Marine igua­nas

World of Animals - - Na­ture Diaries: An Evo­lu­tion­ary Ex­pe­ri­ence -

En­demic to the Galá­pa­gos, th­ese cu­ri­ous rep­tiles are found in many places across the ar­chi­pel­ago, with large colonies on Santa Cruz, Fer­nan­d­ina and Is­abela Is­lands, as well as on Es­paῆola and Plaza Sur. Charles Dar­win once de­scribed them as "imps of dark­ness".

Dressed to im­press

Nor­mally black to ab­sorb the Sun, marine igua­nas boast gaudy shades of red, or­ange, green and turquoise dur­ing the mat­ing sea­son (De­cem­ber to March). Males can go with­out food (al­gae) for up to two weeks dur­ing this pe­riod to pro­tect their ter­ri­tory on land.

Salty sneez­ing

Marine igua­nas spend so much time in the sea that they ab­sorb too much salt. Spe­cial glands help them to ex­pel this salt by sneez­ing it out of their nose.

Sur­vival of the small­est

When food is in short sup­ply marine igua­nas can ac­tu­ally shrink their skele­ton to ad­just for the change in diet. Dur­ing this pe­riod the rep­tiles can shed up to 20 per cent of their body mass.

Sub­ma­rine spe­cial­ist

When swim­ming un­der­wa­ter the heart rate of a marine iguana drops by half, al­low­ing it to stay be­neath the sea for longer.

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