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Marine Iguana » Its Characteristics and Way of Life

The marine iguana is a rare animal native to the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) and is a reptile perfectly adapted to marine life which has made it an interesting species.

Its scientific name is Amblyrhynchus cristatus and it is one of the members of the family Iguanidae.

Main characteristics of the Marine Iguana

The male marine iguana reaches a size of at least 1.3 meters, while females are smaller measuring approximately 0.6 meters.

The body colour is black with grey tones and is covered by small spines on the head and back of the body.

This rare reptile is also equipped with an epithelium between the fingers that allows it greater mobility in the water. It also has sharp claws that allow it to hold on.

During the daytime, this animal takes advantage of the sun’s rays to increase its body temperature. Why does it do this?

Because it spends most of its time submerged in very cold water, and by itself it does not have the ability to regulate its body temperature.

When it dives into the water to swim, the marine iguana makes use of an extraordinary ability: it stops its heartbeat to avoid losing warmth.

The marine iguana is an excellent swimmer and does so at great speed. Surprisingly it can hold its breath for more than 45 minutes.

Its tail is flattened, and when it is in danger, it can detach itself from the tail to slip away more quickly.

Another surprising feature of this rare animal is that it has a nasal salt gland through which it excretes the high levels of salt it consumes in the form of crystals.

The behavior of these reptiles will depend on their body temperature, at low temperatures this becomes hostile and an easy prey for their predators due to their decay

Their life expectancy is between 5 and 12 years.

Where do Marine Iguanas live?

If you are wondering where to find this wonderful species, you should know that it is native to the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean.

The marine iguana lives on beaches, marshes and near shore areas. In these areas it finds its food and enough light to maintain its body temperature.

In summary, the ideal habitat for the marine iguana is one that includes rocky areas and cliffs.

What does the marine iguana feed on?

The marine iguana needs its entire aquatic environment to feed, as its diet consists entirely of seaweed.

When they need to feed, the male goes deep into the sea, but the females and younger specimens wait for the tide to go out and the algae to become visible.

The large claws and snout of the marine iguana play an important role in the search for food, since it depends on them to be able to tear the vegetation from the rocks, enter the cracks and reach the algae inside them.

Reproduction of the Marine Iguana

These animals reach sexual maturity in the third or fifth year of life and from then on the perfect time for reproduction is from December to May.

During the courtship stage, the females select their mate by being size conscious, in order to ensure greater longevity for the young.

The territorial males make a movement with their heads to let the female know that they are attracted to them. If she agrees, the male covers her.

After copulation, the male moves away and leaves the female alone. In some cases, this may mean that he will go in search of other couples to mate.

The female will then build a comfortable and secure nest for her young to ensure that predators cannot gain access to them.

In the nest she will deposit 3 to 6 eggs. From then on, she will keep watching them for a few days, until she is sure that nothing will happen to them. Then she abandons them to their fate. After more than 90 days the surviving eggs will hatch.

What are its predators?

Marine iguanas are threatened by animals in their natural habitat (water) or on land.

For example, in the sea they can fall prey to the Galapagos hawk and the Galapagos runner snake and sometimes to some sharks.

On land, their most common predators are dogs, cats, pigs and other larger animals.

It is important to know that these not only threaten their survival but also that of their young and vulnerable specimens, such as females.

Another factor that must be taken into account and that becomes the sea turtle’s worst enemy is temperature change and high levels of pollution.