Iguana's body language

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Iguana's body language

Post  Admin on Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:37 am

If you are fairly new to reptiles you may not realize that they have developed very clear forms of communication through various, often intricate forms of body language. Most reptiles can not produce sounds as they do not have vocal cords. Several species of gecko are able to produce sounds but to the best of my knowledge they are unique among reptiles as far as vocalization goes. Chameleons are particularly adept at communicating through body colour. They can signal various moods through the pattern and coloration of their skin.

Lizards generally communicate to one another, enemies, and predators through various forms of body language ranging from tail flicking and whipping, head bobbing, nodding, vibrating the head, togue flicking or licking, puffing the throat or extending the dewlap, body posture, postion and by inflating the body, arm waving, foot stomping, body colouration, hissing, sighing .... the list is endless!

Now that you are the proud owner of an iguana it's time to start learning what some of it's body language really means!
Bobbing

Young iguanas or iguanas new to a home will likely not bob their head. Iguanas taken to new places or surroundings that normally bob at everything will often not bob until they are comfortable. In general iguana's bob when they feel confident in their surroundings, feel secure, or feel very threatened. It is usually quite and exciting time for a new owner when they see their first iguana head bob! "Iggy finally bobbed at me- oh it 's so cute!"

There are many forms of head bobbing. Iguana's of both sexes may bob to say hello to their keeper, signify that they are becoming irritated or to send a warning that they are in a mood and that you'd better watch out. I cannot begin to tell you how to interpret all of these bobs as iguanas are individuals and you will simply have to learn what bobs are harmless and what bobs have the potential to signify that the iguana is becoming aggressive and is warning you away.

Females do not bob as much as males, but they do indeed bob. Female bobs most often signify irritation, and their bobs are jerkier, not smooth and flowing.

Male iguanas bobs are grand afairs with straight smooth up and down movement of the head. Males bob much more frequently than females. They bob when they climb to a new basking area- "I am the owner of this spot", they bob when they see you, they bob at other pets they can see, they bob when they are hungry, they bob when they are entering a room, they bob when they are exiting a room ... oh give it up ... they just bob! They are very talkative!

The vibrating head bob, or shudder bob, is a series of small very quick bobs, often accompanied by side to side movement of the head. This is clearly a warning bob, especially if the iguana is standing up while doing this. Other body language that may accompany this bob are standing, puffed out body, tail twitching, white head, presenting the body sideways. Take this bob seriously and be cautious!

Any bob that is accompanied by more threatening body language such as a white head, slightly open mouth, dewlap extended, puffed body, sideways presentation, tail flicking or undulation should be taken as a clear warning. An iguana expressing irritation or warning that it is in aggressive mood often signifies its mood by extending its dewlap and head bobbing. This is usually the very first body language that you will note, and sometimes the aggression stops with the iguana expressing itself in that manner or quickly progresses to more aggressive body language or behaviour. Remember, head bobbing can be just a form of saying hello or saying I'm the boss, I'm the ruler, this is my place, this is my basking spot, or it could be the very first sign that the iguana is about to make very aggressive moves. Learn to read the head bobs!

If an iguana bobs at you while it's in a relaxed position such as lying down I would not take this bob as a threat of any kind. This kind of bob is more of a greeting or where the heck have you been I've been waiting for my food to arrive kind of communication.
Other body language

A relaxed iguana will often extend both its front arms behind it's body while lying down. The arms are often straight out along it's sides and have the palms facing upward. The legs might also be extended backwards along the tail. You may see an iguana doing this while basking or sleeping. Needless to say an iguana that strikes this pose is feeling extremely relaxed and not in the least bit threatened. I often find my iguana Napoleon in this pose. One of the funniest things to observe is an iguana with his arms stretched back behind him, head raised and bobbing at you. Obviously this must be a warm greeting bob!

Iguana's will often communicate how they are feeling by using their dewlap. An iguana with a neatly tucked in dewlap is generally in a neutral mood. Partially extended dewlaps can signify that they are starting to feel threatened or afraid or even curious, where as fully extended dewlaps are often seen when the iguana is claiming territory while bobbing i.e. when it settles into a new basking place and bobs with dewlap extended, or it can accompany a threat or aggressive behaviour.

White head: If you notice that your iguana's head is white it might be a good idea to put your guard up a little bit. A white head can simply signify that the iguana is excited - the head may turn white while it's enjoying a particularly tasty favorite treat, but often the white head will signify that the iguana is in a bad mood and you should take this as a very subtle warning.

Standing in combination with extended dewlap and head bobbing could mean that the iguana is claiming territory or that it is feeling threatened or becoming aggressive. A standing iguana giving warning is an iguana that can leap or lunge at you if it is feeling particularly aggressive. If the iguana starts to pace, gives some vibrating bobs, flicks its tail and tries to present it's body sideways to you this is a warning that the ig is in a mood!

Pacing and presenting the side of a puffed up body, sort of shuffle walking sideways in quick small movements, often accompanied by an undulating tail is a sign of an imminent attempt to attack or an attempt to mate with you! If the iguana is able to it will often try to circle around you while doing this walk.

Tail flicking on it's own, with no other body language or just a head bob or two might be just a small warning of the iguana's mood. Tail flicking accompanied by more threatening body posturing, vibrating bob and or open mouth and a white head should be taken quite seriously.

An iguana shutting it's eyes could mean that it's tuning you out or that it is complete relaxed and enjoying being pet. An iguana with the eye closest to you shut while the other eye is open is clearly trying to cut you out of the picture- you are no longer there- sorry!

As you can tell iguana's combine a number of different forms of body language in order to communicate how they are feeling or to give us a clear warning to watch out. Many forms of iguana body language are just means of greeting or claiming a territory or perhaps even getting attention. Most forms of body language seen singly are very mild, it is when two or more forms of body language seen in combination that the iguana is more than likely giving off some kind of warning or threat.

Please do learn to read the basic forms of body language communication that your iguana displays. This will help you to interact with your iguana better and will possibly help prevent you from receiving a serious injury.
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