Galapagos Prickly Pear Cactus

Friday, 24 March 2017

(Notes about the Galapagos Cactus come from Silversea Excursion publications): Arid conditions prevail in the Galapagos archipelago. Due to the geography, there are many drought resistant plants that can live with very little water. Much of the landscape is harsh and dominated by this type of vegetation.

The most common plant in the dry inland portions of the Galapagos is the cactus. These succulent plants are able to store water in their stems and leaves, allowing them to thrive in hostile climates and during times of drought.

Most cacti have spines, which have evolved from leaves. Spines serve several purposes. They guard against predation, provide shade to keep the internal temperature of the plant lower, and the spines channel rainwater towards the base of the plant.

Another important adaption of the cactus is the waxy coating that covers the skin. This is called the “glaucus bloom” and it reduces evaporation as the plant seals in moisture. Leaf-like stems, known as "pads" store and conserve moisture and work as photosynthetic organs for the cacti.

Endemic cacti in the Galapagos Islands include the Lava Cactus, Candelabra Cactus, and the species of Prickly Pear.

We watched a Land Iguana climb a Prickly Pear and strip a portion of its spines so that it could take a bite! Check it out here: 

Land Iguanas on the Galapagos - yellow, brown and pink

Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Land Iguana shows off his yellow colors. The males iguanas are larger than the females.

(Information and description from Silversea Expeditions publication): There are three endemic species of Land Iguanas in the Galapagos archipelago. One has a yellow/orange color. One is brown and whitish, and the other was identified in 2009 and has a distinctive pink coloration with some black stripes along their back. The late discovery was because of how remote the land is where they are found. Approximately 450 pink iguanas are found in the world!
This photo shows the pink coloration of one species of the Land Iguana.

Land Iguanas are much larger and more colorful than Marine Iguanas. They can grow to more than three feet in length and are stocky with a wide girth. They live in dry, arid portions of the islands. They are diurnal – that means they move, and eat during the day and sleep during the night.

Our guide today told us that the male iguanas are easy to spot because they are much larger than the females and that the males have spikes on their back and on the top of their heads. After those clues, I was able to pick out a huge male iguana.
Just look at those claws! We watched one climb a cactus and break off pieces to eat.

Iguanas are not lazy, they conserve energy in the heat by moving slowly. Although in our experience, we noticed that they are able to run at top speeds. They burrow into the ground, creating tunnels, which give them a bit of a respite from the sun during the day and a place for their nests.