Galapagos Marine Iguana

The only sea lizard in the world


The Galapagos Islands are home to the only seafaring lizard in the world - the Galapagos Marine Iguana. This iconic reptile is found nowhere else on Earth, and it is made of 11 subspecies, each with a population on a different island.

On land, the Marine Iguanas seem almost clumsy as they move slowly in and around the rocky shores, but in the water, they are transformed into elegant, and strong, swimmers. Their diet are the nutrient-rich algae that grow on the volcanic rocks around the Galapagos shores. The bigger males will often swim further out to see, using powerful claws to cling tightly to undersea rocks in the surf. Smaller individuals will stick to rock pools close to the high water line, waiting for the algae to be exposed by the falling tide.

One fascinating biological mechanism the Marine Iguanas have developed is their way to get rid of the excess salt that builds up in their bodies thanks to their sea algae diet. They actually filter the salt out via the blood vessels that pass through their nose. This leads to them sneezing out the extra salt at regular intervals! It’s for this reason that your close-up photos of Galapagos Marine Iguanas will often show them with salt crystals around their nostrils.

The Galapagos Marine Iguanas are not actually social animals, but they are highly tolerant of each other, and will often cluster close together for warmth on cold nights. During the day they are very active and they can be seen basking in the morning sun prior to their first swim of the day. When these ectothermic animals dive into the water, they slow their heart rate by up to 50% to help to preserve energy and feed for as long as possible before returning to the warm rocks to warm up again.

One of the most iconic species of the islands, your Galapagos cruise will enable you to get wonderfully close to these unique creatures, with all our cruises making landfall in areas where you will be able to walk amongst these remarkable animals. Our expert naturalist guides will also inform you of the work that the Galapagos National Park are doing to protect young Marine Iguanas from introduced species like cats and dogs.

Photos of the Galapagos Marine Iguana

Fast Facts about the Galapagos Marine Iguana

  • The marine iguana is the only marine lizard in the world
  • Male marine iguanas change color to impress the females during the mating season
  • When swimming in the cold ocean, the marine iguana's lose up to 18F in body heat
  • Galapagos Marine Iguanas are a threatened species because of their small habitat here on Galapagos

Where can the Galapagos Marine Iguana be seen?

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All cruises to visit the Galapagos Marine Iguana