If you’re considering booking your next vacation with a travel agent, the Galapagos Islands should be at the top of your bucket list! With its exotic location, unique ecosystem, lush plants, and unusual animals, it is a mecca of raw, natural beauty.
The islands were the birthplace of scientist Charles Darwin’s most famous research on evolution and natural selection. And it’s easy to see why. With so many varieties of rare Galapagos animals, there is no shortage of wonderment.
Among the 13 larger islands are some of the most unique animals known to man. Take a look at seven of the most unusual animals below.
Seven Galapagos Animals Unique to the Island
One of the most incredible things about the animals below is that they only exist on the Galapagos Islands. How many of the seven species do you recognize?
1. Blue-Footed Booby
With its bright blue webbed feet and its rather goofy appearance, the Blue-footed booby looks like a cross between a penguin and a seagull. Not only does this quirky animal possess all the charm and personality of some of the most beloved Pixar characters, but its name in Spanish comes from the word bobo, which means “silly” or “clown.”
While the blue foot color helps attract potential mates with its dance, its feet also play a large role in parenthood. Once its babies hatch, they seek warmth by huddling on top of those big floppy feet to keep warm. A penchant for clumsiness, this creature is surprisingly protected from predators based on its location in the Galapagos.
2. Flightless Cormorant
The flightless cormorant is an extremely rare bird that mystified even Darwin. Because this bird was able to avoid being ruthlessly hunted by predators, it was able to live in total isolation on two of the islands. This meant there was plenty of food and shelter, not to mention a life free of predators.
With approximately 2,000 flightless cormorants in the world, scientists are always looking to learn about evolution from this creature. Although it has several features of birds, like a beak and webbed feet, its body is designed more for swimming rather than flying. Hence the name “flightless” – perhaps it should be changed to the swimming cormorant instead.
3. Giant Tortoise
The giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands are like none you’ve ever seen before. Not only are these majestically slow creatures the inspiration for the name Las Islas de Los Galapagos (or Island of the Tortoises), but they are also the largest tortoises in the world. Measuring up to six-feet long, males can weigh over half a ton and females just shy of 300 pounds.
Tortoises frequently live to be well over 100, with some recorded to be 171-years-old. Their solid legs and thick, lightweight round domes or saddlebacks (two names for their shells) are able to protect them from both the elements and any potential battles. The variety of tortoises on each of the 13 islands made such a strong impact on Darwin and inspired much of his research.
4. Marine Iguanas
The only place that marine iguanas are regularly found in the world is on the Galapagos Islands. Some scientists believe they originated in South America and eventually found their way to the Galapagos by floating out to sea. With their spiky dorsal scales, white “wigs of salt” and unique adaptation to aquatic life, these herbivores can live up to 12 years.
Able to hunt for food like algae, marine iguanas are able to dive up to 30 feet deep in the water. Although their awkward appearance has earned them a reputation for being what Darwin once referred to as the “most disgusting, clumsy lizards” on the planet, they are actually more docile than they look.
5. Darwin’s Finches
This species of bird is unique to the Galapagos Islands and heavily influenced Darwin’s research. It would be during one of his first voyages to the islands that he would identify 12 of 14 new species. His initial observations sparked his ideas about evolution and how finches were able to adapt to their changing environment.
Darwin observed the variety of the birds’ beak shapes and how they changed over the course of thousands of years to eat different foods. Darwin’s keen observations influenced him to further develop his theories on natural selection.
The frigatebird is a majestic and elegant bird that prefers warm climates to cooler ones. Two species of frigatebirds exist – the magnificent frigatebird and the magnificent frigatebird – on the Galapagos Islands. Although they are both identical in shape and size, it is the variety of colors that make them both unique.
Male frigatebirds have a particularly bold mating behavior by filling up a red balloon-like sac with air on their chest and prancing about. After spreading their fanlike wings, snapping their beaks, and bobbing their heads, they eventually mate for life with a partner. Although the males are loud and flashy in their mating rituals, the females are actually larger in size.
7. Galapagos Sea Lion
The Galapagos sea lion is a rare type of sea lion that breeds exclusively on the islands. With the average lifespan of between 15-20 years, this endangered mammoth creature is frequently found all along the coastline. The males are often larger than the females – sometimes weighing up to four times as more.
Their acute ability to stay underwater for long periods of times makes them excellent hunters. Naturally inquisitive and protective, some sea lions can become rather aggressive if they feel threatened. Female sea lions are very nurturing of their pups, who stay near their mothers for the first year until they learn how to be more self-sufficient.
Why Not See These Animals in Person?
We hope our list of the top seven Galapagos animals inspired you to want to start planning your dream vacation! When you’re ready, read more here for the ultimate list of things to do while you’re visiting the islands. We’re pretty sure you’ll find some inspirational ideas to help you plan the vacation of a lifetime!
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