Cold With, Falling Iguanas: Why Iguanas Fall From Trees in Florida When it is Below 40 Degrees

Frank Mazzotti

As temperatures were dipping this week, the National Weather Service issued freeze warnings for much of Florida and Georgia, adding a warning in South Florida for “falling iguanas.” University of Florida wildlife ecologist Frank Mazzotti explains the physiology of cold iguanas and why many people in Florida aren’t shedding tears for the iguana-cicles lying around the region.

What happens to iguanas when temps drop?

When temperatures fall into the 40s and 30s, green iguanas become cold-stunned. They enter what’s called a state of torpor. Their breathing slows down and so does their metabolism.

Used to more balmy conditions, this is how tropical reptiles protect themselves from cold temperatures. Torpor is an involuntary response, and the animals trade torpor’s benefit of conserving heat in cold conditions for an increased risk of being snagged by a predator.

Torpor causes green iguanas to lose muscle control, and since they live in trees, they fall out of trees. A several pound iguana falling on your head would definitely get your attention.

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