Galapagos: San Cristóbal

Estefania (Tefa) Boada’s PhD work on Ecuador’s lava lizards (Microlophus sp.) continues from December 2019 and takes place in the Galapagos Islands, with welcome financial support from the Rufford Foundation and logistical support from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, and will involve research activities on four different islands. Our activities involve population counts, focal and behavioural sampling over a few days, filming intra-specific communication and conducting habitat surveys. 

The first for the season was on San Cristóbal and focussed on M. bivittatus. San Cristóbal is the easternmost island of the archipelago and the second most populated. Tefa and her volunteers (Estefany, Sebastian and Richard) selected the area around the interpretation centre at Puerto Barquero Moreno. The area is well-known as the first landing spot in the Galapagos for Charles Darwin. 

Although the site is a popular tourist spot we were swayed by the abundance of lizards. Like other lava lizards, M. bivittatus are sexually dimorphic with males being considerably larger than female, and sexually mature females exhibiting bright orange colouration.

Male (right) and female (left) M. bivittatus

Somewhat oblivious to the presence of humans, the lizards were very active and our various activities proceeded without issues – aside from the odd appearance of feral cats that appeared to be the only thing that resulted in anti-predator like responses in the lizards.

We had a free afternoon at the end of the research activities and went across to the other site of the island. The drive took us across slightly more elevated areas with very different vegetation before returning to sea level at Puerto Chino. This was another potential site for our work but the apparent lower population density and long round trip each day meant it was ruled out. It was worth another quick visit to look for local wildlife …

… and international celebrities.