Bony do now?

KEEP THE FUN GOING!
COORDINATING WORKBOOKS AND
ACTIVITY SHEETS AVAILABLE AT
LYRIC POWER PUBLISHING, LLC:

MY  READING BOOK AND COLORING PAGES FOR THE DRAGON OF NANI CAVE

MY UNIT STUDY ON IGUANAS

MY BOOK ABOUT BATS AND RATS

NINE PLANTS OF THE CAYMAN ISLANDS

FIVE WAYS TO PROTECT CAYMAN BRAC WILDLIFE COLORING BOOK

MY PASSPORT TO THE CAYMAN ISLANDS

ANIMALS OF NANI CAVE AND
CAYMAN BRAC COLORING PAGES

ANIMALS OF CAYMAN BRAC
AND 13-MONTH CALENDAR

I wrote Silent Rocks, but Susan Mule Gives a Dramatic Reading!

 

Above Susan Mule of the Cayman Islands reads Silent Rocks.

Of particular importance to me are the two endemic iguana species on the islands of Cayman Brac, the blue iguana found on Grand Cayman and the Sister Isle Rock Iguana found on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. I’ve done field work with the latter and enjoy going back every year to how my reptilian friends are doing. In fact, I wrote the book Silent Rocks: Iguanas of Cayman Brac to help inform people about how the iguanas are being needlessly killed.

 

book cover with photo of iguana from Cayman Brac

The endemic Sister Isle Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac is critically endangered. This poignant book shows why* and how we humans can help. Includes many photographs of these magnificent large lizards.

*Silent Rocks can be used to teach how humans endanger many species

“That’s MY Bed!”

Among the many reptiles I share my home with is a rhinoceros rock iguana who usually free roams my house. She basks under the heat lamps with the tortoises, shares the plates of veggies and finds sunbeams to relax in. Mid-afternoon, it’s time to head under some rocks for a nap. 

No, I don’t have rocks in my house, but I do have pillows on the sofa, which is her designated sleeping place. Recently, however, she has discovered my bed. It, too, has pillows. And it has a blanket where she can stretch out her entire body. She’s over four feet long.

I head to bed late in the evening, looking forward to laying my head on my pillows, all four of them, only to discover my bed is already occupied.

“Hey, Rango, that’s my bed!”  So, I picked up the sleeping lizard and carried her to the sofa.

Then, things came to an interesting point. I needed a nap this afternoon, so I got into bed. I hear the tick-tick-tick of approaching iguana feet – they have nails on the ends on their toes which click on the tile floor.

“Uh, oh, will someone be joining me in bed?” 

I feel a body knock against the frame. A body impact with the mattress. But no one comes up—I think. Later I turn over to see me being watched by a very confused iguana.

What in the world was I doing in her bed!

Note: You might be able to tell how much I enjoy sharing my home with iguanas. To learn more about these intelligent and interesting reptiles, see My Unit Study on Iguanas at Lyric Power Publishing’s Workbook page.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

And one of my fun children’s science books (written in the form of an adventure tale) features The Dragon of Nani Cave which, when you’re a small curly-tail lizard, is an iguana!

 The Lime Lizard Lads,
Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring
their island home, where the bravest
thing possible is to go see
the Dragon of Nani Cave.

An Adventure Tale
For Readers Age 8+

48 pages
Fun and Colorful
Illustrations of the many
animals they encounter, 

including the Dragon!
by Anderson Atlas 

Gene and Bony are bored. They go see Old Soldier Crab who tells them wondrous, dangerous creatures live up on the bluff. And, if they go, they must prove themselves worthy and return with a piece of Caymanite.
They must journey through Skull Cave and meet bats, and a cat with sharp teeth. Then they meet Kat, a fellow Curly-tail Lizard and she knows the way to Nani Cave. But she warns there might be more than one dragon.
Meeting one danger after another, they finally arrive at Nani Cave. There he is: the dragon! He’s HUGE! And look at all those teeth!
What will Gene and Bony do now?
KEEP THE FUN GOING!

Why Flake When You Can Shed?

Reptile skin is really interesting.  Instead of flaking off like human skin does, reptiles shed their skin in strips. Snakes shed one complete body skin at a time. Lizards might shed their skin in sections of the body.

The scales that make up the skin are made by the epidermis of the protein keratin. The skin provides an external covering provides protection and helps retain moisture. 

The skin on the left is being shed, and the colorful new layer underneath is on the right.  You can surely see why they are called Red Tegus.

Rascal is getting ready to shed his old skin, so it appears white.

My friend Rascal, a Red Tegu, offered to help me show shedding lizard skin. He has thick beaded scales, that appear to be a lovely dark red.  However, when it’s time to get rid of his old epidermis, the skin looks white. That’s because the tegu’s color is not in the outer epidermal layer, but underneath.

By the way, keratin is what you humans use to make your skin, hair and nails with.  Don’t you wish you could shed your skin like us reptiles?


This is a piece of the shed skin.  Notice there is no color except for a little black or melanin pigment.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

Lyric Power Publishing LLC offers fun and educational science workbooks and activity sheets. Looking to supplement science at home? Make it fun with economical and fun activity sheets!

One example is the workbook above. Learn all about iguanas in this 30-page workbook that is only $2.95. and you buy it once and print as many times as you’d like!

See What Happens!

Red-foot tortoises (Chelonoidis carbonarius), like Gladiola, are omnivores, which means they eat meat, as well as vegetables and fruits. Being tortoises, they don’t run down prey like a wolf after a deer. No, they look for slow moving animal tidbits or carrion.  Any opportunity for some protein should be explored, as shown by Gladiola here.

Rango Rhinocerous Iguana showed great tolerance of Gladiola’s nibbling. Fortunately, Gladiola didn’t take too big a bite. Merely moving the tail out of the way was sufficient.

However, Gladiola thought Rango’s tail was worth another taste a few minutes later.

Despite Rango asking Gladiola nicely to cease and desist, she didn’t. She pursued that tail and chomped down on it one too many times. With a flick of the tail, the errant tortoise was sent flying, ending up on her side. 

With a flip of a nibbled tail . . .

That’s what you get when you bite the wrong tail!

Interested in learning more about tortoises or turtles? Check out our books by clicking on the link.

green book cover with turtle illustration
Do you know the differences between the land-dwelling Hickatee and the ocean-dwelling Sea Turtle? Learn about them inside. Reading Level: Ages 6. Written in Rhyme. 45 Pages. Wonderful Illustrations of the Native Hickatee Turtle and Sea Turtles by Anderson Atlas. Learn all about the endemic Hickatee turtle who has so many troubles–well-meaning humans who throw them to their deaths into the ocean, cars that run over them, loss of land to lay their eggs, and cousins pushing them out. Shows physical traits and the differences between these land-dwelling turtles and the sea turtles that do reside in the ocean. Make friends with the Hickatee today!

Watch Out for Those Dangerous Choices in Clothing Colors!

When you get dressed, do you consider your pets? Sure, I know those of you with fur babies might wonder which outfit would go best with your pet’s hair. However, if you live with iguanas, you must make your clothing choices carefully.

Iguanas have excellent color vision. Since they eat leaves and flowers, this makes sense. It also makes wearing certain colors dangerous. When hungry, iguanas can be enthusiastic eaters. When they see a large green leaf that happens to be a pant leg or a t-shirt, they often bite first and ask about edibility later. They know I provide first-rate leaves, so why would that shirt be any less tasty?

Usually after the first bite, they realize something is wrong and then taste the cloth, confirming it’s not what they had wanted. Of course, it takes many tongue flicks to come to that conclusion.  Unfortunately, one of my rhino iguanas prefers to eat first and worry about whether it is food later. It cost a lot of money to get that green dish cloth out of his stomach.

One of my newest family members, a large rhino iguana, loves grapes—I mean really loves grapes, purple grapes. My favorite pair of jeans happens to be purple, so she will chase me around the house, convinced I’m one very large grape. She’ll tongue-flick and tongue-flick, certain the pants will eventually turn into a grape. Every time I wear the jeans, I am followed by the rapidly clicking claws running after me.

As I write this, I am wearing an orange-colored t-shirt. Not a good choice around iguanas. Many delicious fruits and flowers are orange. So, I’ll conclude this post and go change my shirt. I’m feeling a dark color would probably be better . . .

Then I’ll settle in and get to work on one of my new book projects. In the meantime, I hope you’ll check out my fun science books. I’m a retired biologist and a musician, so those two parts of me combined into writing science books as adventure tales, or in rhymes. It’s a lot of fun for me and I hope my books inspire many young scientists.

A collage of book covers indicating the categories of books at elaineapowers.com
My Books By Category

Word for the Day: Saurophagy (And Autophagy!)

Photo courtesy of Kaimuki Backyard on You Tube.

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. similis seem 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.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

What is that Tongue Doing?

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.

Stella’s forked tongue, with which she “tastes” the world.

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!

Iguanas are fascinating friends. To learn more about them, check out the Lyric Power Publishing workbook with activity sheets, called My Unit Study on Iguanas.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

How Do You Know if a Lizard is a Green Iguana? by Curtis Curly-tail

Hello, out there, friends and fans! It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail!

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.

A blue Green Iguana

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.”

A Green Iguana
If you are interested in passing out these descriptive booklets, which are free, please use the contact form on Elaine’s website to obtain them.

If you want to know the differences between a green iguana and their cousins, the rock iguanas, Lyric Power Publishing, LLC has several identification booklets to help you tell them apart.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas

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!

Ever Heard of a ‘Book Iguana?’

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.

Performance rights are included with a purchase of my theater scripts.

Why Can’t She Use a Tortoise As A Pillow? by Yours Truly, Curtis Curly-tail

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.

photo of curly-tail lizard Curtis
Here I am on karst near my home!

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!

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs
Don’t call me Myrtle the Turtle! I’m a tortoise! Learn the differences in fun rhymes inside!

Not Everyone Wants to Be a Star! by Curtis Curly-tail

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.)

graphic of a curly-tail lizard
Check out my You Tube Channel!

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.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas

Saving the Sister Isle Rock Iguana

a book cover with a photograph of an iguana on the island of Cayman Brac

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 nubilaThey 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.

I’m helping 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 extinction.

I wrote a book about this important issue. It’s called Silent Rocks. Bonnie’s photos of the iguanas of Cayman Brac are wonderful.

Which Iguana is Which?

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.

Green iguanas 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.