Immobilized turtles are washing ashore and iguanas are falling out of trees from the abnormal cold sweeping across Texas and South Florida.
Around 500 sea turtles are undergoing rehabilitation after being found frozen stiff in Texas, and hundreds more were rescued in Florida. Also in Florida, the unusually cold conditions have left petrified iguanas scattered belly-up across roads and neighborhoods.
But most of these reptiles aren’t dead. Turtles and iguanas are ectotherms, meaning their body temperature is dependent on the world around them. When these cold-blooded creatures experience temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, they become lethargic. When the weather dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, they shut down.
This energy saving mechanism allows them to slow their metabolic functions while maintaining the ability to breathe, as if they’re frozen in time.
They can be up and moving again as soon as they warm up.
After a similar cold spell in 2010, many iguanas died after two weeks of being paralyzed by the wintry weather. The iguana population has since recovered.
The invasive species, native to Central and South America, is notorious to Floridians for digging through construction projects. Many residents are considering their momentary vulnerability to be a chance to catch iguanas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.