Sunrise on the Equator, Pacific Ocean
The Galapagos Islands are a chain, or archipelago, formed by volcanic action over the past 5 million years. Located on the equator about 600 miles west of Ecuador. But what makes them special is the unique array of wildlife that is found there. Many of the species are found nowhere else on earth and, because they lack natural predators, most have no fear of the thousands of tourists (even photographers) who come to see them every year.
Galapagos Land Iguana, Feeding on Succulents
The Galapagos Land Iguana is primarily an herbivore, feeding mostly on cacti and other succulents and thus can go for long periods without drinking water. This species can weigh up to 13 pounds and they can live for as long as 50 to 60 years. The female lays up to 20 eggs in burrows they have excavated.
There are two kinds of frigatebirds on the islands, but the males of both variants possess the distinctive red throat pouch which inflates into enormous heart-shaped balloons. It can take up to 30 minutes for the pouch to completely fill as the male hopes to enthrall a passing female.
Frigatebird Carrying Nesting Material
Nesting occurs in colonies that may include members of both variants. The nests are constructed mostly by the female with materials brought in by the male. The birds can have wing spans of 7 feet.
CYoung Frigatebird Chick on Nest
The female lays only one egg and it may take 40-50 days to hatch. Both parents share in the nesting and feeding after hatching. It will take another 20-24 weeks before the juvenile fledges but they continue to be fed for another 20 weeks or more before they fend for themselves. Because of the length of this cycle, the female can reproduce only once a year at the most.
Galapagos Flightless Cormorant Drying “Wings”
The Flightless Cormorant is unique to the Galapagos and is found on only two of the islands. Only 1,000 breeding pairs exist. Having no land-based predators, natural selection favored those birds that were better built for swimming and diving. Their wings are about 1/3rd the size needed to fly.
Flightless Cormorant with a Catch
Their courtship is unusual because it is the female that aggressively seeks out the male, and subsequently will depart her partner and offspring to re-mate serially with different males while males raise the young by themselves.
Sally Lightfoot Crab (Yes, really!)
Winner of my award for the creature with the best name (barely edging out the blue footed booby), the colorful Sally Lightfoot Crab is a common sight in the Galapagos Islands. According to one source, this little beastie is named after a famous Caribbean dancer because of its incredible agility. I don’t know about the namesake, but these guys are quick.
Wave Breaking in Late Afternoon Light
Next: Galapagos Islands (Part 2)