Scientific Name: Brachylophus vitiensis
Common Names: Fiji Crested Iguana, Fijian Crested Iguana
Geographic Range: Islands of Fiji
Life Span: 10 – 15 Years
Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
Top 10 List
1. As their name suggests, Fiji Crested Iguanas Have Crests Down Their Back
When Fiji Crested Iguanas first hatch, they are born a darker green colour, but after a couple hours they lighten up to an emerald green that will be their permanent colour. They have three white bands that run down their back, that are often bordered in black. Around their nostrils and front of the mouth, there are often yellow patches. From their neck to the base of their tail run 1/2 inch spiny crests. They can grow to be 30 inches including their tail, and not measuring their tail they are 9.5 inches long. They weigh around 300 g (0.66 lbs).
2. Both Their Scientific Name and Common Name Have A Meaning
Their common name, Fiji Crested Iguana, is quite simple to figure out. They have 1/2 inch crests that run down their backs, and they are only found in various Fiji Islands.
The generic name for this iguana is Brachylophus which is made up of two words. Brachys which means short, and lophus which means crest or plume. This describes the short crests running down their back.
The specific name, vitiensis, is a Latin adjective derived from the Latin word for Fiji, which is where they are located.
3. The Fiji Crested Iguana Was Discovered Because Of A Movie
The Fiji Crested Iguana was discovered in 1979 by Dr John Gibbons. He was invited to a screening of the movie ‘Blue Lagoon’, and the movie showed scenes of this new ‘crested’ iguana. Dr John realized the iguanas shown were different than the Fiji Banded Iguana that he was currently studying. He then traveled to the island the movie was filmed on to identify the new species.
4. They Are Only Found On Certain Fiji Islands
These iguanas are endemic to Fiji, meaning they can only be naturally found on the Islands of Fiji. They used to be found on 14 of the islands, but now are only found on 3 islands. Most of the population can be found on one island – the island of Yadua Taba. Due to the fact that Fiji Crested Iguanas are critically endangered, the island is a protected sanctuary and you must get permission from the National Trust of Fiji in order to visit. The islands that they live on are made up of mostly tropical, dry forests like the rain shadow forests found on Fiji islands.
5. Fiji Crested Iguanas Are Mainly Herbivores
Fiji crested iguanas are mainly herbivores, feeding on various shoots, leaves, and fruits found around the islands. However, they are known to occasionally consume small insects. Their favourite food of all is the sweet hibiscus flowers from the Vau tree, where they are often seen hanging out.
6. Fiji Crested Iguana Eggs Can Take Up To 9 Months To Incubate
Mating season for the crested iguana is from March to April. After this the female will lay on average 4 leathery eggs in a nest, that she will then guard until the babies have hatched. A couple weeks before hatching, the eggs will have a brown oval appear on the top of them, and this is where the iguana will begin to emerge from when it’s time to hatch. In one of the longest incubation times for reptiles, the eggs can incubate for up to 9 months.
It can take the babies a full day to hatch and fully emerge from the egg, and the first thing they often do is find some water to drink from.
7. The Biggest Threat To Their Survival Is Habitat Loss
Fiji Crested Iguanas are a critically endangered species, and the biggest threat to their survival is habitat loss. This includes problems caused by goats, fires, storms, and land that is converted for agriculture.
Introduced predators such as rats, cats, and mongooses are also known to prey on both the iguana and their eggs, further decreasing the population. They also used to be hunted for food by humans.
Collection for the pet trade is strictly prohibited, however that does not stop poachers from trying.
8. The Fijian Name For Iguana Is Vokai
The Fijian name for iguana is Vokai, however some tribes also call them Samuri. Two Fijian tribes refer to the iguana as their totem, and their name may not be spoken in the presence of a woman. If the name is spoken the person who has spoken the name is punished.
Many Fijians are wary or scared of the crested iguana due to their intense behavior when threatened.
9. Fiji Crested Iguanas Have A Pretty Impressive Display When Threatened
Crested Iguanas are diurnal animals, meaning they are awake during the day. They live in the shades of the trees, and on cooler days will lay out in the sun in order to warm up. They are arboreal, and use their long toes and tails to stay balanced as they move from tree to tree.
When threatened, the iguana will change colour depending on the threat level. A nice bright green is their normal colour when relaxed, a dark green means they are starting to get upset, and black means they feel extremely threatened. If this colour change doesn’t deter the threat, they will expand their necks, bob their head, and pounce towards the threat in an effort to scare it off.
10. Crested Iguanas and Banded Iguanas Are Often Mistaken For The Other
Due to their extreme similarities, crested iguanas and banded iguanas are often mixed up. They have a very similar appearance, as well as both being from Fiji. However, crested iguanas have smaller white bands, while the banded iguana has larger, blue-ish bands down their back. The crested iguana also has crests running down their back, and in general are larger than the banded iguanas.
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