Galapagos Aquatic Wildlife
The Galapagos are affected by three different currents: the cold Humboldt and Cromwell currents and warm Panama currents. Roughly 17% of the marine life found in the islands are endemic to the Galapagos. Snorklers and divers are treated to a spectacular gathering of aquatic wildlife, from rare whale and hammerhead sharks, to the colorful sally light-foot crab. Although treasured by wildlife enthusiasts, Galapagos marine animals are also sought after by the fishing industry. Sharks and sea cucumbers has been particularly vulnerable; while sharks are protected by the Galapagos Marine Reserve, they are still hunted illegally for their highly-priced fins to make shark fin soup. The following tables simply offer a sample of the aquatic wildlife found in the Islands.
Key to species' class:
- Endemic = Found only in the Galapagos Islands
- Endemic Sub-species = Species exists in other parts of the world, but no interbreeding with the Galapagos population. The Galapagos population may evolve into a distinct species.
- Resident = Found on the Galapagos Islands and elsewhere in the world. Breeds on the islands and elsewhere. Arrived in the Islands naturally.
- Visitor = Does not breed in the Galapagos. Is seen on a regular basis in the Islands.
|Species||Islands Best Viewed||Class||Characteristics|
|Galapagos Shark||Floreana, San Cristobal||Resident||One of the most commonly viewed sharks in the Galapagos. A silverly-gray with a light underbelly.|
|Black-tipped Reef Shark||Floreana, Santa Cruz||Resident||Very pointed snout, and black tips on its fins. Tends to keep its distance from humans.|
|White-tipped Reef Shark||North Seymour, Espanola, Floreana, Bartolome||Resident||Have a rounded snout. Along with the Galapagos shark, white-tipped reef sharks are most commonly found in the islands.|
|Scalloped Hammerhead Shark||Floreana, Genovesa, Santa Cruz||Resident||The Galapagos is one of the only places to view hammerheads in large schools. Easily distinguished by their odd-shaped, flat head.|
|Whale shark||Darwin, Wolf||Resident||Reaching up to 180 feet, this is the largest fish in the world. Mainly found in open waters, but a rare sight in the islands.|
|Sally-lightfoot Crab||Widespread||Endemic||Are often seen in large numbers. Their bright red-orange color make them a photographer's favorite.|
|Ghost Crab||Widespread - intertidal zones||Resident||Flesh colored crab with eyes on stalks, which its lowers when it burrows. Small crab - roughly 4 inches.|
|Galapagos Hermit Crab||Widespread - intertidal zones||Endemic||Small, dark black/brown crab. Like other hermit crabs, they do not make their own hard shell, but inhabit other mollusc shells.|
|Sea Cucumber||Widespread||Resident||Relative of the starfish. Dark brown/black with yellow-brown bumps. Commercially exploited and their numbers have decreased dramatically.|
|Green Sea Urchin||Widespread||Endemic||Small sea urchin with bright green spines. Frequently found in tidal pools.|
|Sand Dollar||Widespread||Endemic Sub-species||An urchin, whose spins are virtually non-existent. A pale cream color with a clear five-armed star on its surface. Frequently washes onshore.|
|Chocolate Chip Sea Star||Widespread - rocky coasts||Resident||Five-armed starfish. Orange in color with short black spines. Also called the spiny sunstar.|
|Sting Ray||Widespread||Resident||Live up to 25 years, and can reach up to 6.5 feet long. Typically found in shallow, coastal waters.|
|Spotted Eagle Ray||Widespread||Resident||Has a number of white spots on its body. Including its long tail, this ray can reach up to 16 feet long.|
|Manta Ray||Widespread||Resident||Largest of the rays - specimens have been known to reach 25 feet across. Besides its large size, is distinguished by its horn-like features on the sides of the head.|