Monday, September 19, 2011

Land Iguanas and Lava Lizards

In addition to the Giant Tortoises there are other less famous, but no less interesting reptiles endemic to the Galapagos.  Two that I particularly like are the Lava Lizards that dart across the lava rocks and the endangered Land Iguana.  There are at least 28 different species of lava lizards that can be found all over the Galapagos islands.  They are very small and run very fast over the lava rocks.  The different species have all different colors, though many of the ones I saw were dark brown and black and blended in with the lava rocks.  The Galapagos Land Iguana is quite large and similar in appearance to the Marine Iguana except is a very bright yellow and orange color.  They can have very long lifespans of up to 60 years.  Darwin showed just as much disdain for them as he did for the Marine Iguanas, calling them "ugly animals, of a yellow orangish beneath, and of a brownish-red color above: from their low facial angle they have a singularly stupid appearance."  The iguanas used to be so abundant that Darwin wrote while staying on King James Island (now called Santiago island) that "...when we were left at James, we could not for some time find a spot free from their burrows on which to pitch our single tent."  However because of the introduction of predator species like pigs, rats, cats and dogs their populations have been decimated and there are now less than 10,000 left in the world and they are considered endangered.

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Lava Lizard from Rebecca Yale on Vimeo.

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