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Image courtesy of www.thisisthelife.comGalapagos Wildlife
There are 27 species of reptiles found on the Galapagos divided in five families as follows: snakes, geckos, Iguanas, lava lizards and, the giant tortoises.
Giant Tortoises (Geochelone elephantopus).
The Galapagos and the Seychelles are the sole islands housing giant tortoises while the Galapagos name originates from the Saddleback tortoise meaning galápago or saddle.
14 subspecies of this wonderful ancient has been located on the islands and 11 survive to this day. The most senior tortoise lives in the Darwin Research Station and is purported to be a grand 170. Longevity results through perhaps a stress free lifestyle as all their life consists of is eating, mating and sleeping with no predators at large in addition to nesting during February to May when the females prepare to lay their eggs which take between 3 to 8 months to hatch.
Today the Darwin Research station is helping to increase the current 15,000 population of giant turtles and along with the Santa Cruz tortoise reserve on San Cristobal housing the highest population of all islands the captivity approach is working effectively.
Marine Turtles (Chelonia mydas).
The pacific green turtle mates around December-January and lays its eggs from 80 up to over 100 in a hole in the darkness of night with Floreana beach being a popular area for the laying of their eggs.
Marine Iguanas (Amblyrynchus cristatus).
This iguana is the only marine lizard on earth and is getting on to 10 million years of existence and are commonly seen in large groups around the lava rock formations. Their skin has adapted through its dark black hues to the ferocious suns that rage down in the Galapagos and also acts as camouflage and in addition can dive down to 20m with its well developed flat tail and has been timed at staying underwater for up to an hour, as well as fish the iguanas also feed on seaweed. The only other color type of the same species may be found on Española who display shiny green and red coloration.
Land Iguana (Conolphus pallidus or subscristatus).
These iguanas feed most of the time with yellow flora and fruits of the islands such as prickly cactus pear and exist in two major forms, namely; Conolphus subcristatus which has yellow-orange coloration on Santa Cruz, Plaza, Isabela and Fernandina islands and secondly conolphus pallidus, which is decorated with brown and whitish coloration but is found only on Santa Fe.
There are around 29 types of land birds in the islands and 70% are endemic while such birds as the lava gull, swallowtail gull, Galapagos penguin and the waved albatross are actually endemic and found no where else. There are 19 main types of sea birds that proliferate the islands and a number of believe the birds were the first colonizing animals to populate these distant, remote lands.
Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus).
These penguins surface around 5-7 am in the early morning and are considered the most northerly of their species while they live and breed mainly on Isabela and Fernandina islands they can also be found on Bartolome and parts of Santiago Island and have current populations of around 2000.
Flightless Cormorant (Nannopetrum harrisi).
As well as being an extremely rare variety of bird life with no flying ability it will spread its wings and makes out it's about to takeoff but is not troubled by any predators and has become essentially a "lazy winged bird" yet it compensates with great swimming ability, it is found only on Fernandina and Isabela islands on the westerly coastline.
Waved Albatross (Dimeda irrorata).
This is the biggest bird inhabiting the islands with an incredible 2.5m wing span and is a cousin also of the puffin bird. As well as being endemic only found on Española island and no where else on earth. After the April-December mating season it will hover and glide over the Pacific ocean as well as the distant Asian countries coastlines before returning for the intricate breeding and courting dances concocted through exotic dance rituals and fencing battles with fellow males, eventhough once the mate is found they will only practice monogamous relations with their partner.
Varieties include the Great, Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) and Fregata minor and all possess great wing spans similar in length to the former mentioned Albatross while in addition they have long forked tails with angled wings increasing their aerodynamics potential and speed levels.
They land near to other birds and hassle them for food due to the loss of plumage preventing them to land in the sea and seek their pray eventhough they have been known to catch small fish on the waters surface with their hooked beaks.
During mating times they display their large red sac under the throat and inflate it with balloon style effects while moving frenetically its spreading wings, do note the best time to witness this is during March-April on the islands of Genovesa and San Cristobal or North Seymour, the latter is all year round.
Typical on the islands are the three types of Boobies, these are the red-footed, blue-footed and the masked booby(Nazca booby) while the name was given to them for the levels of tameness and fearlessness with humans.
Of the three the most populated variety is the Blue-footed booby called Sula nebouxii and commonly lays multi eggs making it the only one to do this of the three, they catch the fish by sky diving and also have exquisite courtship dances as a number of birds on these islands also display.
The Red-footed booby known as Sula sula nests in the trees and is a light brown colored bird with the largest colony nestled on Genovesa island.
The Masked booby also known as Sula dactylactra has white plumage and a black mask surrounding the eye and is the heavier set of the three varieties and nests on the ground like its blue-footed related family, while it fishes in the middle of the other two types.
The main mammals on the islands are rats, sea lions, seals and a couple of bat species as the islands have been always segregated from any Pacific main lands. Some however, are under more threat due to man importation of donkeys, dogs, black rats and goats.
Sea Lion.(Zalophus californianus).
Correlation to the Californian family species there is an abundance of sea lions throughout the whole Galapagos islands who parade in large colonies on the rocks and coastlines on all the islands. The beaches are patrolled by the males who will protect female groups of 30 and over, you will be able to differentiate from the female sea lions as the former have domed foreheads and are much larger in size and protect their territory of up to 100 sq. meters and involves protecting their young offspring in addition to attacking invaders. Mating season is around May-January and is a time of heavy guarding and responsibility for all the males. Sea lions particularly the females will playfully swim with you as well as surfing large waves and are found mainly on South Plaza, Santa Fe, Rábida, James Bay (Santiago island), Española, San Cristobal and Isabela.
Fur Seals (Arctocephalus galapaoensis).
Sea lions as well as Fur seals have with their attractive pelts made it a very hunted and near extinct creature due to greedy whalers and skin hunters but luckily a number of have survived due to hiding under rocks and sheltered areas such as lava cracks in Santiago island and Puerto Egas. The fur sea lion is much smaller than the sea lion and has larger rounded moist eyes and pointed noses with more significant ear formations.
It is currently reported that there are over 400 different species of fish roaming the Galapagos islands surrounding waters with endemic to this area only.
Five examples of the varied marine life are as follows, there are over 12 species of sharks with no known attacks on man, 2 species of hammerheads, 5 species of rays (stingrays, golden ray, marbled ray, spotted eagle ray and manta rays), 18 types of morays, the more common tiger shark, black-tip shark and the whale and gray reef shark. The marine mammals frequenting the water ocean are the dolphins along with their extended family the bottle-nosed and common species. The whales species include the Brydes whales, pilot whale, Minke whale, blue whale and Cuviers whale who traverse the complete island range eventhough Fernandina and Isabela Islands are considered hot spots for viewing these whales. In addition there are numerous starfish, urchins and crustaceans as well as sea cucumbers bobbing around.
Posted by: Betsy Source