The marine iguana regia of the Galapagos
When we think of the Galapagos Islands, we imagine two animals: the giant tortoise and the marine iguana. In this article we inform you about the latter, an endemic and extraordinary species that is worth knowing.
Marine iguana habitat
Its scientific name is Amblyrhynchus cristatus and it is a scaly reptile that belongs to the family Iguanidae . This is an endemic species of the Galapagos Islands, which inhabits the rocky shores of this archipelago of Ecuador, although it is also possible to find it on local beaches and mangroves.
It is the only iguana of its kind and, in addition, no other depends on the marine environment like it.
Characteristics and behavior of the marine iguana
The marine iguana males measure approximately one and a half meters and can weigh up to 15 kilos. The females are half the size and much lighter.
Since they are cold-blooded animals they must spend many hours a day in the sun, on the rocks of the coast. This way, they raise their body temperature. Being black they absorb the heat faster once they leave the cold waters or after being 'covered' by the waves on the shore.
When swimming, the marine iguana slows down your heart rate with the only objective of not losing the accumulated heat. Even can stop your heartbeat for several minutes without risk of dying.
In addition, they can dive up to 10 meters deep thanks to the membranes they present between their fingers ... They are excellent swimmers!
Due to their size as they have spines from the head to the tail, adult males do not have natural predators on the islands. However, the females, eggs and offspring do not suffer the same fate: they can be prey to the snake runners or the Galapagos hawk.
When it comes to reproduction, females emit very strong smells to 'call' to males , who join more than one partner in the same season. They are responsible for finding various materials to build a nest as safe as possible.
In addition, it ensures that the eggs are kept at the correct temperature to survive. It is worth noting that the marine iguana does not hatch like birds and since the offspring are born they must take care of themselves.
Marine iguana diet
A very curious fact about the marine iguana is that it feeds almost entirely on marine algae. Adult males are the only ones capable of swimming to procure food because they are larger. Both the females and the young should wait for the tide to come down to get their food, that is, the algae will adhere to the rocky surfaces.
The weight of the marine iguana can vary up to 25% depending on the time of year and the food you have available. In spring and summer there is more algae and, therefore, store fat for winter and autumn, when the population of marine vegetation is reduced .
While they have sharp claws and teeth, they do not eat meat, as they mistakenly believe. These 'tools' are used to scrape the algae that are stuck to the rocks.
Also, it is worth noting that the marine iguana must release the excess salt that it ingests. through the algae . How do they do that?And, in addition, we must talk about hunting for sport and bad tourist practices.
The marine iguana is an amazing species that has been able to adapt to a hostile environment and away from any other ecosystem, hence it is worth taking care of and protecting it.