Wildlife Spotlight: The Lava Lizard

Dwarfed in popularity by giant tortoises, birds with bright blue feet, and swimming iguanas, the Lava Lizard still has a vital role to play in the Galápagos ecosystem, regulating both the endemic and introduced insect population.

There are seven species of Lava Lizard, found on all the major islands except Genovesa.

Species   Island
Microlophus Albermarlensis   Baltra
Santa Cruz
North Seymour
Santa Fé
South Plaza
Daphne Major
Microlophus Bivittatus San Cristóbal
Microlophus Delanonis Española
Microlophus Grayi Floreana
Microlophus Habelli Marchena
Microlophus Duncanensis Pinzón
Microlophus Pacificus Pinta

Slightly larger than the female, the male Lava Lizard measures 15-20cm, while the female measures 12-18cm.  The male is distinctly territorial. He is frequently seen standing on top of rocks or trail markers doing characteristic "push-up" territorial display.

Males can be identified by their rough, patterned skin and distinctive spinal crest. The base color is often influenced by the the local geology and vegetation.  Lizards on Fernandina tend to be darker to blend in with the black lava. Those on Rábida tend to have a more brownish-red hue to match the unique red coloration of the rocks.

Females, particularly in mating season, develop a distinctive bright red or orange throat. Breeding takes place primarily during the hottest months of February, March and April. Females will lay 3-6 eggs in deep burrows, often in several  clutches spaced three to four weeks apart.  Eggs hatch approximately three months later. Males take three years to mature, while females mature as early as nine months.

Lava Lizards are omniverous, eating primarily insects, however some eat vegetation, particularly in the dry season.  Lava Lizards prey on invertebrates, however they have also been known to eat one another in acts of cannibalism.