Getting to Know the Beautiful Galapagos Land Iguana

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Galapagos Land Iguana

The Galapagos’ wildlife, including the Galapagos Land Iguana, has a unique ability to draw our attention. Its vivid hues, contrasts, patterns, forms, and dimensions are unmatched by anything you’ve ever seen. Additionally, there are few locations on Earth where you can get up close and personal with wildlife in Galapagos. The archipelago’s animals are well-recognized to be both rare and domesticated. Nevertheless, regardless of how motionless or near they come to us, we are not permitted to touch and pet them. All of these Galapagos BIG15 signature species—from inquisitive sea lions to nesting blue-footed boobies and massive Galapagos giant tortoises—will be present, almost posing for your ideal photo.

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The magnificent and unusual Galapagos Land Iguana is one of these stunning animals and a favorite of the BIG15. Prepare your camera and continue reading to learn more about this incredible species! It can be seen lounging in the sun, napping in the shade of a poison apple tree, or traveling leisurely in search of food.

A Galapagos land iguana in search for food.
A Galapagos land iguana in search for food.

A Basic Profile

One of three kinds of iguanas, the endemic Galapagos land iguana (Conolophus subcristatus), is exclusive to this archipelago. Two more species of land iguana can be found all across the islands: the Santa Fe land iguana (another BIG15 species) and the uncommon pink land iguana on Isabela. Genetic data confirms that the Galapagos land iguana separated from its famed sea cousin, another distant relative to consider. This divergence occurred between 8 and 10 million years ago. The Galapagos land iguana has a maximum height of 5 feet (1.5 meters) and a maximum weight of 25 pounds (11 kg).

Since iguanas are cold-blooded like all reptiles, you may frequently see them lounging on top of lava rocks in the sun. However, when the equatorial sun becomes too hot around midday, they usually seek cover from rocks or flora. Though they can turn carnivorous when necessary, they are primarily herbivores. Since freshwater is sometimes scarce on the islands, its favorite meal is the prickly-pear cactus, from which they also obtain most of their water supplement. It has been documented that certain land iguanas in the Galapagos can live up to 60 years!

Galapagos land iguanas.
The Galapagos land iguana can be spotted on Isabela, Santa Cruz, North Seymour and South Plaza Island.

Protecting the Galapagos Land Iguana

It is estimated that there are between 5,000 and 10,000 land iguanas in the Galapagos. But in places like Conway Bay in Santa Cruz and Cerro Cartago on Isabela Island, their numbers were so low that they were on the verge of extinction. Previously, they inhabited the islands in more significant numbers. This was caused mainly by invasive species that consumed land iguanas’ eggs, hatchlings, and juveniles. Because of their sheer number, Charles Darwin had to disembark on Santiago Island, historically known as King James Island. Later in his notebook, he recorded, “When we were left at James, we could not find a spot free from their burrows on which to pitch our single tent.”

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In places where these and other endangered species were found, concerted conservation efforts by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Galapagos National Park aided in the eradication of some dangers, including dogs, cats, rodents, and feral goats. Galapagos animals had never encountered predators other than those they had evolved to coexist with for thousands of years, had not acquired defenses against diseases brought by the continent, and had never had to fight with one another for food and space before the arrival of humans.

Encounter with a Galapagos land iguana.
Discover the Galapagos land iguana through two of our three itineraries aboard the Santa Cruz II Cruise.

The islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela, North Seymour, South Plaza, and Baltra are home to Galapagos land iguanas. Pick a tour that includes the Eastern or Western Islands to see this breathtaking, peculiar, and magnificent indigenous species. Being in the same habitat as these and other Galapagos creatures will deepen your connection to the natural world. But take caution—you risk falling in love with the Galapagos once you’re here!

Updated:June 11, 2024

Published:November 1, 2017

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