Cold Casualties: Sharksicles And Frozen Iguanas

Jan 4, 2018
Originally published on January 5, 2018 10:15 am

In Florida, it's raining iguanas. And in Cape Cod, Mass., sharksicles are washing ashore.

The unusual cold that has slammed the U.S. East Coast is wreaking havoc with wildlife, particularly the cold-blooded variety. As one no doubt remembers from grade-school science class, reptiles and fish take heat from their environment — when it is warm enough, all is well, but if it gets too cold, you can expect scenes like this.

Social media has been witness to reports of downed iguanas. Suddenly immobilized by the near-freezing weather, in their catatonic state they plummet from trees.

Felix Montalvan, who owns Jaws and Claws Reptiles in West Palm Beach, Fla., explains to member station WLRN in Miami, "They try to move and they can't. Their bodies are stiff. And they either fall out of the trees or people can just walk right up to them and pick them up."

Ron Magill, a spokesman for Zoo Miami, tells The New York Times that iguanas climb up trees to roost for the night and then, "the temperature goes down, they literally shut down, and they can no longer hold on to the trees," he said.

The green iguana, whose range originally included South America and parts of the Caribbean, is not native to Florida. It is one of three invasive iguana species that have been introduced to the state.

Montalvan says the iguanas currently dropping from trees are not necessarily dead, just flash-frozen. When they warm up, they will come back to life. However, as the website notes, a Florida cold snap in 2010 that lasted for a few weeks was enough to "significantly reduce their numbers." The Burmese python, another invasive species in South Florida, also took a hit in 2010.

Sea turtles also feel the cold, according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. "When the water temperatures drop, stunned sea turtles may float listlessly in the water on or near shore," the commission said in a statement quoted by the Miami Herald.

"Although these turtles may appear to be dead, they are often still alive," it said.

Meanwhile, at least four thresher sharks have washed up in Cape Cod since last week, well before the "bomb cyclone" currently making its way up the coast.

The Associated Press writes: "Authorities believe all the sharks succumbed to cold shock. Cape Cod Bay's surface temperature sank to 41 degrees last week. Scientists believe thresher sharks are impaired when exposed to waters below 44 degrees."

The sharks aren't quite as lucky as the iguanas and the sea turtles, however. It seems that once frozen, there is no amount of warming that can bring them back.

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