A Helmeted Iguana Hangs Out in Colombia - Observation of the Week, 5/21/19

Our Observation of the Week is this helmeted iguana, seen in Colombia by @khristimantis!

“I was in a field trip accompanying a herpetology course in a natural reserve called Hacienda San Pedro,” recalls Khristian Venegas Valencia, a biology student at the University of Antioquia in Medellín, Colombia. The reserve is located in the Magdalena Medio, which Khristian says “is today one of the regions most affected by livestock in Colombia [and] a large part of the forests and ecosystems of the region have been reduced or almost completely disappeared. However, thanks to the initiative of some people it is possible to find some relicts of forests that function as sanctuaries and natural reserves that allow the conservation and care of nature.”

During their time in the reserve, Khristian, who is interested in the ecology, conservation, systematics and taxonomy of neotropical amphibians, and his colleagues made some great finds, such as glass frogs and a terciopelo viper. Then,

coincidentally, following the advertising call of a frog of the genus Pristimantis, I came across the [helmted iguana] perched on a branch. It was a fascinating encounter since these organisms are quite difficult to observe and I had not had the opportunity to register one before.

Usually found in trees (when they are found), helmeted iguanas - also called casque headed lizards - rely on the sit-and-wait method of predation, often staying in one place for extended periods of time until suitable prey such as insects, spiders, or other lizards approach. Their lack of motion, in addition to their camouflage, allows these lizards to go unnoticed by both their prey and their predators. Both males and females have a “helmet”, but the male’s is slightly larger.  

“I have always been interested in scientific divulgation and the transmission of information to the community in general,” says Khristian (above, with a helmeted iguana). “I use iNaturalist as a documentation tool and as a source of learning about biodiversity in my country.”


- Helmeted iguanas have been found with plants and fungi growing on them, likely due to their proclivity for remaining motionless for extended periods.

- Slime mold sporangia have also been found on a helmeted iguana! [PDF] 

- If you have always dreamed of seeing a helmeted iguana remain motionless while ants crawled on it and epic choral music swelled in the background, you’re in luck

Posted by tiwane tiwane, May 21, 2019 20:52

Comments

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How exciting! It is very unique looking. Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos and information. It is so fun to see and learn of another wonderful creature on our wondrous planet. Kudos!

Posted by walkingstick2 about 1 month ago (Flag)
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Wow! That is neat!

Posted by koinpro about 1 month ago (Flag)
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What a gorgeous photo. Congratulations on being chosen; a well deserved honor. Keep up the good fight!

Posted by pam-piombino about 1 month ago (Flag)
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Amazing! beautiful photo. You've captured the entire creature so artfully and conveyed such personality. I love this image so much.
So very sad that his habitat is largely destroyed by cattle ranching. Colombia is far too precious to waste on animal agriculture !

Posted by paulinerosen about 1 month ago (Flag)

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