Behavioral acquisition of the hindgut fermentation system by hatchling Iguana iguana

  • Troyer K
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Abstract

Hatchling green iguanas (Iguana iguana) spend the first month of life obtaining their hindgut fermentation systems before settling into their characteristic habitat. Newly hatched iguanas consume soil within the nest chamber, establishing populations of soil microbes in the hindgut, before digestive activity begins in the stomach. Hatchlings dig their way out of the nest chamber during the first week after hatching; once on the surface, they may eat both soil and plant materials. The rudimentary microbial fermentation system acquired through soil consumption supports faster growth, and presumably more effective degradation of plant materials, than microbes obtained without contact with soil. During the second and third weeks of life, hatchling iguanas disperse away from the nesting area. They travel into the forest canopy, associate with older consepcifics, and obtain a more complex and effective microbe community by consuming the feces of their seniors. Approximately a month after hatching, iguanas settle into low vegetation in open habitats, and may continue to associate in groups.

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Authors

  • Katherine Troyer

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