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Marine Iguana seagoing lizards found only in Galapagos Islands

Scientifically known as Amblyrhynchus cristatus, marine iguana is the only seagoing or marine lizard of the world. Residing in the vast Galapagos Islands, this species has adapted well to the harsh environment of the sea. Although the species is similar in appearance to large lizards, it has developed blunt noses by feeding on seaweed, potent limbs with claws that aid it in clinging to rocks, and laterally flattened tails for swimming. 

Scientifically known as Amblyrhynchus cristatus, the marine iguana is the only seagoing or marine lizard of the world. Residing in the vast Galapagos Islands, this species has adapted well to the harsh environment of the sea. Although the species is similar in appearance to large lizards, it has developed blunt noses by feeding on seaweed, potent limbs with claws that aid it in clinging to rocks, and laterally flattened tails for swimming. 

Galapagos wildlife : the marine iguana

Marine iguanaHere are a few facts about this incredible reptile:  

Iguana Population

The marine iguana is found almost throughout the archipelago, especially in the coastal areas with the population of around 4,500 per mile. The entire population is estimated to be 200,000–300,000. 

This Reptile comes in many colors

The marine iguana is found in gray to black tones; it develops spots of red and coppery green color all over its scaled body during the mating season. This may happen because it consumes a specific kind of seaweed that grows in the summer season. It also has dorsal scales, in obelisk shape, running right from the head down to the tail. 

Behind the Iguana Appearance

Although, not attractive and considered scarry at first, it is a tame and timid creature, and one of the most iconic symbols of Galapagos wildlife. Males are much larger in size than females, although both resemble each other in appearance. The juveniles also look the same; however, they are usually darker in tone. 

Indeed, even Charles Darwin himself was much replused by it, calling it "a hideous-looking creature, of a dirty black colour, stupid, and s

Galapagos Charles Darwinluggish in its movements." In his diary, he noted that :

 "The black Lava rocks on the beach are frequented by large (2-3 ft) most disgusting clumsy Lizards. They are as black as the porous rocks over which they crawl & seek their prey from the Sea. Somebody calls them 'imps of darkness'. They assuredly well become the land they inhabit."

Charles Darwin, 1845

 

Feeding Habits and General Behavior of the Marine Iguana

This lizard mostly feeds on algae seen underwater and inside the tidal pools. It is also known for eating grasshoppers and crustaceans. When it goes hungry, it not only becomes thinner but also shorter. This finding is based on the report submitted by a scientist in the scientific journal, ‘Nature’. He concluded that this kind of lizard reduces in length in times of El Nino-induced famine and regrows to its actual size with the availability of food. This was later reported as the first case of shrinking of large adult vertebrae. The adult lizard can vary in its size during its lifetime. Many researchers have proposed that bone absorption results in shrinkage when the lizard eats and digests its bone parts. 

Breeding of Galapagos Iguanas

The male lizards guard their specific territories during the breeding season, and females place their eggs inside burrows. 

Marine iguanas are vegetarians, feeding primarily

Galapagos Iguanason sea weed in the intertidal zone.

High Mortality Rate of iguanas

The real cause of concern is the high mortality rate of these lizards as reported in a research conducted in 2002. This can be due to the long-term effects of the oil spill caused by the grounded tanker called Jessica in 2001. 

 

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