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Ocean Currents

Meet the Ocean Salt Baes: Marine Iguanas

Take a dive into the glorious salty seaside lifestyle of the world's only ocean dwelling lizard

165-Long Walks on the Beach
© Allison Brown

If you share my obsession with food videos, you may recall the winter of 2017 when “Salt Bae” (aka Nusret Gökçe) came into our lives and left his mark forever in our hearts. His salt sprinkle technique made him world famous and launched a thousand memes declaring him the saltiest in the land.

giphy
© Source: Giphy

While his technique is impressive, I’m here to dethrone him. I humbly submit to the council of the Internet that we bring his reign to an end and crown a new Salt Bae: the marine iguana.

marine iguana
© Robyn Stegman

Hear me out: the marine iguana lives in the waters of the Galápagos, feasting on algae, swimming around, looking fine and basking in the sun on the sea shore. They are the only lizard to adapt to this envious aquatic life. Scientists believe their ancestors drifted out to sea on a piece of debris and landed on the island paradise they call home. Over time they developed their beach bods: flattened tails to move through the water, sharp pointy teeth to get algae off rocks and claws to help them cling to rocks to fight strong currents. They evolved into majestic vegetarian sea dinosaurs with attitude.

Biologically, that sweet seaside lifestyle comes at a price. Living and eating in the ocean makes marine iguanas salty—literally. Such a high intake of salt would be fatal for a lizard but the marine iguanas have adapted in a unique way: they sneeze salt.

I’m not making this up. Marine iguanas have glands which remove the salt from their blood. They expel the collected salt in forceful nose excretions which look to us humans like snorting or sneezing.

Lacking Kleenex technology, marine iguanas often get hit with their own snot rockets. You’ll often see a white crust of salt on their heads and snouts. It’s almost like the make up Kiss wears, but made with showers of salty nose goo. Take one look at them and you can see they rock that salty style with pride.

marine iguana
© Sue Kirchoff

Marine iguanas haven’t always gotten the love they rightfully deserve. Charles Darwin referred to them as the “imps of darkness.” While I’d claim this name only increases their rock star status, I’m not sure Darwin meant it as a compliment. Elsewhere in his writings, he referred to marine iguanas as “repulsive” and “disgusting, clumsy lizards.” The name-calling seems a little unfair, given that those “imps of darkness” helped to develop his theory of evolution.

So, let’s make up for Darwin’s insults and treat marine iguanas like the royalty they are. It’s time for them to take their rightful place on the salty thrown. Humans merely sprinkle salt. Marine iguanas were born in it, molded by it. They consume so much salt, they have to sneeze it. Doesn’t that make these majestic ocean dwellers, the true Salt Baes? It does in my heart anyway.

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Shout out to "Sassy Pants" the marine iguana who inspired this blog © Robyn Stegman

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