Galápagos Arid Zone

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1-May-03

0800 - 1100

Cerro Dragón, Santa Cruz, Galapagos (and many other such locations)

 

Apuntia cactus forest

    Cerro Dragón (Dragon Hill) is a low hill, still within the Arid Zone of Santa Cruz Island, and is covered with cactus. Thus the name cactus forest. And not far from the giant prickly-pear cactus of the Galapagos is the endemic land iguana, whose ancestors traveled to the Galapagos and evolved into the cactus-eating species they are today. Also found in the area are goats and donkeys, although they are introduced and present havoc for the ecosystem. Lots of finches and doves flit about the large cacti plants, while magnificent frigate birds fly overhead.

    As explained in the Galapagos Highland ecoregion, Santa Cruz has seven different vegetation zones. The Arid Zone, one up from sea level, is cool from the Humboldt Current, but dry, making it perfect for cacti and acacias.

Adaptations -

 - Land iguana - there are several species of iguanas in the Galapagos, but all of them - even the famous marine iguana - are descended from the green iguana. Because they arrived at the Galapagos at different stages of the islands' life, they evolved into different species. The land iguana arrived at an abundant cactus time, and now lives off the prickly plants.

 

Dominant species -

 - Apuntia [cactus]

 - Land iguanas

 - Lava lizards

 - Goats (introduced)

 - Donkeys (introduced)

 - Darwin's finches

 - Galapagos dove

 - Magnificent frigate bird

 - Acacias and other cacti

Other species -

 - Short-eared owl

 - Rice rat

 - Black rat (introduced)

2-May-03

1400 - 1600

Sullivan Bay, Santiago, Galapagos

 

Recent lava flow

    In 1900 the volcano on Santiago erupted, over a period of a month, spewing lava to the island's edge. Since then, nothing much has been able to grow on the lava, but here and there lava cacti have sprouted. Marine iguanas and sea lions sun on the hot surface, while fish make their homes in nooks and crannies under the surface.

    After a lava flow, it takes a very long time for dirt to accumulate on it, allowing plants to grow. Very few plants can grow in small strips of dirt in the cracks of lava, so after 100 years, there's almost nothing there.

Adaptations -

 - Marine iguana - The first iguana to come to the Galapagos, they found all the islands covered in recent lava, just like Sullivan Bay. Finding no food on land, they evolved to swim underwater for long minutes, feeding on algae.

 

Dominant species -

 - Marine iguana

 - Lava lizard

 - Lava cactus

 - Sea lions

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