9 Unique Galápagos Island Animals (Photos)
1. Galápagos Tortoises
The Galápagos Giant Tortoise is one of the world’s largest tortoises, weighing up to 500 pounds. During 18th and 19th centuries, these large land dwellers were used to provide fresh meat for sailors, reducing the population drastically. The first 10 years of a tortoise’s life, it needs protection, but when it becomes independent, it can live up to 150 years.
The tortoise shell varies according to where it lives on the islands. On the coastal regions, the tortoises have saddle-shaped shells. In the highland regions, they have dome-shaped shells. The highland tortoises feed mainly on grass, other plants, and fallen fruit.
2. Lava Lizard
Lava Lizards do not grow more than a foot in length and they feed on beetles, ants, and other insects. They can live up to 10 years and if they lose their tails, it isn’t for good, as the tails regenerate. When poised for a fight, they often perform a motion that looks like push-ups.
3. Magnificent Frigate Bird
This bird is a kind of pelican, with very long wings and a long, forked tail to help maintain control during flight. It has small legs and feet, and it runs downhill before taking off in flight. During mating season, a pouch found on the male torso becomes inflated and changes to a bright shade of red.
4. Blue-Footed Booby
The Blue-footed booby lays its eggs directly on the ground, living near the shoreline on the various islands. It feeds on fish close to land. Females honk and have larger eyes than males. Males whistle instead of honking.
5. Galápagos Penguin
The cold current that flows up to the Galápagos Islands from the Antarctic creates a suitable habitat for the penguins. This is the only penguin species that lives close to the equator. The penguins cannot fly, but are able to swim very well. When the water temperature warms, they are not able to adapt well.
6. Waved Albatross
The Waved albatross is a rare bird. It is about 2 to 3 feet tall. It spends most of its time out at sea, but always returns to its nest on land, especially on Hood Island. The Waved albatross is a large, powerful bird. It is able to ride the wind currents and travel several hundred miles from home in search of food.
7. Marine Iguanas
These sea lizards are at home along the coasts of the Galápagos Islands. They are able to swim 50 feet below the surface to eat seaweed or other marine creatures. They can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes. Stretching 4 to 5 feet in length, these creatures are often seen bathing in the sunlight along the rocky edges of the islands. Adult marine iguanas are a reddish-brown color.
8. Sally Lightfoot Crab
The Sally lightfoot crab use spines on its legs to cling to rocks. The crabs are known to crawl over the marine iguanas basking in the sun.
9. Galápagos Heron
The Galápagos heron’s feathers help it camouflage on lava rocks. It nests on the rocks or in mangrove trees. With the help of a naturalist, these birds are easy to spot along the shores.
*Lead image of a Blue-footed Booby via Shutterstock