Iguanas are Adapting: Good News for Them, Bad News for Florida.
Cold-stunned iguanas falling from trees in Florida may become a rarer sight in the future, according to ongoing research. This is due to both rising global temperatures caused by climate change and a shift in the lizards’ ability to withstand cold temperatures. While this may be a disappointment to those hoping that the recent drop in temperatures would help reduce the population of these invasive and damaging reptiles, it’s good news for the iguanas themselves. They won’t have to worry about turning into iguana popsicles anymore!
These guys can cause numerous problems in Florida, including Salmonella, devouring endangered plants and animals, and undermining seawalls. In fact, on at least one occasion, an iguana caused a power outage in an entire city by gnawing on electrical wires. Talk about having a taste for electricity!
When temperatures drop, cold-blooded reptiles like iguanas lose control of their muscles, causing them to fall out of trees! While they usually recover once they warm up, prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can be fatal. Therefore, biologists have considered frigid weather as the best way to curb the population boom of these lizards. However, according to recent research, it may now take much colder temperatures to achieve this.
Iguanas are Adapting:
According to WUSF, a study at Washington University in St. Louis, found that most of South Florida’s most common lizard species can withstand slightly lower temperatures than they could just four years ago, a drop of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that the magic number at which most Florida lizards freeze up is now around 44 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers figured this out by packing lizards into an ice-filled cooler and monitoring their body temperature as they cooled down. Can you imagine being a lizard in one of those coolers? Brrr!
Professional iguana hunter Steve Kavashansky, who runs the company Iguana Busters, has noticed a decrease in the number of calls he receives about stunned or dead iguanas after cold snaps. This supports the theory that iguana populations may be moving north as they become accustomed to slightly colder temperatures. In fact, there have been reports of iguanas as far north as Orlando.
While iguanas may be becoming more cold-hardy, they are still at risk. Additionally, the long-term effects of climate change on these reptiles, as well as other species, are still unknown. However, the fact that iguanas are showing some degree of adaptability to changing conditions is a reminder that all living things have the potential to evolve in response to their environment. Who knows, maybe one day these lizards will be able to survive a full-on polar vortex!
Watch Out For Falling Iguanas This Weekend