Species Spotlight

Lava Lizard

Names: Lava Lizards OR Lagartija de lava (Microlophus spp.)

Size: Most species grow 8 to 10 inches, although they can be as long as 12 – the size of a kids classroom ruler. Males tend to be bigger and brighter greys, greens, browns, or blacks, while females have a Little Red Riding Hood vibe, with flushed heads or throats.

Communication: Rapid head-bobbing and push-ups are boy-ways of bigging themselves up and warning rivals off their territories. If the push-ups aren’t intimidating enough, or a newcomer fancies his chances, a contest may ensue. Things get nasty if these descend into tail slaps and biting.

Favourite hangout: Lumps of lava along the shorelines (and any other ‘L’s you can think of!) Heaven for these cold-blooded dudes is sprawling in the sun on any of the ten Galapagos islands they inhabit.

Learn more about the Lava Lizard

Love language: Girls are ready for action at nine months, but boys take a little longer – up to three years! Once love bites, they claim 4,300 feet of turf and are happy to hook up with any female they come across on it…

If you see them: … change colour, you’ll know they’re probably nervous and resorting to camouflage. Do NOT do a push-up!

Pet peeves: Herons, hawks, snakes, and scorpions who fancy a lava lizard sandwich for lunch – as well as peckish members of their own species! They’re not lovers of El Nino events or hordes of humans, either.

Learn more about Lava Lizards. They grow 9-10 inches long whilst living on lumps of lava along the shorelines.
Credit: Sebastien Zanella

Eating habits: Although omnivorous, these guys have a soft spot for spiders and insects like moths, flies, and beetles. They’re handy for controlling locusts.

Facts: These lil' lizards can live as long as 10 years in the wild and one reason is said to be their capacity to ‘drop’ their tails. You heard. If a predator grabs a Mr Lava by the tail, Mr Lava can ‘drop’ it. Some say the tail keeps moving as a distraction while Mr Suddenly Tailless takes off! In time he’ll regrow another. A bit like a human abandoning a leg in a tight spot but without the need down the line to resort to a prosthetic. How’s that for a wacky get-out-of-jail-free card?!

Personality type? The Gym Jock.

How at risk is it? Least Concern (LC).

Want to learn more about the Lava Lizard's island life?

We sent a photographer and two surfers to the Galapagos to explore their connections with nature.