Iguana is a genus of herbivorous lizards native to tropical areas of Mexico, Central America, several islands in Polynesia such as Fiji and Tonga, and the Caribbean. The genus was first described in 1768 by Austrian naturalist Josephus Nicolaus Laurenti in his book Specimen Medicum, Exhibens Synopsin Reptilium Emendatam cum Experimentis circa Venena. Two species are included in the genus Iguana: the green iguana, which is widespread throughout its range and a popular pet, and the Lesser Antillean iguana, which is endemic to the Lesser Antilles and endangered due to habitat destruction.
The word "iguana" is derived from a Spanish form of the original Taino name for the species, iwana.
In addition to the two species in the genus Iguana, several other related genera in the same family have common names of the species including the word "iguana".
Strolling around the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas, the iguana is the most common creature you’ll spot scampering across roads and fences. These scaly lizards range in shades of green, gray and black and can grow up to six feet long. Iguanas are legally protected in the U.S. Virgin Islands, it’s against the law to kill them, which is why you’ll often see them slithering across cafe tables and chairs. At the Sugar Bay Resort on the east end of St. Thomas, you can grab and up close and personal wild iguana encounter at the resort’s daily iguana feedings.
If you venture too close, they may whip their tails around, which is a warning that claims their territory. Iguanas are vegetarians that eat leaves, fruit and flowers. These creatures especially love cherries, pomegranates and anything red, which you might discover the hard way if you are dressed in bright red garments. You can attempt to feed them a leaf or two by hand but they munch rather ominously and can’t differentiate where the food stops and a finger begins.