Mammals on the islands are few and far between: a native rice rat, a pair of bat species, and of course, the ever present Galápagos sea lion and Galápagos fur sea lion. Charming, friendly, playful, sometimes rowdy and sometimes lazy Galápagos sea lions (in the sea, on the beach, on Puerto Ayora’s benches) are not only a major attraction… they are the closest thing to us on the islands! The more reserved fur seal, shies away under lava grottos…
Underwater spectacles include the Rosy-lipped Batfish, a creature straight from the depths of the ocean’s imagination, with actual feet and baby arms and bright red lips (commonly known as ‘The Mick Jagger’); the Galápagos Bullhead Shark, a beautiful ‘Dalmatian’ shark only recorded in the archipelago; the gigantic whale shark, the largest fish species in the world; the Blue Whale, the largest mammal (and animal) in the world; the Chocolate-Chip Starfish, named so because it looks like a fresh-baked star-shaped chocolate chip cookie; the Hieroglyphic Hawkfish, a large, hefty fish with fluorescent scribbles all over its body; or the dragon-faced, fan-crested and bright orange Galápagos Scorpionfish… to name just a few!
The Marine Iguana
The marine iguana is the only swimming lizard on Earth, adapting itself to physically change its respiration system due to the extensive amounts of time it needs to spend underwater (it can actually stay for over an hour!). Marine iguanas are also quite different in size and color from island to island and especially during mating season, they can be blindingly colorful (especially on the island of Española).
The Flightless Cormorant
The Flightless Cormorant is the only member of a fast-flying family of birds that does not fly. Moreover, we can see today how the scarcely-feathered stubs they call wings serve no purpose even if the Flightless Cormorant wanted to use them. If we juxtapose it against penguins, it seems like one is the answer to the other, and thus have been long considered key evidence that animals evolve… and are evolving!