Iguanas are coldblooded animals. And when they get super cold, they have a tendency to topple over from trees and plunge to the ground.
Don’t worry, those frigid lizards aren’t dead. They are frozen in a pose that’s both comical and vital for their survival.
When temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, iguanas go into a dormant (or cold-stunned) state. It is their bodies’ way of protecting them until the temperature warms back up above 50 degrees.
They’re still breathing, with critical body functions still operating.
“They may fall from trees, but they are not dead,” the National Weather Service in Miami has said.
The concern for people is iguanas often sleep in trees. So when cold, paralyzed lizards seemingly fall from the sky during their slumber, they can smack streets, cars or even people walking around.
And since iguanas are large – adult males can reach 5 feet in length, and weigh up to 20 pounds – this can be dangerous if one lands on top of you.
Severe cold can be hazardous to iguanas, too. If temperatures stay in the 40s or colder for longer than eight hours, some iguanas will die – especially the smaller ones.
“The temperature threshold for when iguanas begin to go into a dormant state depends greatly on the size of the iguana,” said Ron Magill, communications director for Zoo Miami.
“Generally speaking, the larger the iguana, the more cold it can tolerate for longer periods.”
Even if temperatures stay in the 40s or colder for long periods of time, some iguanas have apparently figured out ways to survive. Many iguanas in South Florida have delved deep into burrows, where they stay insulated from the cold.