The East Coast skipped over raining cats and dogs and went straight to hailing iguanas during this week’s severe weather.
The plummeting temperatures that accompanied Thursday’s “bomb cyclone” storm had a strange effect on the local lizards of south Florida, reports the New York Times.
When the usually sunny and temperate beaches of Boca Raton, Miami and West Palm Beach experience temperatures below 40 degrees it is common for iguanas to start falling from the trees.
The animals aren’t dying — they are just stunned by the cold.
South Florida residents and reptile experts know that once the thermometer starts to rise again the iguanas will be revived, scampering off on their own without any additional help.
“Even if they look dead as a doornail — they’re gray and stiff — as soon as it starts to heat up and they get hit by the sun rays, it’s this rejuvenation,” Ron Magill, communications director for Zoo Miami, told the New York Times. “The ones that survive that cold streak are basically passing on that gene.”
Not all of the iguanas survive a spell of nasty winter weather, a fact that helped the state whittle down the invasive species during a 2010 cold snap, but plenty of the big ones do.
This leaves locals stuck in a guessing game, as they try to determine whether the iguanas on their frosted lawns are dead or just hibernating.
Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post told the Times that he just waits until the critters turn black before officially declaring them deceased.
This recent winter blast will mean more Floridians dealing with icy iguanas, and, according to Magill, stronger lizards overall. As cold-hardy iguanas pass on their genes to new generations, Florida’s northern neighbors can expect to see more of the reptiles in their own backyards.