Monday, August 25, 2008

Underappreciated Beast: The Marine Iguana

The fantasies of cryptozoology have nothing on the realities of the marine iguana. Consider some of its ridiculousness:

  • It's a lizard that feeds on bugs? No. Greens? No. It dives into the seas around the Galapagos Islands and chews algae from the rocks.
  • Because it spends so much time in sea water, it tends to get clogged with sea salt. So what does it do? Forcefully expels the sea salt from its nostrils -- that's right, this lizard does sea salt snot rockets!
  • Charles Darwin himself seems to have been very amused by them, treating them as a stoned teenager might treat an ugly dog. Read this passage from The Voyage of the Beagle and feel free to insert 'dude' and 'totally' and plenty of snickering:
    [T]hey will sooner allow a person to catch hold of their tails than jump into the water. They do not seem to have any notion of biting; but when much frightened they squirt a drop of fluid from each nostril. I threw one several times as far as I could, into a deep pool left by the retiring tide; but it invariably returned in a direct line to the spot where I stood. It swam near the bottom, with a very graceful and rapid movement, and occasionally aided itself over the uneven ground with its feet. As soon as it arrived near the edge, but still being under water, it tried to conceal itself in the tufts of sea-weed, or it entered some crevice. As soon as it thought the danger was past, it crawled out on the dry rocks, and shuffled away as quickly as it could. I several times caught this same lizard, by driving it down to a point, and though possessed of such perfect powers of diving and swimming, nothing would induce it to enter the water; and as often as I threw it in, it returned in the manner above described. Perhaps this singular piece of apparent stupidity may be accounted for by the circumstance, that this reptile has no enemy whatever on shore, whereas at sea it must often fall a prey to the numerous sharks. Hence, probably, urged by a fixed and hereditary instinct that the shore is its place of safety, whatever the emergency may be, it there takes refuge.

(H/T PZ Myers)

1 comment:

Gosh said...

How interesting - sadly most type reptiles put the fear of god up me