The animal on the cover of the Android Cookbook is a marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). These lizards are found exclusively in the Galapagos (with a subspecies particular to each island). They are believed to be descended from land iguanas carried to the islands on log rafts from mainland South America.
The marine iguana is the only type of lizard that feeds in the water. Darwin found the reptiles unattractive and awkward, labeling them “disgusting clumsy lizards” and “imps of darkness,” but these streamlined large animals (up to 5 or 6 feet long) are graceful in the water, with flattened tails designed for swimming.
These lizards feed on seaweed and marine algae. They can dive deeply (as far as 50 feet), though their dives are usually shallow, and they can stay underwater for up to an hour (though 5 to 10 minutes is more typical). Like all reptiles, marine iguanas are cold-blooded and must regulate their body temperature by basking in the sun; their black or gray coloration maximizes their heat absorption when they come out of the cold ocean. Though these harmless herbivores often allow humans to approach them closely, they can be aggressive when cold.
Marine iguanas have specialized nasal glands that filter ocean salt from their blood. They sneeze up the excess salt, which often accumulates on their heads or faces, creating a distinctive white patch or “wig.” These iguanas are vulnerable to predation by introduced species (including dogs and cats), as well as to ocean ...