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Cuban rock iguana

Cyclura nubila


Cyclura nubila, also known as the Cuban rock iguana, Cuban ground iguana, or Cuban iguana,[3] is a species of lizard of the iguana family. It is the largest of the West Indian rock iguanas (genus Cyclura), one of the most endangered groups of lizards. This herbivorous species with red eyes, a thick tail, and spiked jowls is one of the largest lizards in the Caribbean. The Cuban iguana is distributed throughout the rocky southern coastal areas of mainland Cuba and its surrounding islets with a feral population thriving on Isla Magueyes, Puerto Rico. It is also found on the Cayman Islands of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, where a separate subspecies occurs. Females guard their nest sites and often nest in sites excavated by Cuban crocodiles. As a defense measure, the Cuban iguana often makes its home within or near prickly-pear cacti. Although the wild population is in decline because of predation by feral animals and habitat loss caused by human agricultural development, the numbers of iguanas have been bolstered as a result of captive-breeding and other conservation programs. Cyclura nubila has been used to study evolution and animal communication, and its captive-breeding program has been a model for other endangered lizards in the Caribbean. (Wiki)


The Cuban iguana is naturally distributed in rocky coastal areas on Cuba and throughout as many as 4,000 islets surrounding the Cuban mainland, including Isla de la Juventud off the southern coast, which has one of the most robust populations. Relatively safe populations are found on some islets along the north and south coasts and in isolated protected areas on the mainland. These include Guanahacabibes Biosphere Reserve in the west, Desembarco del Granma National Park, Hatibonico Wildlife Refuge, Punta Negra-Quemados Ecological Reserve, and Delta del Cauto Wildlife Refuge, all in eastern Cuba. Because of this wide distribution, accurate information about the number of distinct subpopulations of Cuban iguanas cannot be determined. The population on the US Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay has been estimated at 2,000 to 3,000 individuals, and the animals are treated well and protected by US forces stationed at the base. An unusual incident occurred when a detainee in the prison assaulted a guard with a bloody tail torn from a Cuban iguana in May 2005. The subspecies, Cyclura nubila caymanensis, is endemic to the "Sister Islands" of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. The population on Cayman Brac is less than 50 of these animals and Little Cayman supports 1,500. A feral population of C. n. caymanensis has been established on Grand Cayman. The Cuban iguana makes its burrow near cacti or thistles, sometimes even within the cactus itself. These thorny plants offer protection and their fruit and flowers offer the iguanas food. In areas without cacti, the lizards make their burrows in dead trees, hollow logs, and limestone crevices. In the mid-1960s a small group of Cuban iguanas was released from a zoo on Isla Magueyes, southwest of Puerto Rico, forming an independent free-ranging feral population. As of 2000, there has been talk of removing or relocating this population of iguanas by the US Department of Interior. This feral population is the source for 90% of the captive Cuban iguanas held in private collections and was the source for part of a study on animal communication and evolution conducted by Emilia Martins, a biologist at Indiana University. Martins' study compared the head-bob displays from the source population on Cuba with these animals on Isla Magueyes. The durations and pauses were longer by as much as 350% in the feral population. In comparison, the blue iguana of Grand Cayman's head-bob displays differed from those of the animals on Cuba by only about 20%. The rapid change in display structure between the colony of animals on Isla Magueyes and those on Cuba illustrated the potential of small founding population size as a catalyst to evolution with regard to communication or display. In this case the difference was by only six generations at most. (Wiki)


Spotted in the Gunanahacabibes National Park in Cuba.

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Pinar del Río, Cuba

Spotted on Apr 1, 2008
Submitted on Jan 1, 2012

Spotted for Mission

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