Original Papers


, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 201-207

First online:

Diet selection and digestion in Iguana iguana: the importance of age and nutrient requirements

  • Katherine TroyerAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of CaliforniaSmithsonian Tropical Research Institute, APO

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The green iguana, Iguana iguana, is herbivorous throughout life, and depends on a microbial fermentation system in the hindgut to degrade plant fiber. Because the metabolic rates of lizards are proportional to body mass raised to the 0.80 power, hatchling iguanas have 2X, and juveniles 1.4X, greater relative energy requirements (kJxg body mass-1xday-1) than full-grown adults. Growing animals also need a higher protein intake, for contruction of body tissues, than do mature animals. This study investigated how growing iguanas achieve a relatively greater nutrient intake than adults. Hatchling and juvenile iguanas do not have higher relative capacities of the digestive tract than mature iguanas, nor do they digest plant materials more effectively. Instead, growing iguanas select diets higher in digestible protein, and digest the same food 1.3X to 2X more rapidly, than adults. Young iguanas may accomplish their shorter food transit times by maintaining higher body temperatures.