Scientifically known as Cyclura cornuta, rhinoceros iguanas are an endangered species primarily found in the Hispaniola Caribbean Island and its surroundings. Rhinoceros iguanas are basically giant lizards (some measure up to 136 centimeters/ 54 inches). They are named so because they have outgrowths, like horns, on the end of their snouts like rhinoceroses do. Their colors vary from steely grey to dark green and even brown on some occasions. As with the other members of the genus Cyclura, rhinoceros iguanas have large bodies, heavy heads, and strong limbs. Adult rhinoceros iguanas can weigh up to 9 kilograms (19.8 pounds).

Rhinoceros Iguana General Behavior

Rhinoceros iguanas are generally more active during the day. Because they are cold-blooded animals, they usually come out to bask in the sun and maintain an ideal body temperature. The species use the rest of their day to forage for food as the males look for new territories to conquer.

At night, rhinoceros iguanas go back to their caves, rock crevices, burrows, or hollow trunks for shelter. They spend the majority of their time on rocky terrains and other dry surfaces, making them more terrestrial than green iguanas.

Rhinoceros Iguana Diet

Rhinoceros iguanas are primarily herbivorous. They rely on berries, fruits from varying plant species, leaves, seeds, and specific flowers. Interestingly, Dr Allison Alberts from the San Diego Zoo conducted a study in 2000 that revealed seeds passing through rhinoceros iguana’s digestive tract tend to grow quickly.

While they are herbivores first, individual rhinoceros iguanas have been observed to practice opportunistic carnivorism. They feed on insects, land crabs, snakes, and smaller lizards.

On the other hand, the only confirmed native rhinoceros iguana predator is the Hispaniola racer, an endemic snake species mostly found in the Caribbean island of Hispaniola as well. Outside that, most predators of this species come from invasive animals such as feral cats, feral pigs, feral dogs, and small Indian mongooses.

Rhinoceros Iguana Mating and Reproduction Behavior

Although rhinoceros iguanas share a lot in common with other member of the genus Cyclura, their mating habits and sexual maturity slightly differ from the rest. A male rhinoceros iguana reaches sexual maturity after 4 or 5 years. On the other hand, a female rhinoceros iguana is ready for reproduction after about 2 or 3 years.

Because male rhinoceros iguanas are highly territorial, especially during the breeding season, the bravest and fiercest ones occupy the largest territory ranges. This species prefers to mate just at the beginning of the rainy season (usually between April and June) and extends for about a month.

Males start the courtship process by raising the spines along their backs (they also do this when they want to appear more threatening), head-bobbing, and chasing away other males. Usually, the highest number of eggs a female rhinoceros iguana can lay in a mating season is 34. The lowest is 2, and the average is 17. Their incubation process extends to about 85 days.

The Lifespan of a Rhinoceros Iguana

The lifespan of a rhinoceros iguana depends on whether it is in the wild or captivity (under human care). Research shows that the species can survive up to 17 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity.

The Key Takeaway

Rhinoceros iguanas are huge lizards commonly found in the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. They are mainly characterized by the outgrowths on their snouts that resemble the horns of a rhinoceros. This species is mainly herbivorous, but individual animals have exhibited some carnivorous traits. They prefer breeding just before or during the rainy seasons, with the males initiating courtship. On average, rhinoceros iguanas have an average lifespan of 17 years in the wild and about 20 years in captivity.

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