Marine iguanas in Galapagos

It’s official: Marine iguanas have started nesting in the Galapagos!

Marine iguanas int the Galapagos

It’s an exciting time of year in the Galapagos Islands. Nesting season has officially started for the Marine Iguanas!

The park authorities, Parque Nacional Galápagos announced on 19th March 2021 that nesting season had officially started.

This means they have put clear zones in place along the coasts. These zones are clearly marked and restrict access to humans in order not to disturb the delicate activity.

The park authorities have also been putting signs in place to inform the public to respect the privacy of this endemic species.

Marine iguanas int the Galapagos

A an amazing animal

Of course the Galapagos marine iguana can only be found in the Galapagos Islands and so are unique. They are extremely good free divers and swimmers. You need to concede these are useful skills considering they feed themselves primarily by foraging in the sea for algae.

These animals from another era tend to live together in colonies on rocky shores. If you head over to the Galapagos and know where to look, there is almost a 100% guarantee that you will see them. 

The females reach their sexual maturity at the age of 3 to 5 years old and the males at around 6 to 8 years old. They will breed every other year for their entire lifespan – with many living until the age of 60!

Nature takes its course

The mating season takes place between December and March, when the weather is drier and colder. The nesting generally happens between January to April. These seasons can be different from island to island and will be heavily influenced by the weather and oceanic currents.

During the mating season you may see males defending their territory against other males using mainly threats. A male will move his head up and down and walk on stiff legs. They also raise the spiny crest along his back, and open his mouth to reveal the reddish interior. In most cases a contender will walk away but, if he responds, there might well be a fight for control.

Galapagos Marine Iguanas laying eggs
Marine Iguanas laying eggs

Roughly one month after mating the females will start digging holes to lay their eggs. This year, this started exactly on 19th March.

On good sandy sites the females will not guard their eggs once they are buried, however, on rockier or harder to dig sites where the eggs may be shallower, females may defend the nest for several days.

Either way, much like turtles, the eggs are left to develop in the warm sand and will hatch around three to four months after being laid. This year we should be looking at June to July. 

As soon as they hatch the younglings will run for shelter to avoid predators. Following this they will begin to move to sites where conditions are best for feeding, temperature regulation, and shelter…sometimes as much as 3km away from their birth site.

Marine iguanas are protected in Ecuador and the park authorities are taking more and more steps to ensure their preservation and to limit human interference. Long may this continue!

Would you like to see more of the Galapagos?

Dive the Galapagos by liveaboard, with Master Liveaboards and experience not only Galapagos Marine Iguanas, but also huge schools of Giant Hammerheads, indigenous Galapagos Sharks, Mantas, Sea Lions and even occasionally Dolphins.

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