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Remembering Stella by Author Elaine A. Powers

Head of elderly green iguana

Stella, a longtime companion.

By Author Elaine A. Powers

I’ve always been a reptile person. I operated a reptile rescue in New Jersey for several years. I’m a retired biologist and, while writing science-based children’s books was inspired by a tiny curly-tail lizard, I do love the big lizards. My Don’t Series of rhyming “desert books” are the most popular, followed by the Curtis Curly-tail Adventure Series, but I’ve written a book about the endangered rock iguanas of Cayman Brac called Silent Rocks and The “Dragon” of Nani Cave is actually an iguana. Maybe someday I’ll write a story that includes Stella, a green iguana, who came to live with me in New Jersey many years ago. Today, I’m remembering her.

A vet in PA had contacted me about taking in an iguana once he had her stabilized. I ran a rescue with the philosophy that I would always make room for an iguana in real need of a place to live. This included healthy iguanas who would need new homes, and being a long-term home for iguanas who needed a forever home.
Stella was found in a neighborhood known for drug business. Her tail had been chewed by dogs, probably a drug dealer’s guard dogs. She was taken to a local vet, who wasn’t convinced she would survive her injuries. He amputated at least three feet of her tail and put her on antibiotics. Once she was ready to be released, she came to live with me. She must have been a magnificent specimen in her prime, at least six feet long and a vibrant lime green.

The chewed and amputated tail of a green iguana
Stella’s amputated tail

She was left with a stump the vet had sewn shut. He didn’t believe she would regenerate her tail as iguanas are capable of doing, but she did, squeezing out a thin tail between the sutures. Unfortunately, this made the tail very flimsy and eventually it snapped off. She didn’t miss it.
Her health improved under my care. She even produced eggs the following year, which I found annoying. She wasn’t healthy enough yet to handle the stress of producing and laying eggs, but it did show that her body was healing and trying to do what iguanas do. The eggs were infertile, of course.
I provided forever homes to special iguanas and decided that Stella would become a permanent member of my household. She was a regular at my educational talks, always popular with the audience. When I moved to AZ, she of course came with me. She continued her outreach activities.

The swollen eye of a green iguana with high blood pressure
High blood pressure reflected in Stella’s eye

Sadly, a few years ago, the nictitating membrane on her eye become swollen with blood. This is a transparent eyelid that protects iguana eyes. I was afraid it would rupture and she’d lose her eye or a lot of blood. The vet diagnosed her with high blood pressure and she was put on medication. Sadly, the swelling continued so she couldn’t be used for outreach anymore, but she lived a happy life, next to her BFF, Ezra. Since she had high blood pressure, the vet decided to try a new instrument on her, a tiny sphygmomanometer. Yes, a tiny blood pressure cuff like those used on people. It worked! It showed she did have high blood pressure.
Stella was a do-her-own-thing type of gal, but every now and then she’d want to cuddle and I treasured those moments. A few times, I was certain her adventuresome life was coming to an end, only to have her rally and continue on for a few more years. She was estimated to be thirty years old when she recently passed peacefully in her sleep.
Stella’s body is being donated to an educational program that prepares skeletons from reptiles. She will continue to teach and her story shared. Stella would be pleased.
Rest in peace, dear friend. You are missed.

From the Curtis Curly-tail Series mentioned above:

children's book cover illustration with iguanas and curly-tail lizard
The fourth in the Curtis Curly-tail Adventure Series. Have some fun while learning science!
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What’s in a Name? Do You Mean the Common Name or the Scientific Name? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

In my stories and picture books published here by Lyric Power Publishing LLC, I include the scientific names, along with the common names, of the animals and plants I write about. Sometimes, I have to use different common names because each locale has its own unique twist. Like the gumbo limbo tree is also called red bird, and the banaquit is the banana bird.

I learned this doing my research while writing my children’s story called Grow Home, Little Seeds, which is a tale of friendship and of establishing one’s own home, told from the point of view of a bundle of tree seeds. I weave science into story because it makes the science fun and it tends to stick that way. The seeds have a great adventure finding their way together, and they are sweetly illustrated by artist and illustrator, Monique Carroll. Her beautiful botanical illustrations of the trees are featured in the Seed Appendix in the back of the book, which lists both the common and scientific names of all the trees. The book is a great tool for teaching children about trees and the need for their own micro-environments.

a book cover of a nature preserve, where seeds are cultivated. Seeds are drawn as cute characters
A Lyric Power Publishing book about seeds longing for a home. Yes, all of life longs to find its own special place to belong.

Scientists prefer to use taxonomic names because common names are often different from each other, while scientific names are consistent around the world. Scientific names consist of the genus and species, with a descriptive term from Latin or Greek. The genus comes before the species level. Members of a genus are species with common features.  Members of a genus can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.

A species is defined as a group of organisms that can reproduce with each other in nature and produce fertile offspring. It is the most basic category in the taxonomic system. When writing an organism’s scientific name, the genus name is capitalized, and the species name is written in lower case letters.

But scientific names can be changed as well. The fish, the guppy, that I did my master’s research project on was originally named Poecilia reticulata but was also known as Lebistes reticulatus when I was doing my research. Things can get confusing when the taxonomers can’t agree if a group of fish are the same species. Fortunately, DNA identification has helped clear up some of the confusion.

I encourage you to take the time to learn the scientific names of the living organisms all around you. It’s actually lots of fun once you get started learning them. I’ll start you off with an easy one here, the green iguana, Algae, pictured below, whose scientific name is Iguana iguana.

Green Iguana, Algae, on an enclosure.
Algae, a green iguana I rescued and brought home with me, is an Iguana iguana

a book cover featuring a blue iguana, listing all of the work and activity sheets includedYou can learn all about iguanas in the Lyric Power Publishing workbook, My Unit Study on Iguanas. The scientific name for the Grand Cayman blue iguana featured on the cover is Cyclura lewisi. The workbooks and activity sheets published by LPP are fun and interesting and help support educational goals at school and at home. They are downloaded once, and you can print as many copies as you’d like.

MY UNIT STUDY ON IGUANAS is thirty pages of iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, and create an iguana puzzle.

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July 11: National Cheer Up The Lonely Day by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Photo of single iguana on white bay cay

As social animals, all humans get lonely every now and then. But when I think of true loneliness, I think of an iguana on White Bay Cay in the Bahamas. The Bahamas have a variety of rock iguanas (Cyclura), but they are not found on all the islands.  Some are restricted to one island or cay.

The Exuma Island iguanas, Cyclura cychlura figginsi, are found in the Exuma island chain. They are critically endangered in their home range, due to irresponsible people who insist on having one for their own collection, depleting the low numbers in the wild.

It’s suspected that the lonely iguana was probably lizardnapped and taken aboard a boat. Sometime during the voyage, she escaped from confinement and leapt overboard. Being an excellent swimmer, she swam to the nearest island. Fortunately, the plants were sufficient for her needs.

But she’s the only iguana on this island, with no way of rejoining her kind or any of them joining her. Whenever I think I’m lonely, I think of this beauty on White Bay Cay–left alone because of irresponsible humans.

I write about the dangers iguanas endure in two of my books: a fun fictional adventure for ages ten+, called Curtis Curly-tail is Lizardnapped; and a nonfiction book for all ages about the serious decline of the Sister Island Rock Iguanas,  Silent Rocks.  

I also love to help animals and people who are struggling. Loneliness is a part of being on Earth at this time. Can you make a phone call to check on someone, drop off a dinner perhaps–think of anything you can do to cheer up a lonely neighbor? We can each do small things to make a difference for others, humans and/or animals, in our own ways.

Here are links to the books I mentioned.

a children's book cover, blue and white, with several curly-tail lizards on the cover
Curtis Curly-tail becomes the unfortunate victim of poachers,
along with other protected animals. Who will save them?
An Adventure Tale
For Readers Age 10+
Lovely Colored Pencil
Illustrations by
Jessica Minns
30 Pages
In the third book of the series, the very curious Curtis Curly-tail mistakes a poacher for a tourist wanting to snap a picture of his perfectly-curled tail. Instead, he is captured, along with critically endangered native plants, Conch and Iguanas.
Together the animals plot their escape from the dangerous poachers. Who will help them? How will they get free of the cages on a boat and return home safely to Warderick Wells?
cover of book "Silent Rocks." white background, rock iguana pictured in natural habitat on island Cayman Brac
The population of the endemic Sister Island Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) on Cayman Brac is in serious decline. These vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. The reduction in population is the result of human activity on their habitat and the threats can only be eliminated by human action.
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How Many Eyes Does An Iguana Have? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

photo of third eye of rhini iguana

When giving talks to people about reptiles, a question is asked of the audience: How many eyes do iguanas have? The majority quickly respond “two.” An obvious choice. However, when asked if there are other answers, a tentative “four” is offered? People then look uncertain. The correct answer is three!

The third eye is located on the top of the iguana’s head is and is call the Parietal Eye.  It doesn’t have an eyelid nor is it able to focus but it responds to changes in light and can detect movement.

photo of third eye of green iguana

People have on these “third eyes” as well, but the skull is in the way. It’s called the Pineal Gland. The iguana’s third eye helps with Circadian Rhythm and danger from above. It’s helpful to have a warning when a hawk or snake is coming down. Everything eats an iguana.

The next time you are fortunate enough to be near iguanas, or other lizards, look at the top of their heads. You might see an interesting dome.  Now, you’ll know it’s the very handy “third” eye.

For more information about iguanas, check out the iguana workbook, My Unit Study on Iguanas. LOTS of fun, educational activities in this 30-page workbook.

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The Right Words Make All the Difference by Elaine A. Powers, Author

a woman stands by a caution sign for iguanas in the road
Tanja shows the ineffective signs
Iguana conservationists were excited when road signs where put up on the Sisters Islands of the Cayman Islands, reminding drivers to slow down to protect the endemic iguanas, which unfortunately, enjoy the warmth of the roads and bask on them. Given enough warning, which happens when cars approach at the speed limit, the large lizards can get off the road.  Many iguanas have lost their tails to car tires, but they did survive. Unfortunately, far too many drivers don’t care if they hit an iguana or two as they drive along. They could be speeding, looking at their cell phones, or sadly, some aim for the lizards. Residents hoped the signs would help save lives. Despite the signs, iguanas continued to die on the roads of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. What was needed? Additional signs were put up. School children were educated in the hopes that concern would spread within families. Then someone had an idea: Maybe the folks on the islands didn’t realize how unique these lizards are because they see them day in and day out. So, the signs were redesigned. The new signs emphasize that the Sister Isle Rock Iguana is an endangered species. They were installed along with the powerful hope that this news will get people’s attention. Another proposal was suggested that I really liked: Have the islands’ children design warning signs that are then installed along the roads. People would be delighted to see their relatives’ work and slow down to look at them. Education and responsibility are needed to help SIRIs survive in the only places they live on this earth. Humans can harm or help, and it is hoped drivers on the islands will slow down, even stop, for these special and endangered large lizards.
A woman and man stand near a Give Way to Iguanas sign
Tanja and Greg show off the new “Give Way to Rock Iguanas” sign

Why not count/sort/puzzle over iguanas, instead of apples? Big lizards are very interesting and a lot of fun to color! This inexpensive, yet wonderfully designed 30-page workbook is chock full of fun and educational activities. Get yours today!

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Oxidative Stress Happens to All Animals by Elaine A. Powers, Author

a green colored iguana lying on a tree branchToday we hear about oxidative stress and anti-oxidants. One of the parameters measured on animals in field research is oxidative stress. Reactive oxygen species are quantified, or measured. Do you know what these terms mean and why they are so important?

As we learned in science class, atoms such as oxygen are made up of a nucleus with protons and neutrons, with electrons spinning around it. But oxygens don’t keep tight control of their electrons and they tend to bind to other atoms. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons.  This uneven number allows them to easily react with other molecules. These reactions are called oxidation.

Oxidation is a normal process in bodily functions. Free radicals help fight off pathogens which cause infections and damage to fatty tissue, DNA and proteins. Oxidative stress happens when there’s an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity. An antioxidant is a molecule that is able to donate an electron to a free radical without destabilizing itself.  The donation stabilizes the free radical, so it becomes less reactive.

But it’s not just humans that get oxidative stress – all animals do.  Nowadays, along with measuring an iguana for the usual length and weight, they are often examined for oxidative stress. Are our human activities increasing the oxidative stress in the native animals around us?  Sadly, yes. And it’s having negative effects on their health, as well.

I’ll be including some of these negative effects in upcoming books, such as Curtis Curly-tail Goes to the Doctor. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn about the what is being done to save the endangered Sister Island Rock Iguana, please read my book, Silent Rocks. It is for sale at Amazon.

cover of book "Silent Rocks." white background, rock iguana pictured in natural habitat on island Cayman Brac
The population of the endemic Sister Island Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) on Cayman Brac is in serious decline. These vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. The reduction in population is the result of human activity on their habitat and the threats can only be eliminated by human action.
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Lots of New Science Fun with Four New Books at Lyric Power Publishing!

Lyric Power Publishing LLC is proud to announce the arrival of four new books! Here at LPP we love weaving science into adventure tales and rhyming books. We love colorful, exciting illustrations. We hope you will enjoy three wonderful new additions to our book catalog and a special guest listing for Ricky Ricordi.

olive green book cover with illustrations of a hickatee and a sea turtle
The Cayman Islands have turtles that live both on land and in the sea. Hickatee lives on land and doesn’t belong in the sea, like the sea turtles. Do you know the differences? Come inside and learn about turtles, especially the marvelous hickatee.

 

A book cover with a blue sky, white clouds and brown booby birds on the beach
Meet the Brown Booby, a large sea bird which is a year-round resident only of Cayman Brac, They are not found at all in Grand Cayman or Little Cayman. These birds are a spectacular sight, soaring and gliding along the Bluff edge and the shore, diving for fish to feed their young, perching on rocks in the sun, then returning to their nesting colonies. With only about forty nesting pairs on the Brac, they are protected by Cayman law.

 

A golden orange book cover with a green catfish on the cover
Clarissa Catfish liked her new home at the Peoria Playhouse Children’s Museum, but she couldn’t see the exhibits or the children in her tank. How can a catfish see the sights when she needs to stay in the water? Come inside to find out and join Clarissa as she explores the marvelous museum.

 

a book cover of boy in jungle with iguana on shoulder
When Lorenzo finds an iguana in his garden, he has loads of fun bonding with his new pet, but soon realizes that the animal belongs in the wild.
Dominican children’s author Nelia Barletta recently released a second children’s book, RICKY RICORDI: THE ADVENTURES OF AN IGUANA, which educates children about conservation and the protection of endangered animals of the Dominican Republic. The book focuses on the Ricordi iguana, an endemic species of the Caribbean island and features illustrations by Argentinian artist/children’s illustrator Juan Manuel Moreno.
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Ricky Ricordi: The Adventures of An Iguana by Nelia Barletta now Available at Lyric Power Publishing

a book cover of boy in jungle with iguana on shoulderWhen Lorenzo finds an iguana in his garden, he has fun bonding with his new
pet, but soon realizes that the animal belongs in the wild.

Lyric Power Publishing, along with John Binns of the IRCF, recently assisted Dominican children’s author Nelia Barletta in the publication of the English version of her book about Ricky Ricordi. The delightful illustrations were created by Argentinian artist/children’s illustrator Juan Manuel Moreno. The English version is now available on Amazon.com.

Ricky Ricordi: The Adventures of an Iguana focuses on the Ricordi iguana, an endemic species of the Dominican Republic. The goal of this book is to educate children about conservation and the protection of endangered animals of the Dominican Republic. However, people around the world will enjoy this adventure tale.

Proceeds from the book are donated to Fundacion Abriendo Camino, an organization working to support disadvantaged children in Villas Agricolas, a marginalized neighborhood in Santo Domingo.

We encourage you to read this great adventure tale that is both entertaining and educational. Any story about an iguana is worthwhile reading!

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The Honduran Bay Islands Iguanas Need Protection by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Infographic with woman holding Spiny-tail Iguana
My all-time favorite Spiny-tailed iguana, Krinkle, who died earlier this year. He is greatly missed.

Attending an IUCN ISG meeting, I had the chance to visit the Bay Islands, in northern Honduras.  The endemic iguanas need protection there.  I had previously been told that is was safe to visit the Bay Islands (Islas de la Bahia), and that most people spoke English in a country whose first language was Spanish.

The primary islands of Utila, Roatan, and Guanaja are located in the Caribbean Sea. The Bay Islands were first noted by Columbus in 1502 and were settled in 1642 by English buccaneers. Great Britain annexed them in 1852 but ceded them to Honduras in 1859. Many tourists visit the islands today for scuba diving.

Roatan Spiny Tailed Iguana
Roatan Spiny Tailed Iguana

My interest is, of course, iguanas. All the iguanas found in Honduras need protection. Roatán Spiny-tailed Iguanas (Ctenosaura oedirhina) are found only in one place in the world: on the island of Roatán. On Utila, there are three native iguanas, but only one is endemic: The Útila Spiny-tailed Iguana (Ctenosaura bakeri), or “Swamper,” as it is known locally. Swampers are the only iguana that live in mangrove swamps. They prefer the black mangroves, (Avicennia germinans), which have crevices for hiding.

Swamper Iguana
Swamper Iguana

Hopefully, people within and outside of Honduras will work together for their conservation.

To learn more about these fascinating really big lizards, why not download our workbook full of fun and educational activity sheets, called My Unit Study on Iguanas?

a white and light blue book cover with an image of an iguana's head

See all of our comprehensive workbooks here.

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National Cat Herder’s Day is Upon Us! By Elaine A. Powers, Author

image four young kittens in a soft container
Image Courtesy of David Mark from Pixabay

I ran a rescue for green iguanas when I lived in New Jersey.  I was listed on the website Petfinders.com and was on speed dial for most of the animal control facilities and rescue organizations in the Tristate area.

Thus, I had a steady stream of iguanas pass through my house.  And I sometimes got calls from people needing a rescue for other species of animals.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t take those animals in–only iguanas. I did know of many agencies who could help them, however.

On two occasions, I found myself taking in a litter of kittens. I am not a fan of cats. Sure, they’re soft and interesting, but I prefer their reptilian counterpart, the iguana. But a friend had made emergency rescues and the kittens had no place else to go. Allegedly.

Cats are not iguanas and may I point out that they are iguana predators.  I intended to keep the kittens confined in my second bathroom and away from my pets, who might be considered prey. The first few days went well, with the cats living and eating contentedly in their bathroom world.  I sat with them and let them interact with me, so it’s not like I ignored them.

Inevitably, their curiosity got the better of them. At first, one at a time would try to dash out the door when I opened it. The escapee was easily caught and returned to the group. Until the day, I opened the door and all four rushed me! They jumped, scrambled and successfully eluded me.

Defeated, I let them roam the house but kept a close eye on feline-reptile interactions. Fortunately, I was soon able to place all four kittens to great forever homes.

Good thing, because I am a lousy cat herder, which I freely admit on National Cat Herder’s Day. 

Lyric Power Publishing is proud to publish the book Silent Rocks, about the endangered Rock Iguanas on Cayman Brac, and how to save them.

cover of book "Silent Rocks." white background, rock iguana pictured in natural habitat on island Cayman Brac
The population of the endemic Sister Island Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) on Cayman Brac is in serious decline. These vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. The reduction in population is the result of human activity on their habitat and the threats can only be eliminated by human action.
A woman holds a five-foot rock iguana in her living room
Now THIS is more like it–me with five foot rock iguana, Blue.