Galapagos Marine Iguanas are endemic to the Galapagos Islands, having the ability to sustain themselves on land and in the sea. The reptile is found in many places in the archipelago; with colonies at the end of Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz, Fernandina and Isabela Islands. Keep reading for interesting facts about the creatures that Charles Darwin described as “Imps of Darkness.”
- Only the larger males dive for food. The agile swimmers can hold their breath for up to forty minutes at a time. They can dive to depths of 65 feet to feed on seaweed and algae.
- The largest marine iguanas are found on Isabela and Fernandina Islands. Fernandina is home to one of the biggest marine iguana colonies in the archipelago.
- Normally black to absorb the sun, marine iguanas change to bright shades of red, green, turquoise, and orange during the mating season from December to March. Males can fast for up to two weeks during this period to protect their territory.
- The curious reptile spends so much time in the sea water that they absorb an excess of salt into their system. Special glands help them to expel the salt by sneezing it out of their nose.
- During times when food is in short supply, such as an El Niño year, marine iguanas can shrink their skeleton to adjust for the change in diet. The reptiles can lose up to twenty percent of their body mass, a phenomenon that naturalists are still trying to explain.
- Marine iguanas are cold-blooded, and their dark color helps to keep them warm in the cool waters of the Galapagos. After emerging from the water and before warming themselves on rocks around the islands, they are vulnerable to predators, mainly the Galapagos Hawk.
- El Niño and introduced predators including dogs and cats have taxed to marine iguana population to the point that they are considered in danger of extinction. During El Niño years, the waters of the islands remain warm, reducing the food supply for marine iguanas and the other creatures of the sea.
- When swimming, marine iguanas heart rate drop to half of that on land, enabling them to stay beneath the sea for extended periods of time.
- Marine Iguanas can live for up to ten years in the wild and grow up to five feet long.
Do you have a favorite fact about the creatures of the Galapagos? Is there one animal that is at the top of your list for when you visit the archipelago? Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below!
by Jon Jared