Recently, a tourist was found trying to smuggle four iguanas from the Galapagos Islands in a suitcase.
This situation was horrible and fortunately the man was arrested and the iguanas are safe. The story created outrage, but it also reminded me that iguanas are a unique and amazing species. While there are still iguanas on all the islands, they have become extinct on several islands and are in the list of endangered species.
At first glance, these reptiles may be a bit ugly, even repulsive, scary and remind you of Godzilla so you don't want to face one of these in a dark alley! But, a second look will probably change your mind given their importance in the ecological chain and their abilities.
There are two types of iguanas in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador:
Land Iguanas can still be found on Isabela, Santa Cruz, Fernandina, Seymour, South Plaza and Sante Fe Islands. The land iguana is a yellowish lizard and generally larger than the marine iguana. The Galapagos land iguana grows to a length of three to five feet with a body weight of up to twenty-five pounds. Their size and weight are different on the different islands. There is another separate species called the Pink Iguana located on the Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island.
Like marine iguanas, land iguanas are cold-blooded. They love to bask in the equatorial sun and cool off in the shade of a rock or burrow. Land and marine iguanas have similar mating and reproduction habits. Land iguanas can live up to 60 years.
There are no land iguanas on Santiago Island, mainly due to non-endemic predators, such as wild dogs and cats, as well as humans.
This is a tragedy, particularly when you consider Charles Darwin's report that when he tried to pitch a tent in Santiago, he had a hard time finding enough space because the iguanas were so prolific. They have also become extinct in Baltra and southern Isabela.
Did you know that these iguanas, when looking for algae to eat underwater, slow down their heart rate? Iguanas are cold-blooded animals, so they regulate their temperature between periods of time in the sun and dives into the sea ...
In 2009, BBC News reported that the National Academy of Sciences was investigating a unique species of pink iguana on Isabela on Wolf Volcano. There are less than 100 of this species of land iguana. They do not interbreed with the more familiar yellowish land iguanas and their crests and head shapes are also different.
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Enjoy this spectacular video, which will give you a better and more complete understanding of how marine iguanas spend their days and survive in the archipelago much better than words. Watch iguanas swim, lounge in the sun, and even spit salt on themselves! - The Galapagos marine iguanas, like many others on our paradise island, are different from any other creature on our planet. They are the only marine lizards anywhere in the world.
Like the Galapagos Islands birds, land and marine iguanas are in danger due to global warming and the reduction of their food sources. It is important that you do sustainable tourism and help conserve the environment!
Photos courtesy of Paola rivera