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Jamaican iguana

The Jamaican iguana (Cyclura collei) is a large species of lizard of the genus Cyclura endemic to Jamaica. It is the largest native land animal in the country, and is critically endangered, even considered extinct between 1948-1990. Once found throughout Jamaica and on the offshore islets Great Goat Island and Little Goat Island, it is now confined to the forests of the Hellshire hills.

Taxonomy[edit]

The Jamaican iguana's generic name (Cyclura) is derived from the Ancient Greek cyclos (κύκλος) meaning "circular" and ourá (οὐρά) meaning "tail", after the thick-ringed tail characteristic of all Cyclura.[1] Its specific name collei is Latin for the word "hill"[verification needed] and refers to the regions in which it was once found in Jamaica.

Anatomy and morphology[edit]

The Jamaican iguana is a large heavy-bodied lizard primarily green to salty blue in color with darker olive-green coloration on the shoulders.[2] Three dark broad chevrons extend from the base of the neck to the tail on the animal's back, with dark olive-brown zigzag spots.[2] The dorsal crest scales are somewhat brighter bluish-green than the body.[2] The body surfaces are blotched with a yellowish blotched color breaking up into small groups of spots.[2] Wild individuals, particularly nesting females, often appear deep reddish-brown in color after digging in the coarse ferralic soils of the Hellshire Hills region.[2] Male Jamaican iguanas grow to approximately 428 millimetres (16.9 in) in length whereas females are slightly smaller, growing to 378 millimetres (14.9 in) in length.[3] Males also possess large femoral pores on the undersides of their thighs, which are used to release pheromones.[4] The pores of the female are smaller and they do not have a dorsal crest as high as the male's, making the animal somewhat sexually dimorphic.[4]

Distribution[edit]

According to Sir Hans Sloane, a physician and botanist who visited Jamaica in 1688, iguanas were once common throughout Jamaica.[3] The Jamaican iguana declined dramatically during the second half of the 19th century, after the introduction of the Indian mongoose as a form of rat and snake control, until it was believed to exist only on the Goat islands near the Hellshire hills.[3]

The Jamaican iguana was believed to be extinct in 1948.[5] A dead adult specimen was found in 1970, and the species was rediscovered in 1990 when a live iguana was captured by a hog hunter in the Hellshire hills and a remnant population was discovered soon after.[5][6] The Hellshire hills area is the only area of Jamaica where this iguana is found. It is relegated to two dense populations that consist of scattered individuals.[3][5] They were once prevalent in the island but are now only found in the dry, rocky, limestone forest areas of St. Catherine.[3] Before it was rediscovered in 1990, the iguana was last seen alive on Goat Island off the coast of Jamaica in 1940.[3]

Diet[edit]

Like all Cyclura species the Jamaican iguana is primarily herbivorous, consuming leaves, flowers and fruits from over 100 different plant species.[2] This diet is very rarely supplemented with insects and invertebrates such as snails.[2] However, these could simply be eaten incidentally while it consumes the leaves the invertebrates live on.

Conservation[edit]

Endangered status[edit]

The Jamaican iguana was believed to be extinct dating to 1948. After its rediscovery in 1990, a study showed only that there were only 50 survivors of the "rarest lizard in the world".[5][6] The IUCN lists it as a Critically Endangered Species.[3]

Causes of decline[edit]

The single direct cause for the Jamaican iguana's decline can be attributed to the introduction of the small Asian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) as a form of snake-control.[6][7] The mongoose came to rely upon hatchling iguanas as a prime source of food, prompting the creation of the Headstart facility and a proposed program to eradicate the feral mongoose.[6]

The biggest current threat to the animals' existence is no longer from the spread of the mongoose, but from the charcoal industry.[2][8] Charcoal burners rely on hardwood trees from the Hellshire Hills to make charcoal.[7][8] As this is the primary refuge for the iguanas, the burners have been threatening the research teams who protect the iguanas.[8]

Recovery Efforts[edit]

A consortium of twelve zoos, also from within the USA donated and constructed a Headstart Facility at Hope Zoo, used for the rearing of eggs and hatchlings brought from the wild.[3][5][8] From within the safety of this environment, they are reared until they are large enough to survive in the wild and predators such as the mongoose are no longer a threat, a process known as "headstarting".[3][6][9] The Headstart facility also carries out health screening prior to the release of specimens.[5][9][10] This health screening has been used to baseline the normal physiologic values of the species, identifying potential future problems due to parasites, diseases, etc. which might threaten the population.[11]

The US captive population doubled in size in August 2006 with the hatching of 22 Jamaican rock iguanas at the Indianapolis Zoo.[8] This was the first successful captive breeding and hatching outside of Jamaica.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sanchez, Alejandro. "Family Iguanidae: Iguanas and Their Kin". Father Sanchez's Web Site of West Indian Natural History Diapsids I: Introduction; Lizards. Kingsnake.com. Retrieved November 26, 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Vogel, Peter (7/1/2005), "Jamaican Iguana Cyclura Collei", Iguana Specialist Group, archived from the original on January 14, 2006 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gibson (1996). Cyclura collei. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on May 11, 2006.
  4. ^ a b De Vosjoli, Phillipe; David Blair (1992), The Green Iguana Manual, Escondido, California: Advanced Vivarium Systems, ISBN 1-882770-18-8 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Gabriel, Deborah (2005). "Saving the Jamaican Iguana". Reptile Treasures Newsletter. Retrieved September 9, 2007. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Wilson, Byron; Alberts, Allison; Grahm, Karen; Hudson, Richard (2004), "Survival and Reproduction of Repatriated Jamaican Iguanas", Iguanas: Biology and Conservation (University of California Press): 220–231, ISBN 978-0-520-23854-1 
  7. ^ a b Williams-Raynor, Petre (February 11, 2007). "The Jamaican iguana (Cyclura collie)". The Jamaican Observer. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Hudson, Rick (4/1/2007), "Big Lizards, Big Problems", Reptiles Magazine 15 (4): 56 
  9. ^ a b Alberts, Allison; Lemm, Jeffrey; Grant, Tandora; Jackintell, Lori (2004). "Testing the Utility of Headstarting as a Conservation Strategy for West Indian Iguanas". Iguanas: Biology and Conservation. University of California Press. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-520-23854-1. 
  10. ^ Iverson, John; Smith, Geoffrey; Pieper, Lynne (2004), "Factors Affecting Long-Term Growth of the Allen Cays Rock Iguana in the Bahamas", Iguanas: Biology and Conservation (University of California Press): 200, ISBN 978-0-520-23854-1 
  11. ^ Knapp, Charles R.; Hudson, Richard (2004), "Translocation Strategies as a Conservation Tool for West Indian Iguanas", Iguanas: Biology and Conservation (University of California Press): 199–209, ISBN 978-0-520-23854-1 

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