The state of Florida has endured an exceptionally chilly Winter season this time around, and some of the state’s wild critters are taking notice. While the thought of a cold Winter in Florida might seem like a laughable concept to anyone used to Northern climates, iguanas don’t find it very funny at all.
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Iguanas, which favor warm, temperate weather over anything else, appear to be falling from trees in Southern Florida as the overnight temperatures dip to between 30 and 40-degrees Fahrenheit. Upon landing on the ground, the lizards at first appear lifeless, but the National Weather Service warned that this was normal during this time of the year and that the still iguanas weren’t actually dead.
Iguanas are ectothermic animals, or more colloquially known as cold-blooded. In essence, this means that they can’t regulate their own body temperatures as mammals can. Instead, iguanas rely on external heat sources such as the Sun to stay warm, and substantial dips in temperatures like those seen in South Florida this past week results in the large green lizards’ body temperatures dipping so low that they become slow or immobile.
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While the iguanas certainly appear dead at first glance, reptile experts describe this exhibition as more of a temporary paralysis. It’s a low-energy state that helps the iguanas survive until temperatures climb back up above around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, after which the still lizards begin to twitch and sluggishly move around before regaining their normal movement abilities.
Passerby are advised not to be concerned about fallen iguanas, as they typically survive the fall unscathed. Only a small percentage of the animals succumb to either the cold weather or the fall.
It’s best to leave fallen iguanas where they lay instead of touching or moving them in their paralyzed, as they can spontaneously spring back to life and become spooked from handling. A whip from a large iguana’s tail can be painful, if not injurious, to an unsuspecting person.