Cyclura nubila ssp. nubila 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Squamata Iguanidae

Scientific Name: Cyclura nubila ssp. nubila (Gray, 1830)
Parent Species:
Common Name(s):
English Cuban Rock Iguana, Cuban Ground Iguana, Cuban Iguana
Taxonomic Notes: Synonyms = Cyclura harlani Duméril & Bibron 1837; Cyclura macleayii Gray 1845; Cyclura macleayi Barbour & Noble 1916; Cyclura nubila nubila Schwartz & Thomas 1975; Cyclura nubila nubila Schwartz & Carey 1977; Cyclura macleayi Bonetti 2002.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2abce+4abce ver 3.1
Year Published: 2018
Date Assessed: 2016-09-01
Assessor(s): González Rossell, A., Berovides, V., Alonso Tabet, M. & Cobián Rojas, D.
Reviewer(s): Grant, T.D.
Contributor(s): Perera de Puga, A., Rodríguez Schettino, L., Mancina, C., Linares Rodríguez, J., Espinosa Pantoja, L., Falcón Méndez, A., Milián Amigo, J., Abad Cambas, G., López Salcedo, M., Alonso Giménez, Y., Corona Galindo, J. & Palacio Verdecia, E.
The Cuban Rock Iguana is the largest among Cuban lizards and restricted mainly to coastal habitats. Its ecological function in the ecosystem, as well as aspects of its reproduction, behaviour, ecology, and genetic structure are still unknown. Its current area of occupancy (AOO) is estimated to be approximately 2,573 km2 and in many areas the populations are abundant and stable. The extent of occurrence is approximately 12,790 km2 and subpopulations within this range include a status that has declined or been extirpated in recent years. Overall the population is declining with an estimated area of occupancy that has decreased in size and quality by at least 30% during the last 50 years. Outside of protected areas, iguanas are now extremely scarce and considered functionally extinct. Additionally, the main threats to this iguana have not disappeared, in some areas have increased, and are expected to further reduce the population by at least 10% over the next two generations. The primary threats are habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation due to urbanization and tourism, accentuated by the presence of invasive alien predators, and the predicted increase in storm surges generating habitat alteration.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Cuban Rock Iguana is distributed across approximately 2,573 km2 total occupied land area. It is found along the coastal zone of mainland Cuba and on numerous offshore islands and cays, with abundant populations in the cays comprising the archipelagos around Cuba (Canarreos, Sabana-Camagüey, and Jardines de la Reina), with the exception of the Los Colorados Archipelago (north-western coast, Pinar del Río province) where the iguana’s presence is not recorded (Berovides 1980). Inland, only remnant populations have been found in the Sierra de Galeras and the Sierra Derrumbada in Viñales Valley, Pinar del Río province (Perera 2000).

This subspecies has also been introduced to Isla Magueyes, 50 metres off the southwest coast of Puerto Rico.
Countries occurrence:
Puerto Rico
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:2573Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:12789
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Upper elevation limit (metres):150
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Because of its wide distribution, accurate population size information and number of distinct subpopulations of the Cuban Rock Iguana is currently unavailable, yet it may be present on as many as 4,000 islets surrounding the Cuban mainland. Density data (individuals/hectare) of Cyclura nubila nubila at 30 sites (from 20 protected and unprotected areas) show normal values for the genus, that can vary from 7–39 iguanas/hectare (Perera 1985a, González Rossell et al. 2007, Cobián et al. 2008).

Not many decades ago, the subspecies was extremely widespread on Cuba. However, populations on the mainland have decreased or disappeared in some areas since the end of the last century. On many islets the populations are still relatively safe, but this is expected to change with habitat conversion for tourist development. Any future population analyses should consider two distinct components: one for populations living on the mainland and one for populations inhabiting small islands and islets.

Population sizes have recently been estimated in a few of the protected areas with the highest numbers of iguanas: 1,490 iguanas in Guanahacabibes National Park; 7,634 in Cayos de San Felipe National Park; 5,116 in Cayos de Ana María Fauna Refuge; 8,437 in Jardines de la Reina National Park; 8,818 in Delta del Cauto Fauna Refuge and 8,852 in Desembarco del Granma National Park (González et al. 2016). The population on the U.S. Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay was previously estimated at 2,000–3,000 individuals (Alberts and Phillips 2004) before the habitat declined due to an intensification of military operations at the base. The total population of this subspecies in Cuba was estimated by Perera (2000) as between 40,000 and 60,000 individuals; it is now believed to be closest to the low end.

Overall the population is declining, more quickly on the mainland than in other areas. Most disturbing is the gradual but constant rate of loss from disturbed areas. Iguanas are now entirely absent from the north Havana-Matanzas coast and other places where they were known to be very abundant approximately 30–40 years ago (within three generations). Outside of protected areas, iguanas are now extremely scarce and functionally extinct. Recent monitoring studies are also showing declines in iguana numbers along the southern cliffs of the Guanahacabibes peninsula which is in a protected area (Cobián et al. 2008). Their estimated area of occupancy has decreased in size and quality by at least 30% during the last 40 years.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:Unknown
No. of subpopulations:60Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The Cuban Rock Iguana prefers to inhabit areas associated with sandy and rocky coastal vegetation and coastal forests (coastal xerophytic and semi-deciduous) that offer appropriate foraging conditions and natural cavities for refuges. In some areas, the species can also be found in mangrove forests (Berovides 1980; Perera 1984, 2000; Rodríguez Schettino 1999). This iguana is a generalist herbivore although opportunistically carnivorous, and its diet reflects the floristic composition within each locality, with a certain level of selectivity. They prefer to eat leaves, fruits, flowers, and stalks of plants. The plants most commonly consumed include: Erithalis fruticosa, Lantana involucrata, Strumpfia maritima, Ernodea litoralis, Chamaesyce camagueyensis, Suriana maritima, Ambrosia hispida, Metopium toxiferum and Thrinax radiate (Perera 1985b, Rodríguez Schettino 1999, González Rossell 2001).

Very little is known regarding reproductive aspects within its natural range. Sexual maturity in females is reached at approximately four years (> 30 cm snout-to-vent length [SVL]) and in males at six years (> 35 cm SVL). Generation length is estimated to average 12–15 years. Reproductive behaviour may be similar to that described for other Cyclura species, but it has not been studied in Cuba. Females lay an average of eight eggs in a single clutch annually, in a nest which they dig in the sand. Incubation period is 85 days, ranging from 75 to 95 days. Average SVL for hatchlings is 11.2 cm (M. Alonso Tabet unpublished data). Several nesting areas are known to exist but only three have been well-studied, one of which has been monitored since 2000 in the Fauna Refuge Delta del Cauto. The other two studied nesting sites are in Guanahacabibes National Park (westernmost Cuba) and in Caguanes National Park (northern central Cuba).

Longevity in this species has not been closely studied, but a male Cuban Rock Iguana was continuously observed during 17 years in the wild. In captivity, they commonly live well into their 30s and 40s.
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):12-15

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The species is not known to be significantly traded at the national or international level. Iguanas and their eggs are not traditionally hunted for food in Cuba. Iguanas are only captured for consumption in very restricted regions and take appears to be incidental.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat transformation (for example, habitat loss, degradation, or fragmentation) and human disturbance (for example, deforestation and coastal urbanization) represent the main threats to Cuban Rock Iguana populations. Habitat degradation is identified as the primary cause of local subpopulation extinctions. Populations located in areas that are known to have a high future desirability for tourism development could be seriously affected, displaced, or extirpated locally. These areas currently contain the highest numbers of iguanas and include the archipelagos of Sabana-Camagüey, Los Canarreos, and Jardines de La Reina, coastal areas of mainland Cuba such as Guanahacabibes, and the southern coast of Isla de la Juventud (González Rossell et al. 2012). 

Other potential threats whose impact has not been extensively evaluated include predation by feral dogs on both adults and juveniles, predation by cats on juveniles, and egg predation by pigs. The scarcity of iguanas outside of protected areas are likely attributed in part to an increase in these invasive alien predators. Additionally, the expected sea level increase as a result of climate change in the Caribbean could decrease the nesting areas available to iguanas. An increase in storm surges also affects nesting areas by erosion and salinity changes in the soil. Hunting is not a major threat because there is not a widespread tradition of consumption of iguana meat or eggs.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is protected by the National System of Protected Areas in most of its remaining distribution range, safeguarding 69.8% of the area. All but one of the major iguana concentrations occurs in either partially- or fully-protected areas. However, not all protected areas are excluded from future development. Monitoring of populations in protected areas is conducted annually in cays and inland coastal areas. Biological and ecological studies are ongoing, however, more studies are needed, including genetic analysis. There is preliminary evidence of genetic differentiation between subpopulations such that translocation is not recommended (González Rossell et al. 2012).

The Cuban Rock Iguana is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The species is also protected through Cuban national legislation by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment in the Resolution No. 160/2011 under the Regulations for the Control and Protection of Species of Significant Value for Biological Diversity.

Citation: González Rossell, A., Berovides, V., Alonso Tabet, M. & Cobián Rojas, D. 2018. Cyclura nubila ssp. nubila. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T6045A3100433. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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