Science & Technology

Scientists monitor world’s only marine lizard in Galapagos

Santa Cruz, Ecuador, Mar 1 (EFE).- The Galapagos marine iguana, something of a miniature Godzilla due to its physical appearance and ability to dive up to 30 meters under the sea, has become the focus of a new study that aims to gather information about the lizard’s health and gender.

Amblyrhynchus cristatus is a common site for tourists on the 13 islands that make up the Ecuadorian Galapagos Archipelago, where this unique marine species is endemic.

However, back in 2013, researchers at the Galapagos National Park (PNG) noticed a number of dead specimens, leading to a research project that to track 570 of these lizards across the archipelago.

“Initially, the idea was to find out what was happening, why the iguanas were dying. Hence, the desire to know more about health and maintain monitoring at the provincial level,” fisheries specialist Alberto Proaño tells Efe.

The tracking begins at dawn on a beach near the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. Three technicians wear special gloves while capturing lizards without hurting them.

The iguanas, at first, were marked with paint that fades with water, but since 2015, experts have been using a nylon thread and colored plastic pearls.

In addition, the specialists implant a chip inside their left front leg with a unique code to follow them for longer.

Recently, a study has been launched to determine the sex of the lizards since it is difficult to distinguish it with the naked eye, especially in young age.

Adult males usually measure up to a meter from head to tail and weigh more than three kilograms, while females are 60 cm and 2.5 kilograms on average.

The marine iguanas can hold their breath under water for 30 minutes while foraging for algae, their main food. EFE


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