The Galapagos Islands are known as the platform that inspired the Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. And rightly so, the wildlife have adapted, even thrived, in one of the harshest and most isolated environments on the planet. As a result, the Galapagos is home to the highest concentration of endemic animals. Whether you go island hopping or cruise the Galapagos, you are bound to see some of the unique animals below.
Galapagos giant tortoise
When talking about wildlife in the Galapagos most people picture the iconic Giant Tortoises. Fun fact, the islands were named after the giant tortoises, hence the Spanish term galápago, meaning tortoise. They are currently the largest living species of tortoise weighing up to 417 kg and can be found on most islands.
There are three species of land iguana’s endemic to the Galapagos. The two recognisable yellowish land iguanas known as the Galapagos and Santa Fe Land Iguanas, respectively. The pink or Rosada Iguana is found on Isabela Island. The land iguanas are quite large with an average length of at least 3 feet long. They can be found basking in the sun on dryer parts of the islands.
The Galapagos marine iguana is known for its extraordinary ability to forage at sea but live on land. In fact, it is the only lizard in the planet known to have this unique characteristic. They are typically found basking in the sun on the rocky shorelines of Isabela, Fernandina, Española, Floreana and Santa Cruz Islands. Marine iguanas are recognisable their snort blunt noses and flat tails. Young marine iguanas are black then change colour as they mature, depending on which island they are from.
The Galapagos sea lion
The Galapagos sea lion is probably one of the first animals you will see upon arrival. They are recognisable by their gray or brown fur and can be found year-round resting on beaches or playing. Their curiosity and playful nature are always a highlight for visitors.
The Galapagos fur seal
Thanks to their preference to shaded rocky areas of the islands, the Galapagos Fur Seal is less likely to be seen despite having the same population as the Galapagos Sea Lion. They distinguishable by their bulging eyes, protruding ears and grayish-brown coat.
Named after Charles Darwin, 13 of the 14 Darwin’s Finches are small land birds endemic to the islands. Although they originated from one ancestor, they all look, sing and behave differently depending on which island they live on.
One of the world’s rarest raptors, the Galapagos hawk is an apex predator and the largest land bird on the Galapagos Islands. They are skillful hunters and scavengers mostly feeding on invertebrates such as locusts and centipedes. They are commonly found on the main islands of Isabela and Fernandina.
The world’s only flightless ‘clumsy’ cormorant. Most recognisable by their piercing blue eyes and stunted wings. What they lack in flight they make up for in their underwater abilities. They are skilled divers diving deep in the ocean preying on eels and octopus. Due to their inability to fly they do not migrate and can be seen all year around on Isabela and Fernandina Island.
The Galapagos mocking is the species that sparked Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. They are easily spotted thanks to their streaked brown and gray feathers, long tail and black beak. There are four species of mockingbirds found only in the Galapagos. The most common is the Galapagos mockingbird. The Española mockingbird is the largest by size. The rare Floreana mockingbird and the shy San Cristobal mockingbird.
The Galapagos penguin is the only penguin found north of the equator. These tiny penguins are endangered and you can find them on the islands of Fernandina and Isabela.