It is by these cool waters that there is a large colony of these very special birds. It is the only one of the 29 species of worldwide cormorants to have lost the ability to fly. Because of the abundant fish and small shellfish (their main food) it was more important to swim well, and since they have no predators that force them to fly away, the natural selection transformed them into a different species, extremely skilled in swimming but unable to fly any longer. However, they still have the characteristic manner of their family; they stretch out their small wings to dry them after swimming.
Sea lions (Zalophus californianus) at Puerto Egas in James Bay, Santiago Island
The Galápagos sea lion is one of the archipelago's largest animals. It may weigh up to 250kg, but even so it is still smaller than the sea lions in California, where it has its origins. A group of them are here resting in the shadow of beautiful rocks formed from piled and compacted volcanic ash; these tuff formations are rather soft and so very much subject to erosion caused by the wind and the sea.
Giant tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus). Santa Cruz Island
These antediluvian animals are remarkable for their size (they may measure 1.5m and weigh up to 250kg), for their longevity (they can live for over 150 years), and for their solitude (apart from the mating season, they remain alone throughout their life). Besides the young, which weigh about 80gr at birth and can become easy preys for the hawks (buteo galapagoensis), the giant tortoises have no predators. Man was a major predator in the 18th and 19th centuries when the tortoises were hunted by pirates, whalers, sealers and settlers to such an extent that in some of the archipelago's islands they were completely exterminated. They used to be a much appreciated treasure on the boats because they could remain alive for a long time without drinking or eating and they were a long-term guarantee of fresh meat.[/FONT]
Marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). Rábida Island
It seems to me, though I have no scientific knowledge in this matter, that these animals are the true representative of the saurians that have remained on earth until this day. The marine iguanas are very gentle and delicate in their behaviour, incapable of any aggression toward other animals. On the contrary, they even let others, like birds or lava lizards, climb on their back. They mingle easily with the cormorants, the sea lions, the fur seals, the pelicans, the ************ies and others. When the birds are nervous they pick on the iguanas, who do not fight back. The young sea lions mock them and play at pulling the iguanas' tails, especially while they are swimming. But the marine iguanas just let it go.[/FONT]
Marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). Santa Fé Island
The males fight during the mating season. The females also fight when they lay their eggs, because the soft soil or sand in which they need to bury the eggs is scarce among the volcanic rocks. Otherwise, the marine iguanas are extremely gentle and live in complete harmony with the other animals.
Giant tortoises (Geochelone elephantopus) on the edge of the crater of Alcedo Volcano, Isabela Island
This male, which may weigh up to 250kg, is looking to mate. The females are smaller than the males. Copulation may last for hours.[/FONT]
Marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus)
Like other reptiles, the marine iguana is an ectothermic creature so it must regulate its body temperature. As soon as the sun rises the marine iguana lies flat, exposing as much body area as possible to the sun. When it reaches a body temperature of 35.5C it changes its position in order to avoid overheating. To swim, to move about and to digest, the marine iguana must have a high body temperature.
Scalesia villosa plant, on Champion Islet, with the volcanoes of Floreana Island in the background
There are 15 species of scalesia in the Galápagos, and six subspecies, but all are believed to have descended from a single ancestral stock.[/FONT]
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