Blue Iguana - Grand Cayman Is
|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|I was lucy enough to see five of these rare iguanas wandering around on my visit to the Queen ElizabethII Botanical Gardens (I also spotted the endemic parrot). There is very little else to do on Grand Cayman - it is an off-shore banking centre and cruise ship port of call.|
The Blue Iguana or Grand Cayman Iguana (Cyclura lewisi) is a critically endangered species of lizard of the genus Cyclura endemic to the island of Grand Cayman. Previously listed as a subspecies of the Cuban Iguana, it was reclassified as a separate species in 2004 because of genetic differences discovered four years earlier. The Blue Iguana is one of the longest-living species of lizard (possibly up to 69 years). The record is 67 years.
The Blue Iguana prefers dwelling in rocky, sunlit, open areas in dry forests or near the shore, as the females must dig holes in the sand to lay eggs in June and July. A possible second clutch is laid in September. The Blue Iguana's vegetarian diet includes plants, fruits, and flowers. Its coloration is tan to gray with a bluish cast that is more pronounced during the breeding season and more so in males. It is large and heavy-bodied with a dorsal crest of short spines running from the base of the neck to the end of the tail.
The fossil record indicates that the Blue Iguana was abundant before European colonization; but fewer than 15 animals remained in the wild by 2003, and this wild population was predicted to become extinct within the first decade of the 21st century. The species' decline is mainly being driven by predation by feral pets (cats and dogs) and indirectly by the destruction of their natural habitat as fruit farms are converted to pasture for cattle grazing. Since 2004, 219 captive-bred animals have been released into a preserve on Grand Cayman run by a partnership headed by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, in an attempt to save the species. At least five non-profit organizations are working with the government of the Cayman Islands to ensure the survival of the Blue Iguana.
The Blue Iguana is the largest native land animal on Grand Cayman with a total nose-to-tail length of 5 ft (1.5 m) and weighing as much as 30 lb (14 kg). Its body length is 20–30 inches (51–76 cm) with a tail equal in length. The Blue Iguana's toes are articulated to be efficient in digging and climbing trees. Although not known to be arboreal, the Blue Iguana has been observed climbing trees 15 feet (4.6 m) and higher. The male is larger than the female by one third of his body size. The mature male's skin color ranges from dark grey to turquoise blue, whereas the female is more olive green to pale blue. Young animals tend to be uniformly dark brown or green with faint darker banding. When they first emerge from the nest the neonates have an intricate pattern of eight dark dorsal chevrons from the crest of their necks to their pelvic area. These markings fade by the time the animal is one year old, changing to mottled gray and cream and eventually giving way to blue as adults. The adult Blue Iguana is typically dark gray matching the karst rock of its landscape. The animal changes its color to blue when it is in the presence of other iguanas to signal and establish territory. The blue color is more pronounced in males of the species. Their distinctive black feet stand in contrast to their lighter overall body color. Male Blue Iguanas have femoral pores, which are used to release pheromones. Females lack these pores and have a less prominent dorsal crest, making the animal somewhat sexually dimorphic.
The Blue Iguana is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. The population is restricted to the eastern interior of Grand Cayman, where it had been reduced to a critically low level, only three animals having been observed before the survey in 1988. The range of the Blue Iguana has contracted significantly over the past 25 years, with many sites once populated now showing no signs of iguanas. Surveys in 2003 indicated a total population in the range of 5–15 individuals. By 2005 the unmanaged wild population was considered to be functionally extinct. The species is one of the most endangered animals on Earth. A further blow to the dwindling population came in May 2008 when six individuals were found butchered in a nature preserve.[
As the Blue Iguana consumes a variety of plant material, favoring fruits and flowers over leaves and stems when available, it is valuable on Grand Cayman as a seed disperser throughout its range. A study in 2000 by Dr Allison Alberts revealed that seeds passing through the digestive tracts of Cycluras germinate more rapidly than those that do not. These seeds in the fruits consumed by the Blue Iguana have an adaptive advantage by sprouting before the end of very short rainy seasons. The Blue Iguana is also an important means of distributing seeds to new areas and, as the largest native herbivore of Grand Cayman's ecosystems, it is essential for maintaining the delicate balance between climate and vegetation necessary to survive under harsh conditions.
Restored free-roaming subpopulations in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and the Salina Reserve numbered approximately 125 individuals in total after a release in December 2005. The restored subpopulation in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park has been breeding since 2001, and the subpopulation in the Salina Reserve was deemed to be breeding in 2006 after a nest of three hatched eggs was discovered in the wild. As of April 2007, after another large-scale release, there are 299 Blue Iguanas living in the wild, with hundreds more being raised in captivity on Grand Cayman.
jcoowanitwong, horia, boreocypriensis, xTauruSx, uleko, zulfu, goldyrs, Dis. Ac., siggi, eqshannon, lovenature, Argus has marked this note useful
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Nice to see this endangered species at eye level. Sharp focus and well exposed image.
This Blue Iguana seem to flourish in capivity.
- [2009-08-13 2:23]
Another very nice post from you, but one with a bitter taste...
It's saddens me to read that such a beautiful and harmless species is almost extinct, but i hope that those organizations and funds will restore and recreate a good population in the Grand Caymans. I'll be really happy to be able to see them in the wild once, too :)
The shot itself is excellent, presenting the iguana with impeccable details and from a great low POV. Very nicely managed DOF, too.
As usual, a very educational and beautiful post from you!
Bravo and TFS
Hi Big Bro James,
Another excellent capture of a lizard, now blue iguana from nice POV with excellent clarity on his face with great DOF and fine composition.
TFS and have a nice day!
Perfect shot of this pretty iguana James.
TFS and regards,
- [2009-08-13 3:07]
great use of a narrow DOF, it has given you very impressive clarity. He must have been still to get this so sharp! Nicely composed and lit portrait, well done.
- [2009-08-13 4:11]
This is a beautiful close capture of this rare Iguana species. Excellent sharpness and fine light and colours. I recall seeing a similar sp. on Trinidad, it was fantastic to see in real life.
TFS and best wishes, Ulla
- [2009-08-13 6:08]
Hello James, great image of this huge blue iguana with nice composition. Excellent details and pose.
TFS and G's,
A lovely shot...I love the peaceful look this one has!
another nice shot from an Lizard the Blue Iguana.
Good low pov and sharpness.
Fine natural colours.
An nice shot.
- [2009-08-13 12:21]
Maybe the best photo of this endangered species ever made. The low POV, DOF and colours are really perfect. Great sharp details.
- [2009-08-13 13:27]
Stunning portrait of this reptile. Colour and details of his face are so good. very effective BG.Best regards Siggi
Your image really brings out the super design patterns on its "skin". I think perhaps that alone plus it's technical perfection is best..Meaning to ask you...and I for get...what printer did you use when you sent me a pic a long time back. I am now in the market and you buy inexpensive yet quality!
This guy is a real beauty. I love the detail you captured of his unique coloured skin. The lighting is perfect.
Does he have some sort of tag or transmitter on the top of his neck...it looks like something is there.
It's sad to know that this Iguana is on the endangered list. Thanks for the informative note.
- [2009-08-14 21:52]
A fine capture of this rare iguana showing its features as described in your excellent note well against the dark BG in fine lighting.
Thanks for posting this first on TN!
Have a good weekend,
A handsome fellow in his own sort of way.
Excellent sharpness and detail.
The texture of the skin shows well.
Excellent low POV.
Great eye contact.