A Sally Lightfoot Crab on Espanola Island
Sally Lightfoot Crab
The crab Grapsus grapsus (known variously as "red rock crab", "abuete negro", and, as "Sally Lightfoot") is one of the most common crabs along the western coast of South America. It can also be seen along the entire coast of Central America and Mexico, and nearby islands. It is one of the many charismatic species that inhabits the Galápagos Islands, and is often seen in photos of the archipelago, sometimes sharing the seaside rocks with the marine iguanas. The Sally Lightfoot is a typically-shaped crab, with five pairs of legs, the front two bearing small, blocky, symmetrical chelae. The other legs are broad and flat, with only the tips touching the substrate. The crab's round, flat carapace is just over 8 cm (3 inches) in length. Young Sally Lightfoot’s are black or dark brown in color and camouflage well on the black lava coasts of volcanic islands. Adults are quite variable in color. Some are muted brownish-red, some mottled or spotted brown, pink, or yellow. Sally Lightfoot crabs are thought to have been named for a sultry nightclub dancer from Guayaquil, whose alluring performances in her red and yellow dress, captivated 19th century sailors. This crab lives amongst the rocks at the often turbulent, windy shore, just above the limit of the seaspray. It feeds on algae primarily, sometimes sampling plant matter and dead animals. It is a quick-moving and agile crab, and hard to catch, but not considered very edible by humans. It is used as bait by fishermen.
Espanola (Suarez Point)
Approximately a 10-12 hour trip from Santa Cruz, Española is the oldest and the southernmost island in the chain. The trip across open waters can be quite rough especially during August and September. Española's remote location helped make it a unique jewel with a large number of endemic creatures. Secluded from the other islands, wildlife on Española adapted to the island's environment and natural resources. The subspecies of Marine iguana from Española are the only ones that change color during breeding season. Normally, marine iguanas are black in color, a camouflage, making it difficult for predators to differentiate between the iguanas and the black lava rocks where they live. On Española adult marine iguanas are brightly colored with a reddish tint except during mating season when their color changes to more of a greenish shade. The Hood Mockingbird is also endemic to the island. These brazen birds have no fear of man and frequently land on visitors heads and shoulders searching for food. The Hood Mockingbird is slightly larger than other mockingbirds found in the Galapagos; its beak is longer and has a more curved shape. The Hood Mockingbird is the only carnivorous one of the species feeding on a variety of insects, turtle hatchlings and sea lion placentas. Wildlife is the highlight of Española and the star of the show is the waved albatross. The island's steep cliffs serve as the perfect runways for these large birds which take off for their ocean feeding grounds near the mainland of Ecuador and Peru abandoning the island between January and March. Known as endemic to the island, Española is the waved albatross's only nesting place. Each April the males return to Española followed shortly thereafter by the females. Mating for life, their ritual begins with the male's annual dance to re-attract his mate. The performance can take up to 5 days consisting of a series of strutting, honking, and beak fencing. Once the pair is reacquainted they produce a single egg and share the responsibility of incubation. The colony remains based on Española until December when the chick is fully grown. By January most of the colony leaves the island to fish along the Humboldt Current. Young albatross do not return to Española until their 4th or 5th year when they return to seek a mate. Geographically Española is a classic example of a shield volcano, created from a single caldera in the center of the island. Over the years as the island has moved further away from the hot spot, the volcano became extinct and erosion began to occur. Española's two visitor sites offer an exceptional island visit. Punta Suarez is one of the highlights of the Galapagos Islands. The variety and quantity of wildlife assures a memorable visit. Visitors find migrant, resident, and endemic wildlife including brightly colored Marine Iguanas, Española Lava Lizards, Hood Mockingbirds, Swallow Tailed Gulls, Blue Footed and Masked Boobies, Galapagos Hawks, a selection of Finch, and the Waved Albatross.Found on the western tip of Española, Punta Suarez offers great wildlife such as sea lions, sea birds and the largest marine iguanas of Galapagos. This is one of the best sites in the Galapagos. The amount of wildlife is overwhelming. Along the beach there are many sea lions and large, colorful lava lizards and marine iguanas. As you follow the trail to the cliff's edge masked boobies can be found nesting among the rock formations. After a short walk down to a beach and back up the other side blue-footed boobies are seen nesting just off the trail. The Galapagos Dove and very friendly Hood Mockingbird are commonly found in this area. The nearby bushes are frequently home to the large-cactus finch, warbler finch, small-ground finch and large-billed flycatcher. Continuing down the trail you come to the only place where waved albatross nest in the islands. Some 12,000 pairs nest on Española each year. The feeling is very dramatic and it seems like a desolate wilderness as the waves crash on the jagged cliffs below and the blowhole shoots water 50-70 feet/15-30 meters into the air. The sky above is full of sea birds including red-billed tropicbirds, American Oystercatchers, swallow-tailed gulls, and Audubon's Shearwaters.
The Galápagos Islands (official name: Archipiélago de Colón; other Spanish names: Islas de Colón or Islas Galápagos) are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, some 900 km west of Ecuador. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site: wildlife is its most notable feature. Because of the only very recent arrival of man the majority of the wildlife has no fear of humans and will allow visitors to walk right up them, often having to step over Iguanas or Sea Lions.The Galápagos islands and its surrounding waters are part of a province, a national park, and a biological marine reserve. The principal language on the islands is Spanish. The islands have a population of around 40,000, which is a 40-fold expansion in 50 years. The islands are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.