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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 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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Are Racer Snakes Increasing as Invasive Green Iguanas Have? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Cayman Racer snake on cement
Cayman Racer snake image courtesy of www.thecaymanislands.ky

I like to write about topics to educate or share an interest of mine.  In today’s installment, I want to pose a question, one to which we may never know the answer.  As part of native iguana conservation, a great deal of effort is currently spent eradicating invasive green iguanas.  Green iguanas have been introduced, either accidentally or intentionally, in many places where they didn’t live.  As a result, these lizards become pests, destroying the vegetation, out competing the native animals for resources, and even eliminating species through hybridization.

One such place is the island of Grand Cayman. Grand is the largest of the three islands that make up the country of the Cayman Islands, located south of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea.  It is about 76 square miles in size.  Green iguanas found Grand to be paradise and soon their population increased to 1.5 million invasive lizards on this island. If you do the math, that comes out to 20,000 green iguanas per square mile! There are only 53,000 people in that same area.

The removal of the iguanas is the topic of other posts here, but a question came up during the discussion of the invasive lizards the other day.  On Grand Cayman, there are native predators of iguanas and other lizards, which include the endemic Cayman Racer (Alsophis cantherigerus caymanus). These snakes can grow to over four feet but are usually smaller. Fortunately, these snakes have been shown to enjoy the invasive iguanas in addition to their native lizard prey.

The question that arose is: With the increase in the number of prey lizards, did the population of racers increase as well?  And if they did, how will removing the excess invasive iguanas affect the snake population? Unfortunately, racers are killed by people’s pets, their dogs and cats, like many other animals, but maybe the extra green-iguana food helped increased their numbers in spite of this. An interesting question, don’t you think? And what will happen to their populations when the invasives are under control? Will the snake numbers dwindle?

We may never know, but situations like this remind us of the impact we humans have on ecosystems. We introduce indiscriminate predators with our pets, we introduce invasive species that affect ecosystems, and we destroy habitats with our buildings. We need to be aware of what we are doing and pay attention to how we affect the natural homes and environments of the animals that called all of these places home before we did.

Is the cold weather keeping you indoors? Children will enjoy continuing their education by working the activity sheets and coloring pages in our fun, comprehensive and interesting supplemental workbooks, such as these pictured below.

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

A book cover, dotted background, orange letters My Book About Rattlesnakes of the United States, with a list of all rattlers

a blue and turquoise book cover with an image of Cayman Islands passport cover

A light blue and white book cover with an image of multi-colored river rocks
The Rock Cycle cut and paste project in this lesson comes from this workbook. It also includes work pages on rock collecting.
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Saving the World’s Fauna and Flora by Elaine a. Powers, Author

Image of dark blue mountains against lighted sky, with words for IUCNOnce a year I travel to an “exotic” location–not to play, but to work with the IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, for iguana conservation. The IUCN is a democratic union comprised of influential organizations, both governmental and public, and top conservation experts, in a combined effort to conserve nature and enable sustainable development. There are more than 1300 member organizations and more than 15,000 experts. These members make the IUCN the global authority on the status of the natural world and what is needed to protect it.

I am thrilled to be part of this organization and hope I contribute in my own small way to the important work they do. Their website: https://www.iucn.org/.

Header for website CITESAnother important organization for the worldwide protection of wildlife is CITES, The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. CITES publishes a voluntary international agreement that provides a framework for the parties to adopt their own domestic national legislation. So far, 183 parties have joined together. More information is available at: https://www.cites.org/eng/.

a white and light blue book cover with an image of an iguana's headThirty fun pages all about iguanas!

NOTE: Iguanas are among my very favorite animals because of their intelligence, strength, and when domesticated, their affection toward their caretakers. Their personalities are fascinating and unique, and sometimes I think they can read minds! To learn more about these amazing reptiles, please enjoy our comprehensive workbook and activity sheets, My Unit Study on Iguanas.

To see all of Lyric Power Publishing’s fun, educational workbooks, go to the Our Workbooks tab.

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Claiming Who I Am by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A collage of 12 colorful children's book coversLyric Power Publishing represents three authors at this time, though my books make up the largest quantity of LPP’s published works. Perhaps the parents and grandparents reading this will consider giving one or two of our wonderful children’s books (that are enjoyed by adults, too) this Christmas. With these books, kids learn that science is fun!~~EAP

I recently traveled to a foreign country (a pretty common event for me).  On the immigration form, countries often ask for your profession. During my life’s work, I put biologist. I was a laboratory researcher. On one trip to Africa, I think that admission got me thoroughly searched. Upon my return, I declared I had purchased some sine wood carvings. Every item and the suitcases themselves were thoroughly searched. They suspected I had brought back some illegal samples of something. Nope, just a few nice carvings done by a local craftsman.

After I took early retirement, I put down “retired” as my profession, even though I was actively writing and trying to build my book business.

The author Elaine A. Powers head shot against a green background
(Made by the author’s proud website staff for her. She is also a wonderful employer.)

So, for the first time, on this last trip, I put down “Author” as my profession. I don’t know why it’s been so hard for me to consider myself a professional writer. I have always loved science, and I recently realized that the enjoyment I get from writing and sharing about science has made my book business into a real business. I really, truly am an author.

Come join me in my adventure. Share your thoughts with me in a comment below and on Facebook here and here and here. Read my books that weave science into poetry and adventure tales, making science fun. Science should be fun! Check out Lyric Power Publishing’s workbooks, which tie into LPP’s books, and are so well made by a teacher’s teacher. We are very proud of them here. They are extensive, multi-subject with a focus–like iguanas! We say, “Why not do math counting iguanas?

a white and light blue book cover with an image of an iguana's headFor educators and homeschooling parents, LPP offers a 30-page workbook called My Unit Study on Iguanas designed for students in grades 2-4. It’s filled with fun and educational pages and puzzles, all about the iguana.

a light brown book cover with green lettering: Queen of the Night: Night Blooming Cereus, with illustration of a white flower
Biologist and Author Elaine A. Powers includes both scientific facts and the magic of this Southwestern Desert plant in her book, QUEEN OF THE NIGHT: THE NIGHT-BLOOMING CEREUS. Powers says being a musician helped her to weave into poetry the plant parts, the blooming cycle, the plant’s growing conditions, and its pollinators. This wonderful book about a very special plant in the Sonoran Desert is for all ages.

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Visiting with Friends on Cayman Brac by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Usually when I travel, if I’ve been to a place once, that’s good for me. Time to move on to the next location on my “to-visit” list. But I have a few favorite places I don’t mind visiting each year. It’s convenient when I write books about those places, because I have to then deliver books to stores there, or I go for inspiration and research for the next book. One such place is Cayman Brac, one of the Sister Islands in the Cayman Islands.

To get to the Brac, I usually fly into Grand Cayman, which is a very nice place to visit as well. My favorite places are Books and Books, the Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Gardens to see the Grand’s blue iguanas, and Pampered Ponies, where you can take a swim with a horse. But then it is off to the Brac, a short plane ride away. It’s only about 98 miles.

image of Sister Isle Rock Iguana, Cyclura nubila caymanensis
Sister Isle Rock Iguana, Cyclura nubila caymanensis

Even though the purpose of my last trip was to market and restock the stores with my books, my personal reason was to visit with the locals, such as the beautiful lady above. She is a Sister Isle Rock Iguana, Cyclura nubila caymanensis. I was part of the team that caught her last year and watched as she dug a nest for her eggs. Her egg chamber was part of the research project for the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment. She is looking great.

Of course, when I asked her if she remembered me, she ran off into the brush!

a white and light blue book cover with an image of an iguana's headFor educators and homeschooling parents, LPP offers a 30-page workbook called My Unit Study on Iguanas designed for students in grades 2-4. It’s filled with fun and educational pages and puzzles, all about the iguana.

a blue and turquoise book cover with an image of Cayman Islands passport coverAnd your favorite first – third grader(s) might love to make a Passport to the Cayman Islands while learning about these truly beautiful islands.

illustration of head of cyclura nubila iguanaIf you have any interest in the identification booklets that Lyric Power Publishing has created on how to tell the differences between the invasive green iguanas and the native rock iguanas, please contact Elaine Powers at iginspired@gmail.com.

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Today is Math Storytelling Day! by Elaine A. Powers, Author

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.

Math was not my favorite, nor my best, topic, but I did like the math used to solve real-world problems. I enjoyed using geometry to determine how tall a tree is. Discovering the unknown variables in algebra fascinated me; it was like a secret code that had to be deciphered. I eventually came to understand how to use statistics and calculus in measuring aspects of ecosystems and in animal behavior. It turned out that I did like math–if it applied to my interests in science!

When master educator Marilyn Buehrer designed the Lyric Power Publishing workbooks and activity sheets based on my children’s storybooks, I was thrilled that she included some of my favorite animals in her math problems. I particularly like the one where she has the students measure the iguanas to determine average and median sizes in the workbook My Unit Study on Iguanas. I could use that in my citizen scientist work out in the field with the rock iguanas of Cayman Brac!

If you’re curious at all about the Sister Isle Rock Iguanas on Cayman Brac, check out my poignant book, Silent Rocks, pictured above. The population of Cyclura nubila caymanensis on Cayman Brac is in serious decline and these vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. Their reduction is the result of human activity on their habitat, and the threats can only be eliminated by human action. I am hopeful the people of Cayman Brac will turn this sad situation around.

colorful children's book cover with illustrations of curly-tail lizards

In The Dragon of Nani Cave, the Lime Lizard Lads, curly-tail lizards of Cayman Brac, seek an adventure up on the bluff. Their goal is to reach Nani Cave and meet the dragon that lives there. (The dragon is a Rock Iguana, but when you’re a small lizard, an iguana is a dragon!) Gene and Bony soon realize how big and how dangerous the world beyond their beach really is. Leaving home is easy, but what if they do find the dragon? And how will the lads make it back?

a green and white book cover with the image of a book called The Dragon of Nani CaveFor educators and homeschooling parents, LPP offers a 30-page coordinating workbook designed for grades 3-6. Fourteen pages are taken directly from The Dragon of Nani Cave, with 14 pages of corresponding questions. Teachers and parents read the book aloud to students, then hand out the reading and question pages. Students reread pages from the book and answer the questions for each page; they also color in the black and white pictures on every page.

illustration of head of cyclura nubila iguanaIf you have any interest in the identification booklets that LPP has published on how to tell the differences between the invasive green iguanas and the native rock iguanas, please contact Elaine Powers at iginspired@gmail.com.

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What Good Are Reptiles, Anyway? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

People often ask me what reptiles are good for, especially the venomous ones like rattlesnakes. Besides being an important part of the ecosystem and controlling rodents that spread diseases to people, several very interesting drugs have been developed from reptilian venoms. Venoms are known to affect the nervous or circulatory systems, and these properties have been exploited to produce effective treatments. Let me introduce you to four of them.

First is Captopril, an ACE inhibitor (angiotensin converting enzyme), that was approved by the FDA in 1981. This drug acts through vasodilation to reduce hypertension, treating congestive heart failure after myocardial infarction and preservation of kidney function in diabetic nephropathy.

Captopril is based on a protein found to be a peptide in the Lancehead Viper (Bothrops jararaca),Molecular Formula C9H15NO3S.

Molecular Formula C9H15NO3S.

Next is a drug that was developed from one of my favorite venomous snakes, the rattlesnake. Rattlesnake venoms have components that affect their prey in different ways. One way causes anticoagulation, and the victim bleeds to death. The anticoagulating properties of the venom from the Southeastern Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius barbouri) led to the drug Eptifibatide. Eptifibatide is used for anti-coagulation therapies to reduce the risk of heart attacks. However this drug is only used in severe cases, because of the possible side effect of thrombocytopenia, a condition where platelets are unable to aggregate at all.


Eptifibatide molecular formulaCourtesy of www.animalresearch.info

The third drug derived from reptiles is Exenatide, one of my favorite venom drugs. It is a synthetic version of Exendin-4, which is found in the saliva of Gila monsters (Heloderma suspectum), one of my favorite lizards. Gila monsters are not only colorful, they are the only venomous lizard in North America.

Exenatide is used to treat Type II Diabetes. It works by stimulating the pancreas to release more insulin for the control of blood sugar levels. Its molecular formula is C184H282N50O60S.

Molecular formula is C184H282N50O60S.
                                  Courtesy of PubChem

 

With this fourth drug, we are back to snakes. Hemolytic venoms from South American pit vipers, Bothrops atrox and Bothrops moojeni, produced Batroxobin. Batroxobin’s valuable action is to cleave or break up fibrinogen, similarly to similar to the effect of Thrombin. Thrombin’s action on fibrinogen creates fibrin, which is necessary for stopping the loss of blood as a result of injury. It’s the body’s bandage. The Batroxobin from B. atrox is called Reptilase and is used to stop bleeding. The B. moojeni version is used to break up clots as Defibrase. When used as part of Vivostat, baxotroxobin treats blood before surgery to produce clots. These clots are collected and then dissolved until a fibrin glue is created, that can then be used on the patient during surgery.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. We often dismiss animals we fear or don’t understand, not realizing their importance to their ecosystems and the environments we live in, and what they may offer to our lives, such as these important medicines.

To learn about the very interesting rattlesnake, in a vibrantly illustrated book written in rhyme (to make learning fun) please see my book, Don’t Make Me Rattle.

A brown book cover, with a circle with blue sky, with a rattlesnake popping out of the circle, title: Don't Make Me Rattle

People fear rattlesnakes because they don’t understand them. Come inside and learn about these amazing snakes, how they help people, and why the rattlesnake should be respected, not exterminated.

Here at Lyric Power Publishing, science is very important–but we love to make science fun! We have developed wonderful, supplemental educational workbooks and activity sheets for children, to be used by teachers, parents and tutors. To learn about the fascinating and intelligent large lizards, the iguana, please see our workbook, My Unit Study on Iguanas.

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

To learn about the many differences between tortoises and turtles, please see the wonderfully illustrated and written in rhyme, Don’t Call Me Turtle!

A children's book cover, green with a tortoise standing, coming out of a circle, finger pointed, saying Don't Call Me Turtle

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August 1st is National Girlfriend’s Day by Elaine A. Powers, Author

August 1st is a day to celebrate your girlfriends. I’m certain they meant for it to be a day to celebrate your HUMAN girlfriends–please do celebrate your friendships and don’t let them become neglected. However, I’m celebrating my other girlfriends on this day.  Let me introduce a few.

closeup of a green iguana

This is Calliope, named for the muse of long poetry.  She is my inspiration for my writing, looking over my shoulder.  She is a green iguana.

This is one of my newest girlfriends, Button.  We’ve been building a very special relationship for two years now.  She lets me ride her bareback, so we have a physical connection to go with our spiritual one. She is a Missouri Fox Trotter.

woman sits with tortoise on her lap, reading a book

And last, but never least, this is Myrtle the Red-foot Tortoise. She made me write my very first picture book, Don’t Call Me Turtle!, when she’d been called a turtle one too many times. This picture book explores the differences between tortoises and turtles in rhyme and is a fun-favorite among little ones and their parents. Of course, Myrtle never tires of me reading it to her!

A children's book cover, green with a tortoise standing, coming out of a circle, finger pointed, saying Don't Call Me Turtle

For more fun and educational information about iguanas and tortoises, please see our workbooks and activity sheets.

 

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

a white and blue book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

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Do Iguanas Have Teeth? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

 

Close up of teeth of Rhinoceros Iguana
Reginald, the Rhinoceros Iguana, smiles for Elaine

 

I’m often asked if iguanas have teeth.  Even more interesting are the people who tell me that iguanas don’t have teeth because they are vegetarians.  Since iguanas do have to bite through fibrous plant material, they actually have razor-sharp, serrated teeth. Sharks have nothing on iguanas when it comes to teeth! My rhinoceros iguana, Reginald, offered to show me his teeth for a photo. It’s often hard to see their teeth because they are nearly transparent. This may be why some people think they don’t have teeth – they’re hard to see.

Teeth are just one part of the iguanas’ eating procedure.  Iguanas taste the world with their tongue, their slightly forked tongue.  Yes, just like the forked tongue of a snake.  The tongue collects molecules which are transferred to the Jacobson’s organ located in the iguana’s mouth. Once the iguana determines the leaf is food, he reaches out with his tongue which is covered in really sticky saliva.  This allows the leaf to be pulled to the waiting mouth.  That’s when those razor sharp teeth are used to slice off a mouth-sized piece of leaf.

The iguana must make its food bite-size because he doesn’t have any grinding teeth like molars. If the iguana selects a bigger food item, such as a fruit, he will move it around his mouth, slicing it until it is able to slide down his throat.

Baby iguanas are born with teeth, so they can eat immediately after hatching. Iguanas regularly grow new teeth. For those of you into anatomy, iguanas are pleurodonts since their teeth are attached to the inside of the jawbone.

Although iguanas have impressive teeth, this doesn’t mean you should fear them–just respect them.  An iguana’s first response is to run. If running isn’t possible, they will whack with their tails and spin their bodies. Only as a last resort will they bite.  But if you do get yourself bitten, you will have an impressive wound showing each and every tooth!

My advice is let the iguana use his or her teeth for eating. 🙂

To learn more about these fascinating big lizards, see our 30-page downloadable Supplemental Workbook for Grades 2-4,  My Unit Study on Iguanas.  The  workbook includes the pages Cyclura or Rock Iguana?, Iguana Facts, Iguana Puzzle, Iguana Lifecycle, Reptile Facts, Name the Reptile, Label the Parts, Compare Traits, Ecology Word Problems, Printing Letters,  Short i Sound, Counting, Cut and Paste, Cut and Classify, True or False; Mean, Median, Mode, Range; Using a Histogram, and Converting Grams to Pounds.

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