Sea of Cortes Wildlife

Marine Animals

From the largest mammal on earth to the tiniest microorganisms, the Sea of Cortés supports an amazing array of marine life. Thousands of invertebrate species cohabitate with more than 900 species of fish as well as whales and other large marine mammals.

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Whale Sharks

Meet the gentle giant of the Sea of Cortes, the whale shark. Truly whales—not sharks—whale sharks, the largest fish in the planet, can weigh up to 15 tons and stretch 40 feet long. That’s as heavy as the anchor of a ship and as long as a school bus. On a similar scale, whale sharks have 3,000 teeth, but they don’t use them to bite or chew. They just open their huge (five feet wide!) mouths to eat whatever plankton, squid, krill, and small fish cross their path. Good thing they don’t have to exert too much effort to feed, whale sharks are slow swimmers, topping out at three miles per hour.

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Parrotfish

The parrotfish is one of the colorful creatures that live around the world's coral reefs. Its fused teeth form beak-like plates, resembling the beak of a parrot. Parrotfish feed on algae they extract from chunks of coral, which they grind up using molar-like teeth in their throats. By preventing reef structures from becoming overgrown with algae, parrotfish contribute to the health of coral reefs. 

Land Animals & Birds

More than 40 reptile and amphibian species, over 50 mammal species, and nearly 200 bird species call Baja California Sur “home.” While many are masters of disguise and concealment, here are some of the local residents you might spy:

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Spiny-tailed Iguanas

Little lizard, a lot of bravado. Some spiny-tailed iguanas stretch to five feet while others are just five inches long. Even the smallest of these male reptiles claim their territory with color changes, body inflation, and “push-ups,” a rapid nodding of the head. Spiny-tailed iguanas might be seen (their tails are longer than their bodies!) scampering up a tree.