The Galapagos Islands are a World Heritage Site. One of the things that sets them apart is the uniqueness of the animals — especially the reptiles: ninety percent of the reptiles are endemic, and are found nowhere else on Earth.
In 1845, Charles Darwin wrote that the Galapagos Islands seemed like "paradise" for reptiles; he was right. The Galapagos are dry and hot for the better part of the year, and there is not much to eat. Reptiles have adapted to these conditions. Their scaly skin is an effective protection against the sun, and they can find shade if they get too hot. They have a slow metabolism, being "cold-blooded," and therefore do not need a lot of food. The Galapagos Islands also favor reptiles due to the lack of competition or predators in the form of native mammals. In the absence of mammals, Galapagos reptiles evolved to fill available niches. This is why most of the islands' 22 reptile species are endemic. The land reptiles are divided into four main groups: tortoises, iguanas and lizards, geckos, and snakes. The marine reptiles are: marine iguanas and sea turtles.
The Galapagos Islands are indeed known for their rich reptilian population, beginning with the giant tortoises, the "Galapagos" from which the archipelago derives its name. It was the giant tortoises, with 11 subspecies scattered about the archipelago that first called Darwin's attention to the amazing diversity of the Galapagos wildlife. The most commonly seen sea turtle is the green sea turtle, which is considered to be endangered throughout its range, except in the Galapagos.
Lizards are represented by three major types: iguanas, lava lizards, and geckos. The iguanas fall into two basic genera represented by the marine iguana and the land iguana. There are two types of land iguana, usually considered different species, although there is some data that suggests that the two are actually different races of the same species. The lava lizards consist of a single genus, Tropidurus, divided into seven species scattered among most of the islands. Lastly, there are three endemic species of snake.