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Your Letters: Crap-Eating Iguana Confusion and Boats to Nome

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I’ve started reading Greenfriar on account of my friend and Joshua Tree neighbor Chris Clarke (the Best Writer On The Internet), and I saw your piece about hatchling iguanas eating mom’s poop. Allow me to clear up a couple of misconceptions.

First, as much as I enjoyed seeing mention of Stan Fox—a mentor of mine when I taught at Oklahoma State in the 90s—the iguana in your kid’s classromm was almost certainly a green iguana, and poop-eating in baby green iguanas has been known since a 1984 paper by Karen Troyer.

What green igs and Stan’s Liolaemus (a very distant relative) have in common is that, unusually for lizards, they both eat plants. The benefit to young lizards in eating mom’s poop is not nutrients (think about it … it’s already been digested and the good stuff extracted) nor microbes that boost the immune system (not sure where that idea cane from … colostrum?), but rather it’s how they obtain the bacteria and other microbes—the so-called ‘gut flora’—that allow them to digest and obtain energy from the cellulose in plant fiber.

Keep up the otherwise good work!
Charlie Peterson

Dear Charlie,

Thanks for the information! I was hoping somebody would make better sense of my kids’ foul story than I could. They couldn’t even remember what zoo had done the program. Children are essentially unreliable. (more…)