Galapagos Islands Animals
The Animals in the Galapagos Islands are generally classified as endemic, native or introduced. Endemic animals are the ones that are only found on the Galapagos Islands and found nowhere else in the world in a natural habitat.
A good example of this would be the Flightless Cormorant. Native animals are the ones found naturally in the Galapagos Islands, but also found naturally in other places in the world, such as the Nazca Booby. Introduced species are species in the Galapagos Islands that are not found in their natural habitat, such as rats, dogs, and goats.
Introduced species are a very important threat to the Galapagos Islands environment and ecosystem and are kept under strict watch, while endemic species are a large concern of the Galapagos National Park in order to preserve their kind and avoid extinction.
The endemic fauna includes invertebrate, reptile and bird species. There are a few indigenous mammals. All the reptiles, except for two marine tortoises, are endemic. These include the Galápagos giant tortoise, with 11 subspecies on different islands, all of which are endangered, terrestrial iguanas, marine iguana, three racer species, numerous lizards of the genus and geckos.
The native avifauna includes 57 residents, of which 26 (46%) are endemic and 31 are regular migrants. Endemic taxa include 13 species of Darwin's finches, including Floreana tree finch and mangrove finch. Other noteworthy species include dark-rumped petrel, Galapagos flightless cormorant, Galapagos penguin, lava gull, Floreana mockingbird, Galapagos hawk, lava heron, nocturnal swallow-tailed gull, Galapagos rail, thick-billed flycatcher, Galapagos martin and Galapagos dove.
The native mammalian fauna includes six species: Galapagos fur seal, Galapagos sea lion, two species of rice rat, bat and hoary bat. Marine fauna includes several species of sharks, rays and Cetaceans. Green turtle and hawksbill turtle are common in surrounding waters, with the former nesting on sandy beaches.
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The Marine Iguana is a reptile endemic to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador; the Marine Iguana is the only iguana in the world with the unique ability to live and hunt food in the sea. This iguana can dive up to 10 meters (30 ft.) in the ocean and as a coldblooded animal, is very dark in color. This iguana is found on nearly all of the islands in the archipelago, and can often be spotted on rocky shores, in marshes, and on mangrove beaches where it basks in the sun to obtain energy. Its tail is flat, allowing it to swim easily and fast through the Galapagos waters.
The Galapagos Shark is found in the waters of the Galapagos Islands in the clear reef environments, where it is often the most abundant shark species. These sharks can grow up to 3.7 meters (12 ft.) and are often found in large groups. The Galapagos Shark is an active predator and feeds on bottom-dwelling fish and cephalopods, but the larger individuals may have a more varied diet, including other sharks, marine iguanas, sea lions, and garbage.
The Galapagos Penguin is a small penguin endemic to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. This penguin is unique, in fact it is the only penguin in the world to survive in a natural habitat north of the Equator.The cool temperatures resulting from the Humboldt Current and cool waters from great depths brought up by the Cromwell Current allow it to thrive in this tropic environment. Although the Galapagos Penguin is found primarily on Fernandina Island and the west coast of Isabela Island, smaller populations can be spotted around the archipelago. The Galapagos Penguin is one of the smallest in the world and is classified as an endangered species.
This shark is native to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador but it isalso found across the Indo-Pacific region including off coasts of China, Australia, South Africa, Hawaii, and Costa Rica. As its name suggests, this shark lives in coral reef and is typically spotted along the sea bottom in clear waters. It is small in size and although dark in color, the tips of its fins are white.
These Hammerhead sharks are native to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, and are also found in many other parts of the world. These sharks are famous for their oddly shaped head, which helps them to hunt their prey. These sharks feed on fish, squid, octopus, crustaceans, stingrays, and other hammerhead sharks. They are seen swimming close to the bottom of the ocean, hunting their prey. These sharks may be seen while snorkeling or SCUBA diving.
The Galapagos Green sea Turtle is a subspecies of the green sea turtle and is endemic to the Pacific Ocean waters, and is often called the “black sea turtle” due to its dark color. They are the only sea turtles to nest in the Galapagos Islands. These turtles are listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
These Common Dolphins and Bottle-nosed Dolphins are native to the Galapagos Islands. These dolphins can be spotted swimming and jumping next to yachts and are very playful. Visitors are lucky to have the chance to see these playful creatures alongside the boat!
Different varieties of whales are occasionally spotted in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, including the Orca Whale, Humpback Whale, and Blue Whale among others.
The Galapagos Giant Tortoise is the largest living species of tortoise in the world; the adults can weigh over 440 kilograms(880 lbs.) and measure more than 1.8 meters (6 ft) in length. In the wild, these Giant Tortoises have life spans of over 100 years, making it one of the longest-living vertebrates. Individuals in captivity have been known to live more than 170 years. The Galapagos Giant Tortoises are intriguing because, like many animals in the archipelago, they have adapted to the unique environments of each island, thus different subspecies are found on different islands. In the 1700s, the Giant Tortoise saw a drastic decline in population due to pirates and visitors who hunted the tortoises and used them for oil. The name “Galapagos” comes from the Spanish “galapago,” meaning saddleback, coined from the Giant Tortoise shell shape observed in all of the Islands.
The Galapagos Sea lions are mammals native to the Galapagos Islands. They swim and hunt in the ocean, but are considered land animals. These sea lionseat fish and are playful with humans when snorkeling and swimming. They can be spotted all around the archipelago.
The Galapagos Land Iguana is endemic to the Islands and is found on nearly all of the islands in the Galapagos archipelago. The size and color varies depending on the island, as these reptiles have adapted to each island’s environment. Isabela Island is home to the largest in size of these iguanas. The iguanas feed primarily on cacti, where they find their source of fresh water. The Galapagos Land Iguana has a life span of approximately 50-60 years.
“Microlophus,” commonly known in Galapagos as the lava lizard, is a genus of Tropidurid lizards, of which 9 of the 22 species are found endemic to the Galapagos Islands. These lava lizards are found on many of the islands. These small reptiles vary in color depending on their environment and the island they inhabit. When threatened, the lava lizard does a set of “push-ups” with their front arms, as a way of showing his strength to the predator.
The Blue-footed Booby is an intriguing bird characterized by its bluewebbed feet. The name “booby”was coinedafter the Spanish term “bobo,” which means "stupid" or "fool”. The Blue-footed Booby is found on many of the islands in the archipelago. Their diet consists of small marine life, and are often seen nose-diving into the ocean to hunt their food. The males are known for the “dancing” mating ritual by which they attract their female partners.
The Nazca Booby is a black and white colored bird and is characterized by black coloring around its eyes, similar to a mask. Until recently this species was often confused with the Masked Booby found elsewhere in the tropical Pacific, but recently discovered to be just closely related species.
The Red-footed Booby, similar to the Blue-footed Booby, is a bird with red webbed feet, native to the Galapagos Islands. The coloring of the plumage varies. These birds are strong fliers, yet clumsy in takeoffs and landings. This bird is found widely in the tropics; In the Galapagos Islands, this bird is primarily found on Genovesa.
The Galapagos Finch, also known as Darwin’s Finch, are a group of 14 or 15 subspecies of passerine birds, now placed in the tanager family rather than the true finch family. These birds were carefully observed by Charles Darwin during his expedition to the Galapagos Islands in 1835; he noted their unique adaptations, such as beak shape, coloring, and size, to the environments on different islands, and this became the basis of his book Origin of Species. Thirteen different subspecies are found in the archipelago.
There are several types of mockingbirds in the Galapagos Islands, including the Hood Mockingbird (found on Espanola Island), Floreana Mockingbird (found on Floreana Island) and San Cristobal Mockingbird (found on San Cristobal Island). These mockingbirds are endemic to the islands and are playful and fearless around humans.
The Galapagos Frigatebirds, namely the Magnificent Frigatebird and the Great Frigatebird are native to the Galapagos Islands and are found on a majority of the islands.They are also known as Man of War birds or Pirate birds, due to their way of feeding: they steal food from other species of birds, such as Boobies, instead of hunting it themselves. The male is popular for its red breast, which it inflates to attract female partners during the mating season.
The Galapagos Lava Gull is a large gull endemic to the Galapagos Islands, where the entire population is located and estimated to be around 300-400 pairs. The adults have dark gray plumage with white bellies, and have a distinct bright orange ring around their eyes. These gulls swim along side ships in the Galapagos Islands, where they are better able to hunt squid when the water breaks, allowing for more visibility.
The Galapagos Waved Albatross, also known as Galapagos Albatross, is the only member of its family located in the tropics. Its name is derived from the wave-like shape of their feathers. These birds are native to the Galapagos Islands, and are also found off the coast of mainland Ecuador and Peru. The Waved Albatross feeds on squid and fish, and in the Galapagos Islands this bird breeds primarily on Espanola Island. Its mating ritual is related to the beak; it clicks its beak and moves it in circular rotations to attract the mate. This albatross has brown feathers, a white head, and a long, yellow beak.
This brown-colored dove is native to the Galapagos Islands. It is fairly common in the archipelago, and can be spotted in arid lowlands scattered with trees, brushes, and cacti. Its diet consists primarily of seeds.
The Flightless Cormorant is endemic to the Galapagos Islands and is the only Cormorant in the world that does not have the ability to fly. This bird has webbed feet and hunts its food close to the bottom of the ocean, feeding on fish, eel, and octopus. The feathers are not waterproof, so the Flightless Cormorant spends much of its time drying its feathers. This unique bird is only found on Fernandina and Isabela Island.
The Galapagos Hawk is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. Although small in number (approximately only 150 pairs live on the Islands), this bird is not considered endangered. It is at the top of the food chain and preys on insects, small lava lizards, and even small land iguanas. This hawk is relatively large and dark brown in color, and is found on several of the islands.
The American Flamingo is found in the Galapagos Islands, as well as other locations in Central and South America. This flamingo is one of the brightest in color and in the Galapagos Islands it can be spotted on Floreana and Isabela Islands.