Iguana: Key Facts

Did you know that some iguanas can live for as long as 60 years? How about that there are nearly 30 different species found throughout tropical regions of the New World? Keep reading to learn more about these and other iguana key facts. 

Quick Facts About Iguanas

Scientific Name:Iguanidae
Number of Species:Roughly 30
Physical Description:A class of medium to large lizards with rounded snouts, long bodies, and long tails. Their distinctive physical feature is the skin flap, or dewlap, hanging under their chins. Many iguanas also have a ridge of spines running down their backs. 
Distribution:Found throughout tropical and lowland regions of North and South America.
Habitat:Iguanas live in various warm-weather habitats including rainforests, deserts, lowlands, and swamps.
Average Size:– Length: 5 inches to 7 feet
– Weight: up to 30 pounds
Average Lifespan:10 to 20 years; sometimes longer
Diet:Mostly herbivorous; some species are omnivorous. Foods include:
– Leaves and leafy greens
– Vegetables
– Fruits
– Flowers
– Insects
– Small reptiles and mammals
Largest Species:Green iguana
Smallest Species:Spiny-tailed iguana

What is an Iguana?

An iguana is any medium to large lizard falling under the Iguanidae family, which includes about eight genera. According to Britannica, there are about 30 species of iguanas found in various regions of North and South America.

Iguanas are primarily herbivorous, though some species are omnivores. Leaves from a variety of native plants make up the majority of their diet, which they supplement with fruits and vegetables, flowers, and sometimes insects and other meat-based foods.

All species of iguana lay eggs, though the number of eggs varies widely by species–anywhere from 1 to 70. Female iguanas have one clutch of eggs per year, which they deposit in burrows they dig in the ground.

Iguanas have an average lifespan of 10 to 20 years. Some species don’t live as long, while others may live for as long as 60 years, especially those in captivity that have been well cared for.

Where Do Iguanas Live?

As noted above, iguanas are found in parts of North and South America. All species are native to the New World continents, and they live in a variety of warm-weather climates and habitats, especially rainforests and deserts.

Like many other lizards, iguanas are often kept in captivity, and they are bred and sold as pets throughout the world. They can even be kept in far northern climates as long as they get plenty of sunlight (or artificial light) and warmth.

How Long Can an Iguana Hold Its Breath?

Different species of iguanas can hold their breath for different lengths of time. In general, most iguanas can hold their breath for as much as 30 to 60 minutes, though they don’t do this on a regular basis.

The marine iguana of the Galapagos Islands, known for its swimming capabilities, is able to regularly hold its breath for more than an hour while deep-sea diving for food. Sometimes, it will hold its breath for up to two hours.

Check out this video to learn more about marine iguanas and their impressive swimming abilities.


Iguanas are medium to large lizards found in tropical and lowland regions of North and South America. They are also kept and bred in captivity, and they make for popular pets in many regions around the world. For more information about iguana, check our article about its color change habits, or this one about getting it out of your house.

Read also about other forest reptiles – here are our guides about komodo dragons, rattlesnakes, tuataras.

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