Marine iguana and lava lizard
Ecuador

Galapagos part 2

Ten million years ago, a pregnant spinytail iguana was crossing a log suspended over a river in South America when suddenly it snapped.

“Crap,” said the iguana as it was carried out to sea aboard its makeshift raft.

Three months later, as the iguana lay dozing dreaming of fruits, flowers, foliage, and small animals to eat, its tiny raft bumped up against the rocky volcanic shore of a previously unknown island. Unknown to iguanas, that is. Several species of sea bird had discovered it millions of years prior and had found it particularly well suited for raising their young since there were virtually no predators. Mammals, you see, couldn’t survive the journey from the mainland because of their warm-blooded metabolism.

“Huh,” said the iguana as it abandoned the raft and made its way onto shore. There, it found some stuff to eat and gave birth.

Animals are awesome.

The true magic of the Galapagos is revealed under the waves. This school of fish was hiding in a large cave.
The true magic of the Galapagos is revealed under the waves. This school of fish was hiding in a large cave.
Sean Pont
On top, a blue seastar (Phataria unifascialis), and below two Panamic cushion stars (Pentaceraster cumingi).
On top, a blue seastar (Phataria unifascialis), and below two Panamic cushion stars (Pentaceraster cumingi).
Sean Pont
Galápagos green turtle (Chelonia agassizii). There were at least a dozen turtles in this little cove, all feeding below the waves and totally unconcerned with our presence.
Galápagos green turtle (Chelonia agassizii). There were at least a dozen turtles in this little cove, all feeding below the waves and totally unconcerned with our presence.
Sean Pont
Despite being little over a meter long, the Galapagos bullhead shark (Heterodontus quoyi) is widely regarded as the most dangerous animal on the planet. Thankfully, they are easy to distinguish from their more mild-mannered cousin, the Great White: the eyes lack a nictitating membrane and a spiracle is present, though small.
Despite being little over a meter long, the Galapagos bullhead shark (Heterodontus quoyi) is widely regarded as the most dangerous animal on the planet. Thankfully, they are easy to distinguish from their more mild-mannered cousin, the Great White: the eyes lack a nictitating membrane and a spiracle is present, though small.
Sean Pont
The Galápagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeki) is inquisitive and social, and they often play with snorkelers. This one danced around me for ten minutes before sticking her nose in my camera.
The Galápagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeki) is inquisitive and social, and they often play with snorkelers. This one danced around me for ten minutes before sticking her nose in my camera.
Sean Pont
Galápagos sea lions are smaller than their Californian relatives. They are currently listed as endangered.
Galápagos sea lions are smaller than their Californian relatives. They are currently listed as endangered.
Sean Pont
When dry, sea lion fur turns brown. When young, sea lion faces turn unbearably cute.
When dry, sea lion fur turns brown. When young, sea lion faces turn unbearably cute.
Sean Pont
The Galápagos fur seal (Arctocephalus galapagoensis) is smaller and furrier than the Galápagos sea lion. They also spend more time on land and take longer to raise their young. They are also listed as endangered, though the population currently looks stable.
The Galápagos fur seal (Arctocephalus galapagoensis) is smaller and furrier than the Galápagos sea lion. They also spend more time on land and take longer to raise their young. They are also listed as endangered, though the population currently looks stable.
Sean Pont
The Sally Lightfoot crab (Grapsus grapsus) often cleans ticks off of marine iguanas.
The Sally Lightfoot crab (Grapsus grapsus) often cleans ticks off of marine iguanas.
Sean Pont
A pile of marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) bathe in the strong equatorial sunlight between foraging expeditions in the intertidal zone. They can dive as deep as 20m and spend up to an hour underwater. Since it is cold-blooded (ectothermic), the marine iguana must be careful to balance eating with sunbathing to regulate its body temperature.
A pile of marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) bathe in the strong equatorial sunlight between foraging expeditions in the intertidal zone. They can dive as deep as 20m and spend up to an hour underwater. Since it is cold-blooded (ectothermic), the marine iguana must be careful to balance eating with sunbathing to regulate its body temperature.
Sean Pont
Note the splotches of white encrusted salt on the face and spines of this marine iguana. Salt ingested from the ocean is filtered from their blood and excreted by specialised cranial exocrine glands at the nostrils in a process much like sneezing.
Note the splotches of white encrusted salt on the face and spines of this marine iguana. Salt ingested from the ocean is filtered from their blood and excreted by specialised cranial exocrine glands at the nostrils in a process much like sneezing.
Sean Pont
The marine iguana diverged from the Galapagos land iguana (Conolophus subcristatus), shown here, some 8–10 million years ago. Incredibly, this is older than any of the extant Galápagos islands. It is therefore thought that their common ancestor inhabited parts of the volcanic archipelago that are now submerged. The two species remain mutually fertile and they occasionally hybridize, resulting in a giant land/sea kaiju that occasionally torments Tokyo with atomic breath.
The marine iguana diverged from the Galapagos land iguana (Conolophus subcristatus), shown here, some 8–10 million years ago. Incredibly, this is older than any of the extant Galápagos islands. It is therefore thought that their common ancestor inhabited parts of the volcanic archipelago that are now submerged. The two species remain mutually fertile and they occasionally hybridize, resulting in a giant land/sea kaiju that occasionally torments Tokyo with atomic breath.
Sean Pont
The Galápagos tortoise is the largest living species of tortoise, weighing up to 900 pounds. Each island has its own subspecies, which vary by weight, shell shape, and other characteristics.
The Galápagos tortoise is the largest living species of tortoise, weighing up to 900 pounds. Each island has its own subspecies, which vary by weight, shell shape, and other characteristics.
Sean Pont
They might be small, but the Galápagos lava lizard (Microlophus albemarlensis) is a tough little critter with an impressive paint job. They are often seen crawling over sea lions and marine iguanas eating flies.
They might be small, but the Galápagos lava lizard (Microlophus albemarlensis) is a tough little critter with an impressive paint job. They are often seen crawling over sea lions and marine iguanas eating flies.
Sean Pont
The wild YiOu (Velox formonsus) is easily identified by her strong figure, careful wardrobe selection, and good humor. Especially the humor.
The wild YiOu (Velox formonsus) is easily identified by her strong figure, careful wardrobe selection, and good humor. Especially the humor.
Sean Pont

Full-sized images: https://photos.app.goo.gl/vF6I7LlHc1n9brW93