A Hermit Crab on Espanola Island
Semi Terrestrial Hermit Crab
Hermit crabs are decapod crustaceans of the superfamily Paguroidea. They are not closely related to true crabs. Hermit crabs are quite commonly seen in the intertidal zone: for example, in tide pools. Most species have long, soft abdomens which are protected from predators by a salvaged empty seashell carried on the crab's back, into which the crab's whole body can retract. Most frequently hermit crabs utilize the shells of sea snails; the tip of the hermit crab's abdomen is adapted to clasp strongly onto the columella of the snail shell. As the hermit crab grows in size, it has to find a larger shell and abandon the previous one. Of about five hundred known species, most are aquatic and live in varying depths of saltwater, from shallow reefs and shorelines to deep sea bottoms. However, tropical areas host some terrestrials.
Espanola (Gardener Bay)
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. Gardner Bay is a favorite destination for swimming and snorkeling as well as offering a great beach andis located on the northeastern portion of the island offers a magnificent long, white sandy beach, where colonies of sea lions laze in the sun, sea turtles swim offshore, and inquisitive mockingbirds boldly investigate. The beach considered an open area where you are free to explore. Snorkeling at Gardner Bay is fantastic. This is often your first chance to swim with the Sea Lions and this is an opportunity not to be missed. Further out towards Tortuga Rock and Gardner Island schools of large colorful tropical fish including yellow tailed surgeon fish, king angelfish and bump-head parrot fish swim along with an occasional manta ray gliding by and white-tipped sharks napping on the bottom.
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.