It’s pretty! It’s ugly! It’s…the coolest anniversary present ever!
One-hundred fifty years after Charles Darwin published On The Origin of Species—the book that laid out his theory of natural selection as a means of evolution—scientists are hailing the evolutionary significance of a creature that Darwin missed during his time in the Galápagos Islands: the pink iguana.
|Image courtesy Gabriele Gentile, shot by an assistant|
An article published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlines the importance of the rare “rosada iguana,” a type of land iguana that is only found on the island of Volcan Wolf in the Galápagos. This rosy-colored reptile with distinctive black striping was first spotted in 1986 when a couple of park rangers stumbled upon it, but its discovery barely made a splash in the science pond and no publication has “officially” noted its existence.
Now, however, Gabriele Gentile and colleagues at the Tor Vergata University, Rome, Italy, are giving the species the recognition they say it deserves. An analysis of mitochondrial DNA suggests that the rosada iguana is actually a species much older than the common land and marine iguanas found on the island chain, and—surprise!—it is also extremely endangered.
Early theories speculated that the rosada was a hybrid of existing species of land and marine iguanas, but the researchers’ genetic analysis disproved that It turns out that this unique critter predates them both. This makes it more likely that the common yellow land iguana is the progeny of the rosada, not the other way around.
They also found that in addition to its striking coloring, the rosada differs from most other iguanas with its flat dorsal head scales and striking differences with regard to technique in the oh-so-important head-bobbing behavior used in marking territory and courtship. (Gets the girl every time.)
According to the authors of the study, “these findings call for a conservation program aimed at evaluating the risk of extinction of this newly recognized species.” In fact Gentile asks that you personally contact him (email@example.com) if you are interested in helping out (or funding) his conservation efforts.
However, with all these ties to Darwin and his legendary evolutionary argument, it just begs the question: Has nature simply made the decision to phase out the pink iguana? Please give us your thoughts on whether we should intervene to save these hideous beauties.Share Post: | Stumble | Share on Facebook | Tweet This |