The marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) is a unique reptile species that is found exclusively in the Galápagos Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador. It is the only lizard in the world known to swim and forage in the ocean.
Marine iguanas have a distinct appearance, with a dark gray or black body and a flattened tail that helps them maneuver through the water. They possess sharp claws and long, powerful limbs, which enable them to cling to rocky shores and navigate the rugged volcanic terrain of the islands.
These iguanas have adapted to their oceanic lifestyle in several ways. They possess special nasal glands that allow them to filter out excess salt from their bodies, a crucial adaptation for feeding on marine algae. They are herbivorous and primarily feed on seaweed and other marine vegetation, diving into the ocean to find their food. Marine iguanas are capable of diving to depths of up to 30 feet (9 meters) and can hold their breath for up to 30 minutes.
Due to their isolated habitat and unique evolutionary history, marine iguanas have developed into a distinct subspecies on each of the Galápagos Islands. They are known for their docile nature, often allowing humans to approach them closely without displaying aggression. However, they are a protected species, and guidelines exist to ensure their conservation and minimize disturbance to their natural habitat.
The marine iguana's remarkable adaptation to the marine environment and its significance as an endemic species of the Galápagos Islands make it an intriguing and important part of the archipelago's biodiversity.