While some of the wildlife of Costa Rica is tricky to locate and photograph, there are some which are quite ubiquitous – lizards. They range from  tiny geckos  to the giant of Costa Rica, the green iguana.   They share the following traits:

  • Coloring is usually inconspicuous, earth and green tones, providing  camouflage
  • Lizard skin is covered with scales to retain water
  • Tails can de dropped as a defense mechanism against predators.  It is painful but better than the alternative and a new, smaller tail will eventually regrow
  • They are diurnal (active during the day) and eat insects

The lizards I encountered required absolutely no discovery work – they are JUST THERE.  As far as the tiny geckoes, it is actually lucky for them that I carried a flashlight at night so I saw them scurrying about rather than finding them by seeing a detached  tail under my boot:


The second gecko was a very cheeky fellow as he kept bobbing his head at me in an aggressive posture.  Sorry, fella you are just too  cute to be scary.

There was no danger of accidentally stepping on the most visible lizard, the green iguana – they are huge.  Adult males can grow to over 6 feet in length, including a long whiplike tail.  Green iguanas can  actually range in color from grayish green to bright orange-red.  

Despite their size and sometimes fearsome looks, the green iguanas are almost exclusively herbivorous with an occasional treat of insects.  They are proficient swimmers but are  often found in the canopies of the rainforest. The iguanas are so hardy a 50 foot fall will not harm them. Spiky claws on the hind legs help them to be very skilled climbers.



I was curious about that large protuberance below the green iguana’s face:

It’s called a subtympanic shield, named for being below the ear of the iguana.  According to a number of sources, there does not appear to be a specific purpose for this growth other than  a possible predator deterrent display similar to the large eyes on a Morpho butterfly’s wing.

Now my brain can tell me these are harmless herbivores, but their sharp claws and spines  along their back  harken back to the age of the dinosaur, so seeing them on the ground did produce some spikes of adrenaline:

But, I am a nature photographer,. So I plucked up my courage to shoot this brief video:




  1. Good Morning Cindy,
    We have lots of Iguanas in Southwest Florida and they have become real pests. Not being indigenous to the area they are a danger to local wildlife, particularly birds. (They eat the birds eggs.) I wish we could send them all back south of the Mexican border and beyond. Karin Weber

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