Glucose tolerance of iguanas is affected by high-sugar diets in the lab and supplemental feeding by ecotourists in the wild

Susannah S. French, Spencer B. Hudson, Alison C. Webb, Charles R. Knapp, Emily E. Virgin, Geoffrey D. Smith, Erin L. Lewis, John B. Iverson, Dale F. DeNardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


There is great interspecific variation in the nutritional composition of natural diets, and the varied nutritional content is physiologically tolerated because of evolutionarily based balances between diet composition and processing ability. However, as a result of landscape change and human exposure, unnatural diets are becoming widespread among wildlife without the necessary time for evolutionary matching between the diet and its processing. We tested how a controlled, unnatural high glucose diet affects glucose tolerance using captive green iguanas, and we performed similar glucose tolerance tests on wild Northern Bahamian rock iguanas that are either frequently fed grapes by tourists or experience no such supplementation. We evaluated both short and longer-term blood glucose responses and corticosterone (CORT) concentrations as changes have been associated with altered diets. Experimental glucose supplementation in the laboratory and tourist feeding in the wild both significantly affected glucose metabolism. When iguanas received a glucose-rich diet, we found greater acute increases in blood glucose following a glucose challenge. Relative to unfed iguanas, tourist-fed iguanas had significantly lower baseline CORT, higher baseline blood glucose, and slower returns to baseline glucose levels following a glucose challenge. Therefore, unnatural consumption of high amounts of glucose alters glucose metabolism in laboratory iguanas with short-term glucose treatment and freeliving iguanas exposed to long-term feeding by tourists. Based on these results and the increasing prevalence of anthropogenically altered wildlife diets, the consequences of dietary changes on glucose metabolism should be further investigated across species, as such changes in glucose metabolism have health consequences in humans (e.g. diabetes).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb243932
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Cyclura
  • Glucocorticoid
  • Glucose tolerance test
  • Iguana
  • Sugar
  • Tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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