Why Do Iguanas Drop From Trees When It’s Cold in Florida?

Caitlin Dempsey


Green iguanas are herbivorous lizards native to the warmer climates of Mexico, Central and South America, and some Caribbean islands.

Originally brought to the state of Florida around the 1960s to be sold as pets, escaped and released green iguanas are now an invasive species that has dispersed throughout southern Florida.

Occasionally, the temperature in southern Florida approaches freezing. As cold-blooded animals, iguanas are dependent upon the local weather for their body temperature.

When conditions become too cold, iguanas will become cold stunned. As a protective measure, cold temperatures endure a condition called torpor, a decreased state physiological activity designed to increase the animal’s chance of serving a cold snap.

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Since torpor shuts down the iguana’s muscle control, these tree-inhabiting reptiles will often drop of trees during periods in southern Florida when the temperatures dip in the 30s and 40s (F).

While it may look dead, a cold-stunned iguana will often thaw out once temperatures increase again.

If the cold temperatures persist, the iguana may die.

The National Weather Service in Miami recently issued a "falling iguana" warning during a cold spell.
The National Weather Service in Miami recently issued a “falling iguana” warning during a cold spell.


Invasive Green Iguana. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/reptiles/green-iguana/

Mazzotti, F. (2020, January 24). If it’s below 40 degrees in South Florida, the forecast calls for falling iguanas. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/if-its-below-40-degrees-in-south-florida-the-forecast-calls-for-falling-iguanas-130454


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.