A Naturalist's Pilgrimage to the Galapagos
Smithsonian's Laura Helmuth vacationed in the Galapagos Islands and returned with even more respect for Charles Darwin
- By Laura Helmuth
- Smithsonian.com, January 30, 2009
The Galapagos is no place for a mammal. But it's a great place to be a reptile. Land animals had to make the trip here via rafts of vegetation that broke loose from the mainland, which isn't so bad if you have scaly skin, are cold-blooded and can go for a long time without fresh water. A few rodents managed to colonize the islands, and there are some native bats, but reptiles rule.
One of the weirdest reptiles is the marine iguana, the world's only seagoing lizard. It basks on lava rocks to warm up in the morning, then swims around in the surf eating seaweed. They get to be four feet long or more and look for all the world like Godzilla. Like other Galapagos creatures, they aren't particularly bothered by humans gawking at them.