Marine iguana

Despite looking like miniature dragons, marine iguanas eat grass

Charles J. Sharp

Renowned for their unique adaptation to forage in shallow marine environments, they stand out as one of the most iconic reptilian species inhabiting the Galápagos archipelago. Unlike their terrestrial counterparts, these remarkable creatures have evolved specialized feeding behaviors, primarily consuming marine algae thriving along rocky shorelines and underwater habitats.

Despite their predominantly aquatic foraging habits, marine iguanas exhibit terrestrial behavior, often basking in the sun to regulate their body temperature after extended periods in cool ocean waters. This duality in behavior reflects their remarkable ecological flexibility and adaptation to their dynamic island environments.

However, the survival of marine iguanas faces significant threats, primarily attributed to human activities. Introducing non-native predators, such as cats and dogs, has resulted in heightened predation pressure on marine iguana populations, particularly vulnerable juveniles ill-equipped to defend themselves against these powerful land predators. Consequently, predation by introduced mammals has contributed to population declines and heightened conservation concerns for this iconic species.

Moreover, the proliferation of human activities within the Galápagos Islands, including tourism, urbanization, and resource extraction, has led to habitat degradation and fragmentation, further exacerbating the challenges faced by marine iguanas. As human populations continue to expand and encroach upon vital marine and terrestrial habitats, urgent conservation measures are imperative to mitigate the impacts of anthropogenic threats on marine iguana populations and their fragile island ecosystems.


Population est.

Did you know?

  • The marine iguana is one of the few strictly vegetarian lizards in the world. It mainly eats seaweed.
  • The saw-like ridge of spines on the iguana’s back not only gives a sinister appearance but also helps regulate its body temperature as the iguana basks in the sun.
  • Marine iguanas sneeze. They do this because when eating, they swallow saltwater, and once back on land, they have to get rid of the salt. As they sneeze, the saltwater comes out.
  • An iguana can grow another tail if it is cut off.
  • Iguanas are able to stop their heart from beating for as long as one minute.

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No