Land Iguana Vs Marine Iguana: Get To Know Which Is Right For You

Have you ever wondered how two iguanas that appear so similar can be so drastically different? The land iguana and the marine iguana may look very similar, but they differ greatly in their behavior and habitat. In this article, we will explore the fascinating differences between the land iguana and the marine iguana, such as their feeding habits, behavioral tendencies, and physical adaptations.

Land IguanaMarine Iguana
Live in dry areas like the Galapagos IslandsLive in coastal areas and feed in the ocean
Have thicker, dryer skinHave thin, oily skin
Eat primarily fruits, leaves and flowersEat primarily seaweed, algae and invertebrates
Are usually larger than marine iguanasAre usually smaller than land iguanas

Land Iguana Vs Marine Iguana

Chart Comparing: Land Iguana Vs Marine Iguana

Land IguanaMarine Iguana
Typically found in deserts or dry shrublands, such as the Galapagos IslandsTypically found near rocky coasts, such as the Galapagos Islands
Prefers warm climatesPrefers cooler climates
Herbivorous dietCarnivorous diet
Color ranges from yellow, orange to blackColor ranges from black and brown
Lives for approximately 40 yearsLives for approximately 10 years
Grows to be about 3 feet longGrows to be about 2 feet long
Can climb treesCan swim

Land Iguana vs. Marine Iguana: A Comprehensive Comparison

The iguana family contains two distinct species: the land iguana and the marine iguana. Both of these lizards have many similarities and differences, and this article will explore those in detail. This breakdown will cover the physical differences between the two species, their common behavior, and the unique adaptations that make them so successful in their habitats.

Physical Differences

The land iguana is a large lizard, ranging in size from 3.2 feet to 6.6 feet in length. It has a large head and body and a powerful tail, which it uses for balance and propulsion. Its scales are typically yellow, black, or brown, and its eyes are large and dark. In contrast, the marine iguana is much smaller, growing to be only about 2.2 feet in length. Its scales are typically black or gray, and its eyes are small and light-colored.

The other major physical difference between the two species is the type of limbs they possess. The land iguana has four short, stout legs, while the marine iguana has two paddle-like flippers. These flippers allow the marine iguana to swim and dive in the ocean with ease, while the land iguana is limited to movement on land.

In addition, the two species have different diets. The land iguana is an herbivore, feeding primarily on cacti, fruits, and leaves. The marine iguana, on the other hand, is an opportunistic omnivore, feeding on algae, sea urchins, and small fish.

Behavioral Differences

The land iguana is a solitary creature, spending most of its time alone. It is also very timid and will flee from any perceived danger. In contrast, the marine iguana is a social animal, forming large colonies on the islands it inhabits. It is much bolder than the land iguana and will even confront predators if it feels threatened.

The two species also have different mating habits. The land iguana mates in the spring, while the marine iguana mates in the winter. Additionally, the land iguana will lay its eggs in a burrow or crevice, while the marine iguana will lay its eggs on the beach.

Finally, the two species have different reproductive strategies. The land iguana is oviparous, meaning that it lays eggs that must be incubated by the mother. In contrast, the marine iguana is ovoviviparous, meaning that it carries its eggs inside its body until they are ready to hatch.

Adaptations for Survival

Both species of iguana have adapted to their environments in order to survive. The land iguana is well-suited to its desert habitat, having a thick, scaly skin to protect against the heat, and long claws for digging burrows. It also has the ability to store water in its body and can survive for long periods of time without food or water.

The marine iguana has adapted to life in the ocean in a variety of ways. Its streamlined body and webbed feet make it an excellent swimmer, and its thick scales protect it from the cold water. Its flattened, paddle-like tail helps it to move quickly through the water, and its special, salt-secreting glands allow it to drink seawater without becoming dehydrated.

In addition, the marine iguana has developed an amazing ability to hold its breath for long periods of time. This ability enables it to dive to depths of more than 50 feet in search of food, and to stay underwater for up to an hour.

Habitat and Distribution

The land iguana is found only on the Galapagos Islands, where it inhabits areas of dry, rocky terrain. It is primarily found on the islands of Fernandina, Isabela, and Santa Cruz. The marine iguana, on the other hand, is found throughout the Galapagos Islands, inhabiting the rocky shores and offshore waters of the archipelago.

The land iguana is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, while the marine iguana is listed as near threatened. Both species face threats from habitat loss, as well as from invasive species such as cats, dogs, and goats.


The land iguana and marine iguana are two distinct species of iguana, each well-adapted to its environment. While the land iguana is large and solitary, the marine iguana is smaller and social. The two species have distinct physical, behavioral, and adaptive differences that enable them to flourish in their habitats. Despite these differences, both species are threatened by habitat loss and invasive species, and are listed as vulnerable or near threatened by the IUCN.

Land Iguana Vs Marine Iguana Pros & Cons

  • Pros of Land Iguana:
    • Found in dryer, higher elevation areas
    • Eat low-growing vegetation
    • Can be found in large numbers
  • Cons of Land Iguana:
    • Females lay fewer eggs than Marine Iguana
    • Not as tolerant of very high temperatures
    • Not as well adapted to salt water
  • Pros of Marine Iguana:
    • Highly adapted to salt water
    • Females lay more eggs than Land Iguana
    • More tolerant of high temperatures
  • Cons of Marine Iguana:
    • Found in cooler, lower elevation areas
    • Limited low-growing vegetation available
    • Not often found in large numbers

Land Iguana Vs Marine Iguana 2

Which is Better – Land Iguana Vs Marine Iguana?

Overall, both land and marine iguanas are fascinating animals with unique characteristics. However, when it comes to which one is better, the land iguana is the clear winner. Land iguanas are better suited to captivity, they are less expensive, and they are more accessible to the average pet owner.

Land iguanas are better suited to captivity because they are smaller, hardier, and more adaptable than their marine cousins. They can survive in a wide variety of captive environments, and they require far less specialized care than the marine iguana. Additionally, land iguanas can be easily trained and handled, making them ideal pets for those with limited animal experience.

In terms of cost, land iguanas are far less expensive than marine iguanas. Land iguanas are also much easier to obtain, as they can be found in pet stores or online. In contrast, marine iguanas are rarely available in pet stores and must often be special ordered from breeders or collectors.

For these reasons, the land iguana is the clear winner when it comes to deciding which is better. The land iguana is better suited to captivity, it is less expensive, and it is more accessible to the average pet owner.

Reasons why Land Iguana is the Best Choice:

  • Better suited to captivity
  • Less expensive
  • More accessible to the average pet owner

Frequently Asked Questions

The Galapagos Islands are home to two species of iguanas- the land iguana and the marine iguana. Here, we will answer commonly asked questions about the differences between these two species.

What are the main physical differences between land and marine iguanas?

The most obvious physical difference between land and marine iguanas is their size. Land iguanas can grow up to four feet long and weigh up to 20 pounds, while marine iguanas rarely exceed two feet in length and weigh just a few pounds. Additionally, land iguanas have blunt noses, whereas marine iguanas have pointed noses that help them break into shells. Land iguanas also have shorter claws and a patch of spines on the top of their head.

The color of these iguanas can also vary depending on the species. Land iguanas are usually yellow, orange, or red with black spots and stripes, while marine iguanas tend to be darker in color with a grey or blackish hue.

Where do land and marine iguanas live?

Land iguanas are found in the drier regions of the Galapagos Islands, while marine iguanas live along the coasts. Marine iguanas are excellent swimmers and divers, and they spend much of their time in the ocean, but they must return to the shore to warm themselves in the sun. Land iguanas, on the other hand, rarely venture into the water, but they can often be found basking in the sun or digging burrows.

What do land and marine iguanas eat?

Land iguanas are herbivores and feed on cactus, fruits, and flowers, while marine iguanas are omnivores and feed on algae, seaweed, and small invertebrates that can be found in the ocean. Marine iguanas have sharp claws that help them scrape algae off the rocks in the ocean.

What are the behavioral differences between land and marine iguanas?

Land iguanas are solitary creatures and tend to keep to themselves, while marine iguanas often gather in large groups. Marine iguanas also tend to be more active and can be seen swimming and diving in the ocean or sunning themselves on the rocks. Land iguanas, on the other hand, are usually content to lay in the sun or dig burrows.

Are land and marine iguanas endangered?

The land iguana is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, while the marine iguana is listed as least concern. The land iguana population has been declining due to predation by feral cats and dogs, as well as habitat loss. Marine iguanas are not threatened by these same factors and their population remains stable.

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The remarkable land iguana and the amazing marine iguana are both truly remarkable creatures. They are both perfectly adapted to their respective environments, and yet have so much in common. These two species provide us with a great example of how nature can create two totally different creatures from a common ancestor. Although their physical characteristics and behaviors may be vastly different, they are both a testament to the diversity and wonder of the natural world.