Do iguanas have spinal cords?

Iguanas are a type of lizard that can be found in many different parts of the world. They are popular pets, and people often wonder if they have spinal cords.

The answer is yes – iguanas belong to the vertebrates, which means they have a spine containing a spinal cord. They have at least 24 vertebrae + those in their tail that they might lose and regenerate as cartilage without bones.

Iguanas have many other interesting features that make them unique and special animals. They are one of the few species of lizards that can change color, and they use this ability to regulate their body temperature and even communicate with other iguanas.

They are also one of the few large lizards that can climb trees, and they use this ability to find food and escape predators.

Iguanas is a group of large lizard species from the marine iguana living near the ocean to the green tree climbing iguana seen here.

Iguanas have long, slender bodies with powerful tails. They can grow to be over six feet long, and they weigh anywhere from five to twenty pounds.

Their skin is green or brown, and it has a rough texture. Iguanas have sharp claws on their toes that help them climb trees and escape predators.

They have long, forked tongues that they use to smell things. Iguanas also have movable eyelids and two rows of teeth.

Contrary to what many people think, iguanas and most other lizards do produce saliva, and some species even have venom glands in their mouths that produce a venom of low toxicity that is harmless to humans.

In this post, I will discuss the anatomy of the iguana with a focus on its spine, also known as vertebrae.

However, some would say that one of the most interesting parts of an iguana’s anatomy is its spine. Their spinal cord runs the length of their body, and it helps them move and control their muscles and protect their nerve cells.

These nerve cells that run inside the spine are collectively known as the spinal cord (the collection of nerves leading from the brain to throughout the body from the spine).

The spinal cord is very important for the movement and health of an iguana. It sends signals from the brain to the muscles, and if it is injured, it can cause the iguana to lose control over its body

The vertebrae in an iguana’s spine are also quite interesting. They have a ventral keel, which is a ridge that runs down the center of the bone.

This helps them hold their body upright and makes it easier for them to move around.

How many vertebrae do iguanas have?

Most iguanas have 8 vertebrae in their neck, also known as cervical vertebrae, then they have 14 or 15 (depending on the species) thoracic vertebrae (those spanning the thorax or chest area) and 2 sacral (tail-bone) vertebrae bones, and then a number of bones in the tail. These are called caudal vertebrae and their number vary depending on the size of the iguana.

This results in all iguanas having at least 8+14+2 =24 vertebrae + those in the tail, which may result in up to 40 to 60 in total.

However, if an iguana has lost its tail and regrown it (yes they can do that – I have written about lizard tail regeneration here!) they will not regrow it.

But it does not regrow the bones. The replacement tail will be a long piece of cartilage instead, resulting in even fewer tail vertebrae than before they lost their tail!

The skeleton of a marine iguana reveals its long vertebrae. This one has not previously lost its tail.

The number of vertebrates in iguanas and most lizards are much less than reptiles like snakes that have spinal cords with more than 200 vertebrates!

This makes them more flexible and able to facilitate the movement of organs like the heart in all directions!

Do iguanas have endoskeletons exoskeletons?

In contrast to crabs, crayfish, and lobster, for example, Iguanas have an endoskeleton rather than an exoskeleton. This means their bones are inside their bodies rather than on the outside like an exoskeleton.

An iguana’s endoskeleton is made up of many different bones, including the vertebrae in their spine, their ribs, and their skull.

An endoskeleton is a common feature of all vertebrates, and it helps protect their organs and spinal cord, as well as provides support for their body, and enables them to move more easily.

Endoskeletons allow for more flexibility, while still providing protection for the organs and muscles and also allow animals to move in a wider range of ways.

The endoskeleton is also important for iguanas because it helps them regulate their body temperature in the hot climate they live in.

If they had a hard protective shell surrounding their bodies, they would boil in the sun!

The downside is that they are more prone to getting hurt as they do not have a shell to protect them if they fall or are attacked.


We learned that iguanas are vertebrates, and they have a spinal cord that helps them move and control their muscles.

Iguanas are an important part of the ecosystem, and they play a vital role in keeping the environment healthy.

They help disperse seeds and pollen, and they eat lots of pesky insects that can damage plants.

They are consumers rather than decomposers or producers, being somewhere in the middle of the food chain.

Iguanas are also a food source for many other animals, including large birds (eagles, hawks, owls), jaguars, snakes, and other larger lizards – but they will have to chew through their thick flexible spine!