The world renowned geologist Teodoro Wolf states that the iguana that abounds in South America is the last living representative of the dinosaur age that dates back millions of years ago. In the Enchanted Islands there are two types of iguanas: the marine and the terrestrial, both very distinctly different in size and general appearance. Let’s take a look
The Galapagos marine iguana is an endemic variety that flourishes in the rocky areas of the island’s north and south. Scientifically known as Amblyrhynchus cristatus, this scaly reptile species is unique to say the least. This reptile has the ability to remain under water for 45 minutes, at a depths of 15 meters in search of fresh, green aquatic vegetation that is its primary source of food.. It is truly an amazing sight to admire this prehistoric creature sunning its self, or gorging on algae along the spectacular beaches that surround the islands.
Iguanas with their flat tails, long claws and three sharp teeth have the ability to attach themselves to the rocks and not be swept away by the tides and currents of the sea. Their bodies measure between 80 to 90 centimeters in length, and are covered from head to tail to protect themselves. Perhaps this is how they were able to survive. Making them even more adaptable, they possess a smooth snout and dorsal fin allowing them to glide through the water like a fish making them even more elusive.
Marine iguanas have the ability to move blood away from their outer protective layer like a cold blooded fish to keep warm. And also has the ability to dramatically reduce its heart rate to conserve energy in a dormant state. They also possess the ability to separate salt from the ocean waters through a gland near their nose.
The land iguana starkly characterized by brilliant colors of yellow, red and brown tones is an entirely different looking cousin of the aquatic lizard. It has an entirely different preference for its’s diet. Cactus, Palo Santo leaves and plants of the insular area like algae and Muyu are among some of its favorites. Also in contrast, with lizard protects it’s self from foes by hiding in burrows they dig deeply in the arid desert like portions of the islands. Alarmingly, this land based variant’s numbers have been decreasing, but still flourish in Fernandina thanks to the tremendous conservation efforts.
The land based iguana being an endemic reptile, is more commonly seen in the arid environments of Isabela, Santa Cruz, Fernandina islands and Plaza.
The most colorful variations with brilliant colorations of reds and greens, reside in Española Island; however the largest of the land based are typically seen on Isabela and Fernandina Island, and for some reason their smaller cousins preferring Genovesa Island.
Manmade issues constantly pose a threat to both land and marine iguanas threating their numbers. That dwells on and off the water creates problems for them. Fishing nets can be deadly for the marine breed, while plastic water bottles, and other debree is a issue for the land based lizards. Please keep this in mind during your visit, and help perserve this one of a kind creature.