Rhinoceros Iguana Fact File
The rhinoceros iguana has skin covered with rough scales which a grayish-brown or olive color. Running down the back is a crest of spines. Their coloration helps them to blend in with their environment.
Their name comes from a set of three horn-like bumps which sit on the tip of the nose and resemble the horns of a rhinoceros. Females have smaller horns than the males.
Males are larger than the females. Their body measures between 1 and 1.2m (3.25 and 4ft) long. They can weigh up to 10kg (22lbs).
They are an important part of the ecosystem which they call home as they spread and fertilize the seeds of the foods which they eat.
Once they find a food source they will defend it against other iguanas.
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They can be found in the Caribbean where they live in Hispaniola, Haiti & Dominican Republic.
Rhinoceros iguanas make their home in dry rocky areas, scrub, desert and savannas. They live in areas which have very little rainfall.
Previously they have lived along the coastline but with the expansion of human populations they are beginning to move further inland.
Mating begins during May. During breeding season the male will become highly territorial. Males will perform displays which both attract a mate and help to ward off rival males. These displays include a range of body movements such as head-bobing and gyrating along with raising up the spines on their back.
Following a successful mating the female will dig a nest hole in to which she deposits up to 20 eggs. This occurs 40 days after mating takes place. Females remain with their nests for the first few weeks of the incubation period to ward off predators.
Females will dig a burrow of up to 1.5m (5ft) long in the sand where the eggs are laid.
The eggs are incubated for 75-100 days. After hatching the eggs are independent with no further parental care provided.
Sexual maturity is reached between 2 and 3 years old.
Rhinoceros iguanas are primarily terrestrial and rarely climb.
As an ectotherm they must bask in the sun to generate body heat. At night they will retreat to a hollow trunk or cave where they can rest.
When moving they rise up on their long legs so their body is off the ground and have their head held up.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the rhinoceros iguana are birds of prey. They are also eaten by introduced mongooses.
They will attempt to scare off predators by using movements of the head and neck to help them look larger.
Introduced species such as pigs, cows and goats have begun to outcompete the rhinoceros iguana for their food. Cows will also collapse their nest burrows.
Humans impact their population through habitat destruction and hunting for food.
Their scientific name comes from words for round-tail (cyclura) and horned (cornuta).
There are ten species of rock iguana in the Caribbean with all being endangered.
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