Iguana, Fiji Banded

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Iguana, Fiji banded

Brachylophus fasciatus

phylum: Chordata

class: Reptilia

order: Sauria

family: Iguanidae

status: Endangered, IUCN Endangered, ESA

range: Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu

Description and biology

The Fiji banded iguana is so-named because males of the species have pale, bluish-green bands covering their green bodies. Females are usually entirely green. The banded iguana's skin color changes in response to light, temperature, and its mood. The male's banding is most obvious when courting a female or when fighting with another male.

Adult Fiji banded iguanas have a body length of about 7.5 inches (19 centimeters). Their tails measure two to three times their body length. Males are generally longer than females. This species has salt glands in the nasal area, and salt is expelled when the iguana sneezes. Biologists (people who study living organisms), however, do not fully understand the purpose of these glands. These banded iguanas are primarily vegetarians, feeding on leaves, fruit, and flowers. They occasionally eat insects.

Male Fiji banded iguanas are territorial and aggressive. They fight among themselves to determine who is dominant.

Once determined, only the dominant male mates with available females. A male's courtship behavior includes head bobbing and a display of his banding and bright coloration. After mating with a dominant male, a female Fiji banded iguana digs a burrow, or hole, into which she lays three or four eggs. She then covers the burrow with dirt and the eggs are left to incubate (develop).

Habitat and current distribution

The Fiji banded iguana exists on various islands that are a part of the island nations of Fiji, Tonga, and Vanuatu (New Hebrides) in the southwest Pacific Ocean. On Kandavu, one of the Fiji Islands, the banded iguana is considered to be abundant, but it is seldom seen. Biologists are unsure of the total number of Fiji banded iguanas currently in existence.

This iguana prefers to inhabit dense, undisturbed forests.

History and conservation measures

The clearing of its forest habitat is the main reason the Fiji banded iguana has declined or disappeared from many islands in its range. Biologists have found it difficult to monitor or study the banded iguana in the wild: the animal is hard to find because it is secretive by nature and its coloring provides excellent camouflaging.

The banded iguana breeds well in captivity, and several zoos currently have breeding programs. If this animal becomes critically endangered in the near future, then captive-bred Fiji banded iguanas may be reintroduced into the wild.