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11 Curious Facts About Galapagos Marine Iguanas

In this post, I share 11 curious facts about Galapagos marine iguanas.

marine iguana facts

Marine iguanas are algae eating, color changing, free diving reptiles with a habit of sneezing (all the time).

Do you want to see them up close? Check out these land-based Galapagos tours.

11 Curious Facts About Galapagos Marine Iguanas

Here are my favorite marine iguana facts:

1. Why do Marine Iguanas Sneeze?

They sneeze because while they eat they swallow saltwater. Once they are back up on land they need to get rid of all that salt. They do that with the help of their salt-excreting glands. As they sneeze, out comes the saltwater.

2. Why are some Marine Iguanas so big?

Some marine iguanas are so big because of where they live. If the marine iguanas live on an Island with a rich supply of underwater algae they will grow much bigger than the ones on Islands with a less plentiful food supply. No matter which Island they live on, they all try to be the biggest. The females like the biggest males, and the biggest females lay the best eggs.


3. Why do they lay in the sun all day?

They lay in the sun all day because they are cold-blooded. They need the warmth from the sun to digest their food and keep their body temperature up.

4. Do they only eat underwater?

Marine iguanas normally eat underwater from algae beds, but sometimes they have been seen eating plants on land as well. Their main food is algae because their bodies make the best use of it; they don’t digest other kinds of plants very well.

5. How deep can they dive?

The largest of the marine iguanas can dive up to 30 m or 98 ft.


6. How long can they hold their breath?

They can hold their breath for up to 45 minutes.

7. How many eggs do Marine Iguanas lay?

The small females on some Islands only lay one egg. The large females on other Islands lay up to six eggs.


8. Why do Marine Iguanas love Mockingbirds?

Marine iguanas love Mockingbirds because they hate Galapagos hawks. When Galapagos hawks are on the hunt, Mockingbirds let out a distinctive cry. Some iguanas have learned that this means danger which causes them to run for cover.

9. Who are their worst enemies?

Predators of the marine iguanas include Galapagos hawks, dogs and cats. Great blue herons are also high on the enemy list because they eat small hatchlings. Sad to say humans are on this list as well because of pollution and introduced predators, like dogs and cats.

10. Why are some brightly colored?

Male marine iguanas display bright colors during mating season. Marine iguanas are normally black or dark grey which helps them absorb the heat from the sun.

11. What other kinds of seafaring lizards are there?

These are the world’s only seafaring lizards.

There you have it: 11 curious facts about marine iguanas.

Ready to come see them for yourself? We’re ready to help you plan your adventure!

About the author: Dena Haines Hi, I’m Dena Haines! I’m an traveler, photographer and Canadian entrepreneur. I’m a partner at Storyteller Media, a content marketing company for Canadian travel brands. I am co-founder of Click Like This a photo tutorial blog.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Agent N February 3, 2012, 1:15 AM

    Interesting read. These guys fascinate me.

    • Dena February 3, 2012, 1:34 PM

      Thanks Agent N,
      It’s funny to see them in a big pile sneezing out saltwater all over each other. They don’t flinch at all as the moister rains downs on top of them, to be showered in their buddies sneezes is just a part of everyday life 🙂
      What an amazing ability to be able to take in salt water and then expel it later. That would make snorkeling and diving so much easier for us! But I think we would have to be a bit more discreet about the expelling process.

      • Agent N February 4, 2012, 1:52 AM

        That’s hilarious. Sneezing lizards? What a sight that would be.  Hopefully one day I will see them myself. 

  • Aguilar Martin February 3, 2012, 7:00 PM

    pretty cool info, would be great to see them in person.

  • Bea February 11, 2012, 7:59 PM

    pretty cool!

  • Leo Clifford June 3, 2015, 1:30 AM

    Facts about iguanas are very interesting. Thanks for this.

    I just think a video which I have captured in Galapagos, showing iguanas may help you:

    Please have a look.



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