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The Land Iguana (Conolophus spp.) is the second biggest land reptile in the Galapagos. It grows up to four feet long, about a third bigger than its cousin, the marine iguana. Scientists classify the land iguanas into two species: C. palidus is from Santa Fé Island, while C. cristatus is the other species. It is found on five or six islands, including. Some islands do not have land iguanas. You can see the difference in appearance from the photos. It is believed that the land iguanas evolved from mainland ancestral iguanas that arrived in the islands millions of years ago. Because the islands are different from the mainland, the Galapagos iguanas evolved considerable differences as they adapted to their niches.

Galapagos land iguanas are vegetarian, and survive on the driest islands by eating cactus pads (see photo). The adults especially like cactus fruits and will climb the prickly plants to knock off the fruits then eat them on the ground. If they get the opportunity they will eat carrion and large invertebrates such as the giant centipede. They get all their water from their food and don't need to drink. However, they will drink from puddles after a heavy rainfall.

The land iguana seems pretty docile most of the time. This changes during breeding season. The timing varies from island to island. Males butt heads as they battle over territories, and females fight over good nesting areas. They reach sexual maturity between eight to twelve years of age. The males that win the biggest territories end up mating with the most females. Females in the best nest areas have the most success hatching their eggs. The female digs a long horizontal burrow one or two feet deep and lays up to two to twenty eggs. The eggs incubate for twelve to sixteen weeks. When hatched the young have to fend for themselves, and are prone to predators such as the Galapagos hawk, herons and owls. When young they feed on insects and other invertebrates. Adults are long-lived. Individuals over sixty years old are known from Baltra Island.

The land iguanas are doing well on most islands they occur. Concerns over their conservation status arise from habitat destruction and predation by feral cats and dogs. On Santiago (James Island) Charles Darwin found so many iguana burrows he could not find a place to pitch a tent. Today, on this island, there are no burrows and no iguanas. Donkeys turned loose multiplied to such numbers that they trampled the entire area where iguanas nested and drove them to extinction. The Galapagos National Park Service has implemented an intensive eradication program in hopes to restore the native iguana population. This program is nearing completion and has been almost completely successful at removing the donkeys from Santiago.


Galapagos Land Iguanas
Land Iguana (Dr. Robert Rothman)
Galapagos Land Iguanas and Their Protection
Land Iguanas: A Natural History
Animal Diversity Web: Conolophus subcristatus
Land Iguanas Are Territorial Animals
Land Iguanas Endangered in Galapagos
The Dragons of the Galapagos
USFWS Endangered Species Outreach: Iguana, Barrington land
Signing of Agreement to Prevent Iguana Deaths in Baltra
Land Iguana (Conolophus spp)
Wildlife - Coastal Zone - Land Iguanas
Galapagos Land Iguana Conolophus subcristatus
Santa Fe Land Iguana Conolophus pallidus
Land Iguana Pictures
Land iguanas, conolophus subcristatus (endemic species)
Phillip Colla Natural History Photography
Classification of Genus Conolophus

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Santa Fe land iguana photo Seymour land iguana photo
land iguana

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