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Meet the Galapagos Land Iguana

2 min read

One of the more interesting creatures you'll see in on your Galapagos Islands trip is actually three different species – the Galapagos land iguana! 

Galapagos Iguana - Photo credit: Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism
Photo Credit: Ecuador's Ministry of Tourism

We have long known about the two main species of land iguana. The most abundant is scientifically known as Conolophus subcristatus and is found on six different islands. The second, known as Conolophus pallidus, is found only on the island of Santa Fe. They're both yellowish in color and are very similar in many respects. 

A third species was discovered in the 1980s, but it is so elusive researchers were not able to study it until the early part of this century. It's primarily pink in color and is only found on Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island. Researchers have named it Conolophus marthae.

These are the three different land iguanas you may see on a Quark Galapagos Islands holiday!

The Resurgence of the Galapagos Land Iguana 

It's believed all three Galapagos land iguanas, along with their marine cousins, have common ancestors that drifted out to sea from the South American continent millions of years ago. They began to diverge from one another at various times after their arrival.

Land iguanas are large reptiles. They can measure more .9 meters (3 ft) in length, and males can weigh up to 14 kilos (30 lbs).

But they're not large enough to have been able to endure disastrous threats to their existence. Some populations were all but wiped out years ago by wild dogs introduced to the islands. 

In other places, goats were introduced and began competing with the iguanas for vegetation. To make matters worse, habitats were sometimes destroyed due to military activity on the islands, particularly during the Second World War. 

It's only in recent years that rehabilitation efforts, along with predator eradication, have managed to restore some stability to the land iguana populations. There are now between 5,000 and 10,000 in the Galapagos Islands.

Photo Credit: Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism
Photo Credit: Ecuador's Ministry of Tourism

Amazingly Adaptable Galapagos Land Iguana

Land iguanas mainly feed on plants and shrubs that provide much-needed moisture. When it rains, they will also obtain moisture by drinking from pools of water. 

Despite their long presence near the earth's equator, the sun can sometimes be too much even for them. They will frequently beat the heat by finding shade under vegetation, trees and rocks. At night, they burrow into the ground to preserve body heat. They also preserve energy by moving slowly, another way they have adapted to their environment.

Land iguanas can live for between 50 and 60 years. When a female gives birth, she may lay up to 25 eggs. She will stand guard for a few days to ensure no other female nests in the same spot. 

Young iguanas hatch three to four months later, and are on their own from birth. It takes them eight to 15 years to reach maturity, assuming they survive the first tenuous years, when they are most vulnerable. 

See the Galapagos Land Iguana in the Wild

You're sure to see these interesting creatures and others on your guided tour of the Galapagos! Get in touch with us today to learn more about the iguana and other fascinating creatures you may encounter, whether on Quark's Galapagos Expedition: Darwin's Playground, Central & North or the Galapagos Expedition: Darwin's Playground, Far West expedition.

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