Species of the month
Some facts about this lizard:
Size: Depending on subspecies, gender and age, the head and body of this iguana typically reaches 12–56 cm (4.7–22.0 in). Together with an 17–84 cm (6.7–33.1 in) long tail the total body length is approximately 29–140 cm (11–55 in).
Distribution: Endemic to the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador.
Protection status: IUCN: Amblyrhynchus cristatus Bell, 1825 (Vulnerable).
Etymology: Its generic name, Amblyrhynchus, is a combination of two Greek words: ambly- from amblus (ἀμβλυ) meaning "blunt" and rhynchus (ρυγχος) meaning "snout". Its specific name is the Latin word cristatus meaning "crested," referring to the low crest of spines along the animal's back.
The Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) is also known as the Sea Iguana, Saltwater Iguana, Fernandina Marine Iguana and Galápagos Marine Iguana. Unique among modern lizards it has the ability to forage in the sea, making it one of the approximately 70 extant species of marine reptiles (all others being turtles, snakes, and saltwater crocodiles). Adult Marine Iguanas exclusively feed on marine plants such as red and green algae. Juveniles mainly feeds on feces from larger iguanas for the first few months, gaining the bacteria needed for digesting algae.
Marine Iguanas can dive as deep as 30 m (98 ft), and can spend up to one hour underwater. When diving to 7 m (23 ft) or deeper, they regularly remain submerged from 15 to more than 30 minutes. After diving they need to bask in the sun to reach their ideal body temperature. Roughly one month after copulation, the female lays between one and six eggs in a nest whole in the ground, leaving them to hatch on their own a few months later.
Early visitors to the Galápagos Islands considered the Marine Iguanas ugly and disgusting, and on his visit to the islands in 1835 – despite making extensive observations on the creatures – Charles Darwin described them as "imps of darkness".