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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

The Marine Iguana: 15 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Marine iguana facts talk about the population.

Reptiles and herbivorous? You heard that right. Found only in the Galápagos Isles, not many know about the unique Marine Iguanas. Also known as saltwater iguana, sea iguana, marine iguana, and Galápagos marine iguanas. They were regarded as 'imps of darkness' and 'hideous looking' animals by Charles Darwin, as they look like a chameleon punched in the face. These short and stout marine creatures can be easily spotted camouflaged at the rocky shores of the Galapagos islands. Go near them, they will give an aggressive and sly look but are not dangerous at all. If lucky enough, you can even find an iguana aggressively walking like an angry man. In recent times, their survival is at stake due to environmental and man-made interruptions. So, a deeper knowledge of their occurrences and lifestyle will help us to conserve them better.

If you really like what you are reading, you check out sea snake and kingsnake facts as well.

Marine Iguana Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Marine Iguana?

Marine Iguanas are lizards thriving mostly in the low tide zones of the marine environment. They have the scientific name of Amblyrhynchus cristatus.

What class of animal does a Marine Iguana belong to?

The Marine Iguana species belongs to the class of reptiles or reptilia.

How many Marine Iguana are there in the world?

At present, the population of Marine Iguana is estimated to be between 200,000-300,000. Their numbers are in the fall due consequent to the effects of El Nino. Warmed up ocean waters coupled with the declining growth of sea algae is affecting the iguana diet.

Where does a Marine Iguana live?

You can spot a Marine Iguana swimming in the sea and also on the rocky shores of an island. These marine lizards wander and lounge in the Galapagos islands and dive underwater to feed on algae.

What is a Marine Iguana's habitat?

The cool lizards are known to survive only in the marine habitat of the Galapagos islands. This animal species has a tolerance for surviving the cold and salty ocean environment. They prefer diving a maximum of 30 m underwater. In the islands of the Galapagos, they are found in the low tide zones, salty sea marshes, wetlands, and rocky seashores.

Who do Marine Iguanas live with?

They mostly live on their own. However, they are known to assemble in packs when alarmed by a predator.

How long does a Marine Iguana live?

This unique marine lizard species has a survival span of 5-12 years. However, due to the increased climatic and ocean fluctuations, their lifespan has reduced up to 10 years.

How do they reproduce?

The Marine Iguanas hatch eggs during their month-long breeding season. The breeding season extends from December to February. They can turn a bright color to indicate that they are ready to mate. Females lay eggs on the island shores after mating. The female species mature sexually earlier than their male counterparts, from the age of three to five years, while males start between six to eight years. They lay around five to six eggs and the newborns arrive within two to four months.

What is their conservation status?

They are listed as a Vulnerable species in the IUCN Red List. It means these marine lizards are verging towards being endangered. Increased human interaction in the iguana habitat is threatening their existence, mostly in the islands. The right conservation practices can keep their population numbers in check.

Marine Iguana Fun Facts

What do Marine Iguanas look like?

The marine iguanas are mostly black to grayish in color. They resemble chameleons and have similar rough and scaly skin with a dorsal stripe. Both males and females of this reptile species have blunt snouts, long encrusted tail fins, and spikes down their back. They have drowsy and stoopy eyes, a flat face, a spiny back, and an elongated tail. Their unique body structure with flattened tails, short and thick limbs, and sharp claws help them adjust well both inland and offshore.

Blackish-gray marine iguanas are often studied.

How cute are they?

People fond of petting chameleons and lizards will surely find these sea animals cute. The wide mouth in their small faces gives them a smiling and smirking appearance. The iguanas look quite cute when seen walking on the shores of the Galapagos islands.

How do they communicate?

The Marine Iguanas can't communicate vocally on their own. These lizards detect predators via visual and olfactory senses. Also, after an experiment, a unique interaction between the iguanas and the Galapagos mockingbirds is found. The mockingbirds set out alarm calls to save the iguanas from their predators.

How big is a Marine Iguana?

Marine iguanas are almost 5 ft long. Their flat, long and tapered tail makes up the maximum of their length. It is almost five times the size of a garden lizard and three times bigger than a chameleon. These marine lizards are half the size of an alligator.

How fast can a Marine Iguana move?

Considering their large tail length, the iguanas are incapable of traversing greater distances on land. But they are fast underwater swimmers. On a scale of one to ten, their swimming speed can be rated seven.

How much does a Marine Iguana weigh?

Marine Iguanas native to the Galapagos Isles, weigh between 1-26 lb (1-12 kg). The iguana males are bigger and weigh more than the females.

What are their male and female names of the species?

No separate names have been assigned to the male and female counterparts of the Marine Iguana.

What would you call a baby Marine Iguana?

There is no specific name and usually referred to as a juvenile Marine Iguana.

What do they eat?

The marine iguanas are herbivores and feed on algae only. Specifically, they feed on red and green algae found in the intertidal and subtidal zones of the ocean.

Are they poisonous?

No, marine iguanas are not poisonous. They don't bite, sting, or attack humans and are harmless reptiles.

Would they make a good pet?

Since they are categorized as vulnerable to extinction, petting a marine iguana is prohibited. Also, they are suited only to the unique marine habitat of the Galapagos islands. Taking them away from their habitat will lower their lifespan.

Did you know...

Marine Iguanas is the only herbivorous lizard that can swim in the ocean waters.

Marine iguanas cannot breathe underwater. While diving for food, they can hold their breath for a maximum of 45 minutes.

To attract the females for mating, the male body changes colors to copper, turquoise blue, or red.

To excrete the excess salt accumulated underwater iguana sneezes and snorts on land. It is their natural mechanism to throw out toxic from their nostrils.

The black color helps them to absorb heat and regulate their body temperature after a dive into the cold sea waters.

The larger the availability of sea algae, the bigger is their population and the size of the marine iguanas feeding on it.

Different types of Iguanas

Charles Darwin was the first to discover and distinguish between the marine and the land iguanas. In his Theory of Evolution, he studied how these two species emerged from a common ancestor and adapted to different environmental conditions 8 million years ago.

Marine iguanas are black in color, while the land iguanas are yellow. The marine iguanas are smaller in size than land iguanas. Green iguanas get their name from their body color and are great as pets for home. Few other species of land iguanas are desert iguana, red iguana, and rock iguana.

Are Marine Iguanas endangered?

Marine Iguanas are an endemic species of the Galapagos of South America. The IUCN has declared them to be a vulnerable species. Consequent to climate change, the warmer waters are declining algal growth. Shortage of food and fluctuating body temperature owing to ocean warming are shrinking their body sizes and life expectancy, lowering their numbers. The high rate of ecotourism with consequent habitat invasion, human interaction, and man-handling is also threatening their survival. Human introduction of cats, dogs, pigs, rats, and other animals has increased the number of predators. The eggs of the Marine Iguanas are often destroyed by humans and the high traffic around their breeding grounds. All these are slowly pushing this vulnerable marine lizard towards being endangered. The sub-species of the Marine Iguanas found at Genovesa, Santiago, and San Christobel Islands are marked as endangered too.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including the desert tortoise, or the gharial.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Marine Iguana coloring pages.

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