Thursday, January 8, 2009
Have you ever seen a pink iguana? I never did! It was just by chance I dropped by an article while scrambling around the web late this morning, looking for some rare species of animals. The very phrase "Pink Iguana" enticed me and I couldn't get out of the page until I finished it entirely. Yes, pink iguana, one of the rarest species was overlooked by the English naturalist Charles Darwin during his visit to Galapagos Islands. The documentation spanned back to 1800s when many researchers and naturalists explored Galapagos Islands and Charles Darwin was one of them to overlook a hefty pink iguana.
Referred to as "rosada", which means "pink" in Spanish, this extremely rare reptile - the pink iguana with distinct black stripes had been discovered at Volcan Wolf, Isabela Island's northernmost volcano. This was accidentally missed out by Darwin in 1835, during his five-week stay at the archipelago. Although the Galapagos National Park rangers first discovered the rare pink iguana a few decades ago, but it wasn't documented officially until the first week of 2009. A study during the first phase of January 2009, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has been the first to document the pink iguana officially. 1986 was the year of first sighting of pink iguana.
Gentile, a researcher in the Department of Biology, Tor Vergata University, Rome and his co-researchers collected the samples of blood from several varieties of iguanas at Galapagos, including the yellow varieties. They extracted the DNA from the blood samples to study how the different species are co-related and how and when each of them had emerged. The researchers concluded that the pink iguana has been around for quite a very long span of time. Gentile and his colleagues concluded that around 10.5 million years ago, a common ancestor to both land and marine iguanas from Central or South America colonized the Galapagos Islands and they probably started to diverge at that time. Although many other researchers thought that almost all major species of iguanas differentiated much later during the Pleistocene Epoch - 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago, but Gentile choose to differ from the idea.
Gentile says, "the pink iguana alters the current thinking about the origin of land iguanas from the Galapagos. It is the only remnant of an evolutionary lineage that originated from the land iguana lineage much earlier, about 5.7 million years ago, than the Pleistocene, which is when the rest of the present land iguanas started differentiating throughout the archipelago." As the study of Gentile and his team, this rare species - pink iguana has been placed at the bottom of the iguana family tree of archipelago land. According to them this striking reptile had emerged even before the formation of some islands in Galapagos.
Behavior and Characteristics of Pink Iguana
The unique head scales with a prominent crest, give the reptile an entirely distinctive look. Alike other iguanas, it bobs it head to mark it's own territory and courtship, though in a style a bit different from other iguanas. Gentile said, "the pink iguana shows a particular and distinguished display characterized by multiple series of very rapid ups and downs of the head". He thinks that the pink iguana should be enlisted under "critically endangered" species, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List due to habitat loss and introduction of non-native animals.
After discovering a new species of Galapagos giant tortoise at a place not far from the islands' Charles Darwin Station, Gisela Caccone, a senior research scientist in ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University, told Discovery News that "the thing that continues to surprise me is the fact that even in the Galapagos, a place that is the 'Mecca' for evolutionary biologists, we still have undiscovered biodiversity not only amongst small organisms, but even for large vertebrates, as these iguanas are".