“Imps of Darkness”…when Darwin was wrong!

During the five weeks that Charles Darwin spent in Galapagos, he observed and wrote about many of the Archipelago’s charismatic species. Upon observing the marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), he wrote:

“The black Lava rocks on the beach are frequented by large (2–3 ft), disgusting clumsy Lizards. They are as black as the porous rocks over which they crawl & seek their prey from the Sea. Somebody calls them ‘imps of darkness’. They assuredly well become the land they inhabit.”

C2 - 1633  Mark Thomas

An endemic species to Galapagos, marine iguanas are the only sea-going lizards in the world. They are a common site along the rocky shores of the Islands where they bask in the sun to warm up before taking a plunge into the water to forage on algae such as Green Sea Lettuce (Ulva spp.).

As this video by Dustin Adamson shows, marine iguanas are excellently adapted to their aquatic lifestyle, and certainly don’t appear to be “disgusting clumsy Lizards” when underwater. It’s not often that you can say that Darwin was wrong…but I think he just may have been about these incredible reptiles!

Marine Iguanas – Galapagos Islands from Dustin Adamson on Vimeo.

by Pete Haskell

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