The Marine Iguana has never been described as the most beautiful creature. Charles Darwin himself called them “hideous-looking” and even referred to them as “imps.” With smushed in snouts, spiny backs, and a black, almost metallic color, they certainly aren’t the most elegant species on the Galapagos. What they lack in traditional beauty, however, marine iguanas make up for in astounding resilience and adaptability. A descendant of the land iguana, the marine iguana made its way to the water and evolved to conserve oxygen, regulate its own body temperature, limit its salt intake, and even adjust its biting and chewing capabilities to incorporate algae into its diet. Today, the marine iguana can be found throughout the archipelago and seen on virtually every Galapagos expedition.
While these adapted marine lizards number in the hundreds of thousands, their existence is threatened by feral rats, cats, and dogs. They also have a shorter lifespan than their land-dwelling counterparts, at about 40 years compared to 50 or 60. Despite their fierce dragonesque appearance, marine iguanas are herbivores. Their imposing claws help them cling to rocks and endure the tides, and their metallic color helps them absorb sunlight better while contending with frigid waters. They can only be found in the Galapagos. Males can grow to be as long as four feet, while females rarely reach two feet long.