The National Weather Service Miami-South Florida warned the public on Sunday (January 30) that immobilized iguanas could fall from trees due to cold temperatures across the region.
“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,” the service said on Twitter.
Zoologist Stacey Cohen, a reptile expert at Palm Beach Zoo in Florida, explained the phenomenon to ABC affiliate WPBF.
“Their bodies basically start to shut down where they lose their functions and so they are up in the trees on the branches sleeping and then because it gets so cold, they lose that ability to hang on and then they do fall out of trees a lot,” Cohen said.
Although most of the reptiles will likely survive this period of immobilization, Cohen said freezing temperatures were a threat to their survival and pointed to a cold snap in 2010 that wiped out a large number of the population.
“Cold is a very, very life-threatening thing for them because they are from parts of Central and South America close to the equator where it always stays very warm,” she said.
According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in South Florida reached a low of 25 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 4 Celsius) on Sunday morning, and high temperatures on Sunday were expected to remain in the upper 50s to low 60s (10-15 Celsius).