Wildlife watching at Punta Espinoza, Fernandina – The Galápagos Islands

Punta Espinoza is a favourite place for Marine Iguanas, that nest here in the early part of the year and the young iguanas emerge around June. Marine Iguanas are endemic to the Galápagos islands and are thought to have evolved from the land iguanas that may have floated across from South America on rafts. Adult iguanas are between a metre and a metre and a half (three to five feet) in length and weigh up to one and a half kilograms (three pounds). They can live for up to twelve years and are herbivores, eating underwater algae and seaweed. Marine Iguanas are the only sea-going lizards and are exceptionally graceful swimmers.

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Researchers tried to track the marine iguanas by placing tracking devices on their heads, as they do with the Galápagos tortoises, for example. Strangely, all the marine iguanas that had the tracking devices attached to them died. They then discovered that the marine iguanas have their heat sensor on the top of their head. By placing the tracking device on top of this sensor the iguana was unable to tell if it was too hot or too cold and would sit in the sun until it died of overheating.

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Lava lizards sit on marine iguanas’ heads. There are seven different species of lava lizards in the Galápagos islands and it is believed that they all evolved from one single species. Like the iguanas, they rely on the sun for their internal heat and will start the day by basking in the sun for around half an hour, but must retreat to the shade during the hottest part of the day. At night lava lizards rest under leaves or gravel to protect themselves from the cooler temperatures.

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A sea lion and a marine iguana swim together to the shore and climb out to warm up in the sun. Meanwhile, a young sea lion pup sleeps on the sand, in the shade of a tree. The pup is probably only about a week old. Sea lions attend to their pups continuously for six or seven days after birth, at which time they return to the sea to feed. It could be two or three days before the mother returns. Over on a nearby lava rock another young sea lion pup is feeding. Sea lions only nurse one pup at a time and, if the mother does not have another pup, then the first can nurse for up to three years.

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A flightless cormorant is standing on a rock by the shore. This bird (also known as the Galápagos cormorant) is endemic to the island and is the only cormorant that has lost the ability to fly. Instead it has an exceptional ability to swim and dive, far better than its relatives. It was initially thought that this species had developed from cormorants who had flown to the island, but whose descendants had lost this ability; however it is now believed that it was created through a genetic mutation or genetic copying mistake. This mutation that would normally be harmful for a bird species may have been beneficial for this particular type of cormorant.

Above, a Galápagos Hawk stands on the edge of a large lava rock. The only diurnal bird of prey on the islands, this hawk is endemic to the Galápagos. The birds have a body length of approximately 55 centimetres (22.5 inches) and a wingspan of approximately 125 centimetres (50 inches). They feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles and lizards including lava lizards, young iguanas, hatchling tortoises, snakes and rodents.

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Carefully assembled on the lava is a set of whale bones that were washed up on the shore. Upon their discovery, researchers carried them to the area where they now sit by the large cracks in the black rocks and the lava cactus.

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SOURCES:

  • http://pages.uoregon.edu/drt/Research/Volcanic%20Galapagos/presentation.view
  • http://www.animalcorner.co.uk/galapagos/lavalizard.html
  • http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Zalophus_wollebaeki/
  • http://www.theanimalfiles.com/birds/birds_of_prey/galapagos_hawk.html
  • http://creation.com/galapagos-birds

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Wildlife watching at Punta Espinoza, Fernandina – The Galápagos Islands

by Uncover Travel time to read: 3 min
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