Santa Fe Land-Iguana

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Iguanidae | Conolophus pallidus

English common name: Santa Fe Land-Iguana, Barrington Land-Iguana.

Spanish common name: Iguana pálida de Santa Fe.

Recognition: ♂♂ 114 cm ♀♀ 100.1 cm. Conolophus pallidus is one of two species of iguanas occurring on Santa Fe, but it is the only one on the island dwelling on land. The other species is the Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), which has a darker coloration, a distinctively blunt snout, and a laterally flattened tail adapted to swimming.

Natural history: Extremely common. Conolophus pallidus is a diurnal iguana inhabiting dry grasslands and deciduous forests. Adults are terrestrial and feed mostly (up to ~56%) on cacti, but also on 25 other native and introduced plant species, including grasses, small trees, shrubs, and herbs.1 They also occasionally consume beetles, centipedes, goat scats, and carrion.2,3 Juveniles are semiarboreal and feed mostly on insects.4,5

Special thanks to Stephanie Wood and Kelly Geer, our two official protectors of the Santa Fe Land-Iguana, for symbolically adopting this species and helping bring the Reptiles of Galápagos project to life.

Individuals of Conolophus pallidus bask and forage at ground level5 throughout the day whenever temperatures are favorable, and move into the shade to avoid the hottest hours of the day, sitting on surfaces that have not been heated by the sun. At dusk, they retreat into burrows or under thick vegetation.2 Juveniles are preyed upon by hawks, owls, herons, and Central Galápagos Racers (Pseudalsophis dorsalis).6,7 When threatened, individuals of C. pallidus run into burrows, vegetation, and crevices; they may also open the mouth aggressively if cornered.5

During the reproductive season, adult male Santa Fe Land-Iguanas defend territories of up to 20 m2 by bobbing their heads or fighting with intruders.2,7 If successful, they may mate with up to seven females.7 Between October and November,8 adult females dig holes in sandy soil and lay 2–20 eggs3 that take nearly four months to hatch.8


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Conservation: Near Threatened. We consider Conolophus pallidus to be in this category following IUCN criteria9 because the species is not currently facing population declines nor major immediate threats of extinction. Santa Fe Island is free of exotic predators, not populated by humans, and protected within the Galápagos National Park. However, since the entire population of C. pallidus (~7,500 individuals)10 is restricted to a small island, the species could be seriously affected by random, unpredictable events (like droughts and introduced species) within a short time period.

Distribution: The Santa Fe Land-Iguana is endemic to Santa Fe Island in Galápagos, Ecuador. Santa Fe is a small and relatively flat island with an area of 24 km2 and a maximum elevation of 250 m above sea level. The vegetation of the island is dominated by the palo santo tree (Bursera graveolens) and the giant prickly pear cactus (Opuntia echios).

Distribution of Conolophus pallidus Distribution of Conolophus pallidus in Santa Fe Island

Etymology: The generic name Conolophus, which comes from the Greek words konos (meaning “cone”) and lophos (meaning “crest”),11 refers to the cone-like scales that form the dorsal crest in species of this genus. The specific epithet pallidus comes from Latin and means “pale”.11 It is a reference to the color of the Santa Fe Land-Iguana, which is paler than the other land iguanas.

See it in the wild: Individuals of Conolophus pallidus can be seen year-round with ~100% certainty during tourism day trips to Santa Fe Island.

Authors: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador. and Juan M GuayasaminbAffiliation: Laboratorio de Biología Evolutiva, Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Quito, Ecuador.,cAffiliation: Galapagos Science Center, Galápagos, Ecuador.,dAffiliation: Centro de Investigación de la Biodiversidad y Cambio Climático, Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica, Quito, Ecuador.

Academic reviewer. Miguel Vences.

Photographers: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A, Guayasamin JM (2020) Conolophus pallidus. In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J, Guayasamin JM (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: www.tropicalherping.com

Bioparque Amaru logoThis species account of the Santa Fe Land-Iguana (Conolophus pallidus) is available for free online thanks to the support of Bioparque Amaru.

Bioparque Amaru logo

Literature cited:

  1. Cano CA (2018) Dieta y uso de hábitat de la tortuga gigante (Chelonoidis hoodensis) y la iguana terrestre (Conolophus pallidus) en la Isla Santa Fe, Galápagos, Ecuador. MSc thesis, Heredia, Costa Rica, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica.
  2. Carpenter CC (1969) Behavioral and ecological notes on the Galápagos land iguanas. Herpetologica 25: 155–164.
  3. Chapman F (2006) Land iguanas (Conolophus subcristatus and Conolophus pallidus). Charles Darwin Research Station Fact Sheet. Available from: http://www.darwinfoundation.org
  4. Fitter J, Fitter D, Hosking D (2000) Wildlife of Galápagos. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, London, 272 pp.
  5. Tropical Herping field notes.
  6. Márquez CM, Muñoz EA, Gentile G, Tapia WH, Zabala FJ, Naranjo SA, Llerena AJ (2010) Estado poblacional de las iguanas terrestres (Conolophus subcristatus, C. pallidus, y C. marthae: Squamata, Iguanidae), Islas Galápagos. Boletín Técnico, Serie Zoológica 6: 25–43.
  7. Kricher JC (2006) Galápagos: a natural history. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 256 pp.
  8. Snell HL, Snell HM, Tracy CR (1984) Variation among populations of Galápagos land iguanas (Conolophus): contrasts of phylogeny and ecology. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 21: 185–207.
  9. IUCN (2001) IUCN Red List categories and criteria: Version 3.1. IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland and Cambridge, 30 pp.
  10. Washington Tapia, unpublished data.
  11. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington, 882 pp.