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Marine Iguanas – What are they?


 

As their name suggests, marine iguanas are set apart from the rest of their relatives mainly because they have the unique attribute of being capable of foraging and living in seawater. They are only found thriving in the Galapagos Islands. That is why their existence on the islands has branded the reptile the name “Galapagos marine iguana”.

 

Let's dive right in.

 

Taking a Look at the Mysterious Marine Iguanas

 

The natural habitat of the marine iguana is on the rocky shores of the Galapagos Islands but they can likewise be seen in the mangrove and marsh beaches.

 

Some people such as Charles Darwin describe the marine iguanas as the black lizards thriving on the sea. But the truth is that these iguanas are not usually black in color. The younger ones take the dorsal stripe color whereas the adult ones are grayish.

 

Their color may be really dull but there is a reason behind this. Such color allows them to easily absorb heat right after they emerge out of the water. Their food is usually the marine algae.

 

They expel the remaining salts from their nasal glands as they go on with basking under the heat of the sun. The salt contained in their bodies makes their faces appear whiter.

 

 

They Vary in Color

 

More so, the mature male marine iguanas have a varying color—all of which depend on the existing season. During the breeding season, the adult males become teal-green or reddish in color.

 

Those thriving in Santa Cruz appear in black and red brick while those found in Fernandina come in dull green and brick red colors. Their sizes likewise differ which depends on the island that they live on.

 

Those found in the whole of Isabela and Fernandina are the largest marine iguanas on the entire island chain of the Galapagos. Meanwhile, the smallest ones are found on Genovesa.

 

Marine Iguanas are Poikilothermic Animals

 

As they are poikilothermic animals, these iguanas can spend very little time out in the cold sea when they dive for their algae food. Thus, they commonly swim in the very shallow waters of the islands.

 

After swimming, they proceed to bask in the sun to warm their bodies up again. During the cold days, marine iguanas cannot effectively move thus making them more vulnerable to their predators.

 

Since they cannot move fast, they will stick their tails up in the air and bite their enemies. During the entire breeding season, the male marine iguanas mate with the females then will guard them against the rest of the male reptiles.

 

Food Availability Affects Their Size

 

Marine iguanas adjust their sizes to be able to adapt to their food availability. There was a time during the onset of the El Niño when the algae decreased in number so the iguanas actually decreased in their lengths too.

 

When the food supply started to normalize, the reptiles returned to their normal size. The marine iguanas are not as fast as the rest of their relatives.

 

When taken as pets, their predators become the dogs and cats. They can be easily attacked by these predators since they are too slow and tamed.

 

There are Laws Protecting Marine Iguanas

 

To date, the government of Ecuador has set up laws that aim to protect the existence of marine iguanas. There are artificial nesting sites which had been made in the smaller islands so that there will be less predators around that can harm them.

 

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