The marine iguana, also known as the sea and saltwater iguana, is a reptile found only on the Galapagos Islands. But, did you know this animal is the only sea-going lizard in the world? Heck, it is one of the rare lizards that are vegetarian! However, that doesn’t stop this amazing animal to grow very large. But, let’s learn some more, shall we?

marine iguana

Where can we find the marine iguana?

Native only to the Galapagos islands, this iguana occurs in western, northeastern, and southeastern islands. Therefore, many of these islands have intertidal flats, steep rock cliffs, and low rock ledges. However, this sea animal requires access to the sea, as well as a sandy area where it can lay eggs.

marine iguana

How does the marine iguana look?

This lizard has a thickset body and relatively short, robust limbs. Moreover, males have longer spines and larger bony plates on the top of their head than females. Although usually black or grey, during the breeding males gain green and red coloration. The dorsal scales are a triangular shape, and its long tail serves great in the water while swimming. Finally, when it comes to size, an adult can grow between 4,7 and 22 inches and weigh up to 26 pounds.


Like most iguanas, the marine iguana is a herbivore, mostly eating marine algae. However, larger iguanas will dive into the sea in order to eat. In fact, they will dive as deep as 39 feet! Being able to hold its breath more than an hour, the iguana has more than plenty of time to forage. Smaller iguanas, on the other hand, keep out of the water, feeding instead of algae on rocks in the tidal area.


Marine iguanas are polygynous. Males will fight aggressively to ensure a mate. Naturally, females will select them based on their size, of course preferring larger individuals. The breeding season is from December to March. Therefore, the female will lay 1 to 6 eggs in a burrow of sand. She will defend the nest for a few days before leaving the eggs to incubate, which takes 89 to 120 days. When hatched, the babies get out from the nest, mowing down to the intertidal zone, where they start feeding.

Did you know marine iguanas sneeze? When eating, they swallow saltwater. Thus, their salt-excreting glands help them do this, and, as they sneeze, the saltwater comes out.

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