Marine iguana

Species profile

Name: the marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) is a species of iguana found only on the Galapagos Islands. They have the unique ability to swim and feed in the ocean. There are several subspecies with different characteristics living across the islands.

Appearance: marine iguanas have a thick body and short limbs. Adults have a row of spines running from the neck to the tail. They are black for most of the year although males change colour during the mating season. Near Espanola and Floreana they are most colourful – turning bright green and red, on Santa Cruz they are red and black, while on Fernandina they become a dull green and brick red.

Size: they typically measure from 12 to 56 cm in length with a tail of 17 to 84 cm. The size varies by island with the biggest being found on Isabela and Fernandina.

Diet: marine iguanas feed almost exclusively on algae. The larger males dive in the ocean to find this food, while females and smaller males feed during low tide at the shoreline.

Did you know: due to the high concentration of salt in their diet, marine iguanas filter their blood through their the noses and sneeze out the excess salt. On his visit to the islands in 1835, Charles Darwin was revolted by the animals’ – writing: “the black Lava rocks on the beach are frequented by large (2–3 ft), disgusting clumsy Lizards. They are as black as the porous rocks over which they crawl & seek their prey from the Sea. I call them ‘imps of darkness’. They assuredly well-become the land they inhabit”.

Location: marine iguanas are endemic to the Galapagos Islands.

Best places to see marine iguanas

According to reports submitted to WildSide, the best places to see marine iguanas are as follows:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
Galapagos Islands
very high
very good

Photo credit: Graham-H under a Creative Commons license from Pixabay

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