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The Migration of Young Marine Iguanas on Santa Cruz

Recently hatched Galapagos marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) measure 10 cm in length.

The presence of hundreds of marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands has attracted the attention of domestic and foreign tourists, as well as the inhabitants of Santa Cruz, who have witnessed the migration of newly hatched marine iguanas at Punta Nuñez and other nesting sites on the island. Soon after hatching, the reptiles head southwest from Punta Nuñez in search of better conditions for feeding, rest, and shelter.

Marine Iguanas mate in February and March. Each female then digs a single nest in the sand and lays two to three eggs, which hatch in May-June.

Hatchling iguanas weigh between 40 and 70 grams, measure about 10 cm in length, and cannot swim until they are about two years old. 95% of the hatchlings at Punta Nuñez migrate southwest in search of ravines and cliffs with reefs that will provide the best conditions for temperature regulation and an abundant source of food.  Some have been observed traveling as much as three kilometers in two days.

Because some of the marine iguanas migrate through the town of Puerto Ayora, the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) has called on the community to be extremely cautious when travelling through the streets near the coast. Lower speed limits are being implemented in areas where many young small iguanas have been spotted.

The Galapagos Marine Iguana is considered vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. Their main predators are introduced rats, cats, and dogs.

Marine Iguanas are the only reptile in the world that can spend 45 minutes under water. The smallest of the species lives on Genovesa Island in the northeast of the archipelago while the largest ones are found on Fernandina and Isabela Islands in the west.

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