Galapagos Marine Iguana

Galapagos Marine Iguana - The Harmless Godzilla

The Galapagos marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. They can be found in almost every island and often among coastal rocks, mangroves, lava rocks and on beaches. The Galapagos marine iguanas are the only species of iguana that feed on sea plants which makes up a majority of their diet. The marine iguanas are now classified into 11 different types of sub-species. Among the species discovered is the Amblyrhynchus cristatus Godzilla which is similar to the Godzilla we know so well from movies.

Marine iguanas are different in size in every island. In Isabela Island, they can be as heavy as 11 KG while those in Genovesa Island can weigh less than 1 KG. Female marine iguanas, usually smaller in comparison to their male counterparts, measure up to 60 centimetres, while male iguanas can grow up to 1.3 metres! During a non-mating season, marine iguanas are usually black. However, during mating season (from December/January onwards), scales on male marine iguanas will transform into gorgeous colours. For example in Española Island, the marine iguanas turn red or green, thus the name – Christmas iguanas. The colours come from pigmentation digested from the consumption of Algae. However, female iguanas are not swayed by bright colours but are attracted to larger-sized males instead.

Christmas Iguana laying on a rock in the Galapagos Islands

Habitat and Diet

The Galapagos marine Iguanas often live together in large colonies. They enjoy sun-bathing on black coastal rocks and it is not an uncommon sight to see them lay comfortably on top of one another. Sun-bathing is integral to their survival as they need to warm up after spending up to 45 minutes in the sea. They can also dive up to 30 metres deep. The best temperature for marine iguanas is between 36 to 38 degrees Celsius (97 Fahrenheit) although the air temperature in the Galapagos Islands is rarely so warm. The lower the temperature, the slower the marine iguanas move.

Marine iguanas dig their nests for their eggs close by the sea. The main predators of young marine iguanas are dogs and cats found on inhabited islands in the Galapagos as well as the Galapagos snake.

Species Protection

The  El Niño climate phenomenon causes periodic decreases in the marine iguana population. Nevertheless, the Charles Darwin Foundation estimated that over 100,000 marine iguanas reside on the coasts of the Galapagos.

To plan your trip better, check out our Galapagos Islands monthly animal activities poster.

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Advice for visitors:

Galapagos marine iguanas can be spotted all-year round in the Galapagos archipelago. To see marine iguanas turn bright red and green during December and January, you can either book our cruise tour which travels on the Southern route or visit Española island with an island hopping tour from San Cristóbal Island.

✪ Galapagos Islands Marine Iguana Tours ✪

Sea Lion Family

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Wittmer Statue on Floreana Island

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Ikala Galapagos Hotel

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View of Hotel Luna Runtun

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