Weather reports in Miami, Florida this week call for cloudy skies, below average temperatures, and a hefty chance of…falling iguanas? Well, according to the National Weather Service for Miami’s Twitter, a chance of snow and a major drop in temperatures means that falling iguanas are surely a possibility.
However, there’s no need to worry about the well-being of these Florida reptiles, as they aren’t dead, but merely paralyzed. It’s definitely one of the weirdest phenomenons that’s brought on by the cold weather but once explained, it does make sense. According to reports from Live Science Magazine, when temperatures drop into the 40’s or lower (Fahrenheit) in Florida, an iguanas metabolism slows down to preserve the animals energy. Depending on how cold it actually is, the metabolism can slow so much that the iguanas become completely “stunned” by the cold, and are left immobile.
This is, however, quite rare for Florida in general, but there have been reports of random storms of “raining iguanas” in the past; such as in 2008 and 2018. Iguana’s more often than not spend the majority of their days and nights in trees where they blend in from predators, but can still catch some sun and find a shelter for sleep. So when they’re in a more relaxed sleep-induced state at night, and their metabolisms begin to drop along with the temperatures, they have a tendency to just succumb to their own weight and fall from the trees; thus creating a “rainstorm” of iguanas.
“Iguanas — and most reptiles — are ectothermic, which means they rely on external temperatures to regulate their own body temperatures. If the weather becomes too cold, iguanas enter a state known as torpor, a type of hibernation in which they conserve precious heat by dramatically slowing down their metabolic functions,” wrote Mindy Weisberger, a Senior Writer at Live Science.
Last week the temperatures in Miami reached 33 degrees Fahrenheit, which prompted a now viral video from Ginger Zee, a chief meteorologist at ABC News, to circulate around the internet. The video from Zee’s Twitter shows camera footage of a frozen iguana with stiffened limbs falling from a tree branch. Zee also mentioned in the tweet that the temperature was the lowest it’s been in Miami in nine years, so this type of bizarre event made a lot of sense to experts.
Specifically, the Green Iguana is the lizard subspecies that is most commonly known for falling out trees and giving Florida residents quite the shock. The species is most commonly found in southern Florida, however, to scientists they’re viewed as an invasive species, as they’re not native to this part of the country.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC), females can lay up to 76 eggs at a time, hence the “invasive” nature of the species. According to their site, the FWCC claims that green iguanas aren’t protected under traditional wildlife protection laws because of their non-native classification; however, they are protected under animal cruelty laws.
When it comes to what Florida residents should do if they see an iguana frozen on the ground, it’s recommended that they just leave them alone, as it doesn’t take that long for the iguanas to reheat and revive their mobility. Unless you find that the iguanas somehow managed to land in a dangerous setting, such as the middle of the road, it’s best to just keep the creatures where they are. Male green iguanas can grow up to 5 feet in length, so it’s unlikely any predators will come out of the woodwork’s to try to hunt them in their frozen state, and if that is the case, it’s best to just let nature take its course. You don’t want to mess with the circle of life anymore than Florida residents want a frozen iguana to land on their head in the middle of winter.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.