People from all around the world travel to the Galapagos Islands to observe the wildlife (and to indulge in some excellent marlin fishing!). Marine iguanas are one of the most compelling of all the islands’ many fascinating residents.
Here are 5 fascinating facts about the marine iguanas you might encounter on a vacation in the Galapagos Islands.
1. As the name implies, these lizards spend time in the ocean – and they are the only lizards that do.
2. The Galapagos are the only place in the world where you will find these unusual creatures and you’ll find a different subspecies of marine iguana on each of the islands in the chain. You see, they may take to the water to feed on algae, but they aren’t good enough swimmers to make it from island to island, so the population on each island has been isolated and has developed its own unique characteristics.
3. Marine iguanas sneeze. As Oceana explains, “Marine iguanas are also known for their very efficient salt glands, where they ‘sneeze’ out salt. Because they feed underwater, they ingest a large amount of saltwater. In order to prevent dehydration, they must expel salt without expelling water, so they have specialized glands that remove salt from their blood.”
4. They can shrink! “In times of reduced food availability – particularly during El Niño climate events – they may shrink by as much as 20%. The now smaller individuals require less food. Once their preferred algae return to high levels, they quickly regain the lost size,” Oceana’s experts say.
5. Marine iguanas change colors. “Marine iguanas show their color as they mature – the young are black, while adults range from red and black, to black, green, red and grey, depending on the island, with Española marine iguanas being the most colorful of all, and earning them the nickname ‘Christmas Iguanas.’ Marine iguanas become more colorful in the breeding season,” the Galapagos Conservatory says.
Sadly, because of their very limited geographic area and the presence of invasive species, the future of the marine iguana is in jeopardy.
If you are planning a marlin fishing trip to the Galapagos Islands, be sure to look along the coasts to see these amazing creatures.