In comparison to the Amazonian rainforest, the Galapagos Islands have low biodiversity. This is because the islands are located 1000 km (600 miles) away from the continent. However, even with all of this inhospitable ocean in-between the Galapagos Islands are home to a great deal of beautiful, rare, and colorful animals! Here are some of our favorite Galapagos animals.
1. Galapagos Sea Lion
The estimated population of the Galapagos Sea Lion is 50 000. You can spot the difference between males and females by looking at the color of their fur. Males have dark brown fur, almost black when wet, while females have creamy brown fur, looking dark brown when wet. Males are also considerably larger than females and have a thicker neck when fully matured (which takes about 10 years for males, 6-8 years for females). The Galapagos sea lions are not shy at all and are definitely great companions during our Galapagos snorkeling or diving tours! And basically, anywhere they can find a comfy spot.
2. Sally Lightfoot Crab
Baby Sally Lightfoot Crabs are black, or very dark brown with small white and red spots. The lava all over the Galapagos Islands is black, so the babies blend in with their camouflage. As they mature, their shell becomes brighter and more colorful. Matured Sally Lightfoot Crabs are so fast that there is no need for camouflage! They can move in every direction, jump, and what seems like a fly to avoid their predators.
3. Land/Marine Iguana
Following up on the Sally Lightfoot Crab is the Marine Iguana. These two Galapagos animals have an interesting, slightly inappropriate, but mutually-beneficial relationship: a symbiosis. This basically means that both, sally and the iguana, are getting something of value out of their relationship. In this case, Sally enjoys her meal off of the marine iguanas, by eating skin parasites and dead skin off of them. So the Iguana gets a free bath and sally a delicious meal of dead skin and parasites. Yum!
The Marine Iguana is the only sea-going lizard in the world. They can be found on basically every rocky coastline along the Galapagos living on land, but feeding in the ocean on different kinds of seaweed. The Iguanas maneuver through the water by swinging their flattened tail from side to side, while their legs just hang pointlessly beside their body. The total population is estimated between 200 000 and 300 000 on the islands!
There is one flamingo species resident to the Galapagos Islands, the Greater Flamingo. Because everything is greater on the Galapagos, right? The colonies feed in small groups in saltwater lagoons and are often spotted during Galapagos cruises. Did you know that they can get up to 140 cm?
5. Blue/Red-footed Boobies
There could not be a more suitable name to the Blue and Red-Footed Boobies. They use their beautiful bright feet to show off to their mates, by lifting them in the air and waving them around. The brighter their feet, the higher the chance of getting a shot with the girls. They are exceptional divers, because of the way they fold their wings back when diving into the water.
You will most likely encounter Red Footed Boobies around the coastal areas, but also keep an eye on the trees, as that is where they nest. Blue Footed Boobies are both active around the coastal areas and on land. Why are these adorable birds called boobies, you may ask? Well, they are named after the Spanish word ‘ bobo’, meaning stupid or goofy. Just like the following bird on the list, the boobies seem rather clumsy when they are on land.
6. Galapagos Penguin
The Galapagos Penguin is the second smallest penguin in the world and the only penguin that lives north of the equator! On land they are pretty clumsy animals, waddling around (and sometimes tripping over) however, they maneuver themselves through the water like a torpedo! Their wings are compressed, forming very powerful flippers. An encounter with the Galapagos Penguin is most likely to happen around the seashore, as they nest in burrows close to the shore. Isabela Island, Bartolome Island, and Fernandina Island are popular penguin spots.
7. Giant Tortoise/ Green Sea Turtle
The Galapagos Giant Tortoises are the largest species of tortoises in the world and can weigh up to 417 kg, about the same as an adult horse! These giants are slightly deaf and easy to creep up on, to which they will draw in their heads and legs as soon as they notice you are nearby. They can go up to a year without food and fluids, by breaking down their body fat and storing fluids very efficiently. In Santa Cruz, you will find a large number of giant tortoises.
The gender of the Galapagos Green Turtle depends on the temperature the eggs are kept in, (logically) hatching females during hotter temperatures and males during colder temperatures. Sadly, most hatchlings get eaten by birds, crabs, and many other predators preying on them. Even in the water, they have to keep an eye on sharks and Frigate birds, until they reach adulthood at 26 – 40 years (with an average of 33 years).
As big and heavy as the Galapagos Giant Tortoises may be, the Manta Ray will beat them on every aspect. The largest documented Manta-Ray had a width span of 9,1 meters and weighted over 1000 kg! The Spanish word ‘manta’ means ‘blanket’, which makes total sense looking at how they glide through the water, their wings looking as if you were making your bed.
9. Magnificent Frigate Bird
These not-so-passive-aggressive, but rather aggressive-aggressive birds have an interesting way of hunting. Instead of catching their prey by themselves, they look for other species of birds (like the Blue Footed Booby), grab their tail feathers, and shake them until they drop their freshly caught meal. That explains why they have the reputation as ‘pirate birds’.
The reason why they don’t catch their meals themselves is that their feathers are not waterproof, making them waterlogged after a minute in the ocean. Young Frigate birds practice this piracy by holding small sticks in their beak, while their brother or sister chases them until they drop the stick. They will dive in order to catch it. You can easily differentiate the males from females: Males have a bright red pouch in their neck and are smaller than the females. The main breeding colonies are to be found on North Seymour, Floreana, and San Cristobal.
10. Hammerhead Shark
And lastly, hitting the nail right on the head, our final favorite Galapagos animal is the Hammerhead Shark. The eyes of the Hammerhead Shark are located on the sides of the ‘hammer’, giving them excellent depth perception. The actual reasons for the hammer-like shape of this shark’s head are still being researched, but possibilities are that it improves the swimming performances, detecting smells, and approaching their prey. Nailed it!
If you are interested in discovering all the beautiful Galapagos animals (and nature), book a tour with Rebecca Adventure Travel today!
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