The world is full of fascinating creatures. It’s estimated that there are millions of species of animals, and most haven’t even been discovered yet! Some of the craziest examples of the diversity of the animal kingdom can be found on islands.
Majestic and Bizarre
You won’t believe some of the animals that can be found on islands. Some of them are majestic creatures that many people wish were more widespread throughout the world, and some of them are downright bizarre. Most of these animals can only be found on the islands they currently inhabit, so don’t expect to see them at the local zoo.
Think a tortoise is nothing out of the ordinary? Think again. These tortoises are the largest in the world. They became so famous that the islands they live on were named after them, coming from “galapago” which means “tortoise” in Spanish.
The Galapagos Islands’ Galapagos tortoises can live for more than 170 years! Sadly, they are starting to die off. It is estimated that only around 15,000 of these gentle giants are alive today. Conservation efforts are being made to preserve this species. They might be some of the longest living vertebrates in the world, but that doesn’t mean they will live forever. If something isn’t done, the species will go extinct.
These animals not only look funny but also have a funny name to match their comical appearance. They’re mostly recognized by their feet which, as the name implies, are blue. Blue-footed boobies can be found throughout the world, although half of the population lives on the Galapagos Islands.
These animals have an interesting mating ritual. When they are trying to get the attention of a female, they strut back and forth in front of them, lifting their oddly colored feet. While it may be an unusual courting tactic, it seems to work pretty well for the blue-footed boobies!
Contrary to what you might assume from the name, these fish can not actually fly. Even weirder, they can’t swim very well either. Instead, they spend most of their time standing along the bottom of the waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands. They hobble around on their pectoral fins which they use as legs, although it makes for a very clumsy gate.
They got their name because they have a strange resemblance to bats, making these one unique (and very, very strange) creature. They get most of their food by luring them in with their spines and then attacking. Pretty sneaky!
Another native animal of the Galapagos, the flightless cormorant is unusual for several reasons. First of all, it’s big. It is the heaviest cormorant in the world. Second of all, it can’t fly (although it is more likely that its size is caused by its lack of ability to fly and not the other way around). It is the only cormorant that can not fly.
Unfortunately, being able to fly is critical to a bird’s survival, as it helps them to hunt for food and escape from predators. This has taken a toll on the numbers of flightless cormorants in the wild. The species is endangered, with only around 1,600 of them still alive.
These are the only penguins in the world that live north of the equator! They live in temperatures that are usually between 59 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit (15 and 28 degrees Celsius), pretty warm weather for a penguin! Native to the Galapagos islands, they are also the smallest penguins in the world. Penguins are interesting creatures in that they mate for life, making this a unique and romantic bird!
Sadly, these stunning creatures are also endangered, like many of the wonderful animals in the Galapagos islands. It is estimated that only 1,500 of them are still alive and they may soon be extinct.
The Aye-Aye is creepy. Like, really creepy. With bat-like ears and cat-like teeth, these creatures look like they come straight from a science-fiction novel, or are some sort of extraterrestrial creature. They have long, bony fingers and massive eyes, which help them see at night as these lemurs are nocturnal.
These animals live in the rainforests of Madagascar, and eat insect larvae. They have been threatened by the destruction of the rainforest as well as hunting which has led to a decline of the population. The locals believe that Aye-Ayes are bad luck (and really, who can blame them?) and kill them on sight.
Studied by Charles Darwin when he was forming his theory of natural selection, the finches of the Galapagos Islands are now famous. There are at least 13 different species which all evolved from one ancestral species of finch.
Darwin studied these creatures when developing his theory and thus they have become known for their role in history. The finches are an example of adaptive radiation. Since they are in a relatively isolated environment, they evolved rapidly which explains why there are so many different species of these finches! You can tell them apart by the differences in the sizes and shapes of their beaks.
Galapagos Fur Seal
The smallest eared seal on the planet, the Galapagos fur seal is one of the few species of mammal to be native to the Galapagos. While most seals spent a lot of time in the water, these seals like to spend around 70 percent of their time basking in the sun.
Visitors to the islands are greeted by the fur seals, welcomed to its shores by their barks. These fun-loving creatures are endangered as well, as they were regularly hunted leading to their near-extinction. Many of them also died in the 1980s thanks to El Niño which wiped out almost a third of the population.
In a group of islands filled with unique birds, the waved albatross is the largest bird found in the Galapagos Islands. These birds fly far and wide, but they make their home in the Galapagos Islands which is the only place these creatures breed. They are the only albatrosses native to the tropics.
One of the coolest things about these animals is that, like the penguins found in the Galapagos, these birds mate for life. They also have a mating ritual similar to kissing which involves tapping their beaks against each other’s in rapid circles, between which they raise their bills into the air and let out a mating song.
These iguanas are unusual and the only iguanas of their kind. A type of lizard, most iguanas live on land. The marine iguana, however, is the only still existing marine lizard known to be alive on earth. While they live on the shore, they can dive up to thirty feet into the deep waters surrounding the islands.
The marine iguana even has a special filtration system to help it filter out the salt from the salty ocean water. Its nasal glands filter out the salt, and then shoot it out of the iguana’s nostrils. Scientists think that iguanas evolved to eat seaweed because of the lack of vegetation on the island.
Green Vervet Monkeys
Also known as “drunk monkeys,” green velvet monkeys were imported to St. Kitts along with African slaves who were brought to work in the sugar cane fields. The monkeys began to eat the fermented cane which is where they got their nickname; the monkeys ate so much of the fermented sugar cane that they were always drunk.
While sugar cane cultivation has waned considerably on St. Kitts, these gorgeous creatures can still be found there. While green vervet monkeys can be found in other parts of the world, the drunk monkeys are exclusive to St. Kitts.
These Caribbean bats can be found on the island of Trinidad. These bats are small, weighing only about an ounce and a half and are about three inches long, which makes them even scarier since they can easily sneak up on you. They are called vampire bats because of their habit of attacking sleeping mammals and drinking their blood.
They can only drink about an ounce of blood at a time which is terrifying when you consider that this is a huge amount of their body weight. Fortunately, if a vampire bat feeds on you, you will not actually turn into a vampire bat yourself.
These mammals are noctorunal creatures native to Hispaniola. These mammals have been around for a long time, the species having existed during the times of the dinosaurs! They weight about two pounds and long snouts which are used to hunt for food. The snout is a little creepy. It’s connected to the head by a ball-and-socket joint which makes it look like the snout is moving around independently.
Solenodons also have oversized eyes which make them look kind of like a living Furby. They live primarily off of insects, and have short legs which make them waddle around.
These creatures have a lot in common with the Galapagos finches, even though they are reptiles. Nicknamed “lava lizards,” there are at least seven unique species of these lizards, each one having unique treats. They, like the finches, are a great example of adaptive radiation.
These unique lizards are native to the Galapagos, although there are other species which can be found throughout South America. Unlike a lot of the other animals from the Galapagos Islands that have been featured so far, the lava lizards are not going extinct any time soon! There are a lot of these creatures found on the islands and they are one of the most common animals found there.
Graspus graspus, a type of crab which is more commonly known as Sally Lightfoot, can be found along the Pacific Coast of North and South America, but the ones found in the Galapagos Islands are unique. These crustaceans are rainbow-colored making them a popular attraction for tourists and photographers.
What’s so weird about them? The Sally Lightfoots of the Galapagos Islands have entered into a symbiotic relationship with the marine iguanas of the islands. They hang around the lizards, cleaning ticks from the lizards’ skin.
While these birds are a migratory species and can be found throughout South and Central America, there are some colonies which are thought to be genetically distinct in the Galapagos Islands as they have not bred with birds from other colonies for thousands of years.
The males of the species are particularly recognizable. Their huge throat pouches are a bright red which fully inflate. Like their fellow island inhabitants, the blue-footed boobies, their oddly colored body parts play a role in the mating process. The brighter the pouch on the frigatebird, the more attractive they are found by the females of the species.
Found in the forests of Trinidad, the Tayra is also known as the “high-woods dog” and as the “chien bois.” Before you think that these are friendly creatures, you should know that these dogs are not exactly Fido. The high-woods dog can grow to be almost four feet long and are more closely related to the badger than to a poodle. These animals belong to the weasel family.
They are fast runners, can swim, and also jump from treetop to treetop when chased, making them very different from dogs. They are practically garbage disposals, eating everything from small birds to honey.
Large Painted Locusts
Another creature that can only be found in the Galapagos Islands is the large painted locust. While some people find these colored insects to be gorgeous because of their markings, beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. If you do not like creepy crawly things, these insects are definitely not for you.
A lot of people think that these huge bugs (they grow up to 8 centimeters in length) are just plain weird. Either way, they are a critical component of the islands’ food chain. They are a principal source of food for lava lizards and Galapagos hawks.
Don’t let the nickname fool you. While the locals of Montserrat might call these creatures “mountain chickens,” they are actually frogs, also known as the “giant ditch frog.” This might be where the rumor that frog legs taste just like chicken come from. These huge frogs can weigh up to two pounds, making their meat a prized delicacy.
Because of this, mountain chickens have suffered from overhunting. That, combined with a fungal infection, have wiped out huge numbers of the species and the mountain chickens are now considered to be endangered, so you probably will not get a chance to see if these frogs taste like chicken any time soon.