Today, in Florida news that will terrify and puzzle you in equal measure, forecasters are calling for “falling iguanas”
Crocodiles, alligators, invasive pythons, hurricanes, Florida man — the list of things in the Sunshine State that could potentially cause you bodily harm at any given moment is long. And, well, it just grew by one more: large lizards raining down from trees. Yes, this is real and, no, it probably won’t be the strangest thing you ever hear about Florida (this writer is a resident of the state, so I can say that).
But right now, it is a very real issue that the National Weather Service in Miami wants residents and visitors alike to be aware of. On Tuesday evening, the organization issued an unofficial warning as uncharacteristically frigid temps seized South Florida. “This isn’t something we usually forecast, but don’t be surprised if you see Iguanas falling from the trees tonight as lows drop into the 30s and 40s,” NWS Miami tweeted, adding, “Brrr!”
And perhaps anticipating that people would have many, many questions, the weather service included an infographic to explain this weather-induced phenomenon. “Iguanas are cold-blooded. They slow down or become immobile when temps drop into the 40s. They may fall from trees, but they are not dead,” they wrote.
So, if you came here to find out whether the iguanas will be okay (because, SAD), the good news is the lizards could very possibly survive the swift vertical descent from their perches. According to experts interviewed by ABC News during a cold spell in 2010, sudden downshifts in temperature can cause the tropical species to go into a state of hibernation. “It’s almost like they go totally to sleep. Generally speaking, if it warms up quickly afterward, they can recover. But smaller animals sometimes will not recover,” explained Ron Magill of the Miami Zoo.
Fortunately for iguanas — and anyone who could potentially suffer the misfortune of having one fall on their head — warm weather tends to revive these green guys and gals. Once the temperatures rise back to 40 or above, the cold stun will likely subside in animals strong enough to have survived their falls.
In other words, it’s probably not the best idea to go around collecting these lethargic lizards. Magill recounted a story about a man who decided to do just that, tossing the creatures into the back of his pickup truck. Then, as he drove down the highway during improved weather conditions, the iguanas began waking up and trying to escape. As you can imagine, it was likely a traumatic experience for all involved (including the iguanas).
If you still feed a little sad about the poor iguanas whose plummets kill them, well, would it help if we told you they’re an invasive species that can be problematic for the state? While they aren’t dangerous to humans, per se, they do wreak havoc on seawalls, sidewalks, landscapes and more.
Per the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, this non-native species can cause “considerable damage to infrastructure” and could pose a threat to native and endangered species such as tree snails and the Miami Blue butterfly.
Having said that, we admittedly don’t want to see these cool prehistoric creatures fall to their death. Here’s hoping the weather warms up quickly and cold-stunned lizards to go back to their regularly scheduled program of surprising tourists and pooping on docks.