Pink Iguana Discovered in Galapagos; “Doh!” says Darwin

  by  |  January 5th, 2009  |  Published in All, Animals & Life Science, Blog, Featured


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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.

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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 (gabriele.gentile@uniroma2.it) 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.

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Responses

  1. Glen says:

    January 5th, 2009 at 4:00 pm (#)

    Save them! If nothing else, they’d make good gag gifts for Valentine’s Day.

  2. auroranorth says:

    January 6th, 2009 at 9:28 pm (#)

    In honor of the discovery of a Pink Iguana, we shall take 1 shot of this Pink Vodka, mix with 1/2 shot of creme de menth, and 1 pint of Ice Cream blend until thick serve with a parasol pine apple wedge and a cherry There you have it the Pink Iquana

  3. Chandler N. says:

    January 12th, 2009 at 5:37 pm (#)

    the pink inguana should be saved.it is already endangered why shouldn,t it be saved.it is a buetiful reptile. Some should be put it to captivity and breeded in a attemp to revive the species.

  4. Maggie Fusari says:

    January 14th, 2009 at 11:01 am (#)

    Another wonderful example of the importance of the Galápagos Islands as unique in our world and as an important laboratory of evolution. Congratulations to all who are working on this and especially to the Galápagos National Park Rangers who found this animal.

  5. Justin says:

    January 19th, 2009 at 12:55 pm (#)

    Pink iguana eh? I am all for the conservation of this (and any other) endangered species.

    Though my question would be, what is the significance of “naturally selecting” the color pink in the species?

    I can’t think of many animals out there that are that particular color, other than the Pink Panther, that is.

  6. jmad says:

    February 17th, 2009 at 1:23 pm (#)

    awsome!!

  7. Bob says:

    February 20th, 2009 at 9:10 am (#)

    cool! i think u should sav it. it makes a great science project and is my favorite color! I agrey with chandler, some should be put in captivity. I wonder wat baby rosada iguanas look like!

  8. Jack says:

    March 8th, 2009 at 4:48 pm (#)

    Thats awesome! Who knows what else there is to discover out there. I shall load a bong and milk it high for the newly discovered pink iguana.

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    September 15th, 2009 at 3:44 pm (#)

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  10. Ryan.L says:

    December 10th, 2009 at 2:41 pm (#)

    Lets save it. Im going to be a herpotologist in the on coming years and i would love to study this magnnifisent creature.

  11. Elena says:

    December 11th, 2009 at 1:39 am (#)

    Why wouldn’t we save this creature? It rules :]

  12. Iguana Care says:

    January 18th, 2010 at 8:11 pm (#)

    Save the Iguanas!

    The marine iguana is in truth only to be found thriving within the Galapagos Islands that is why its existence in the island has branded the reptile the name “Galapagos marine iguana”. The natural habitat of the marine iguana is on the rocky shores of the Galapagos Island but they can likewise be seen in the mangrove and marshes beaches.

    Charles Darwin described the marine iguana as the black lizards thriving on the sea. But the truth is that the marine iguanas are not usually black in color. The younger marine iguanas take the dorsal stripe color whereas the adult ones are grayish. Their color may be really dull but there is a reason behind this. Such color allows them to easily absorb heat right after they emerge out of the water. The salt contained in their bodies makes their faces appear whiter.

    More so, the matured male marine iguanas have a varying color—all of which depend on the existing season. During the breeding seasons, the adult male marine iguanas become teal-green or reddish in colors. Those thriving in Santa Cruz appear in black and red brick while those found in Fernandina come in dull green and brick red colors. Their sizes likewise differ which depends on the island that they live in. Those found in the whole of Isabela and Fernandina are the largest marine iguanas in the entire island of Galapagos. Meanwhile, the smallest marine iguanas are to be found in Genovesa.

    To date, the government of Ecuador has set up laws that aim to protect the existence of marine iguanas. There are artificial nestling sites which had been made in the smaller islands so that there will be lesser predators that can harm them.

    These are beautiful reptiles and should be saved – if nothing but to preserve history….

    -jeff

  13. Gavin says:

    May 18th, 2010 at 8:25 am (#)

    Save the iguana, a new species is a great breakthrough, so much information is still to be recorded about it, its habits etc. I think its an awesome creature!

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