Pink iguana no this one is not a drink

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Park rangers first noted the presence of a pink variety of iguana on the slopes of Volcano Wolf on the island of Isabela in the Galapagos Islands in 1986, but  not until 2000 that scientists began to examine these pink iguanas.

Pink iguanas unknown to Charles Darwin during his visits to the Galapagos islands may provide evidence of species divergence far earlier than the English naturalist’s famous finches, researchers said Monday.

The findings for the first time describe the  black-striped reptiles the pink iguana and only a few more times since  as a new species (Conolophus subcristatus rosada ), said Gabriele Gentile of the University Tor Vergata in Rome, primary researcher for this study.  It may be one of the archipelago’s oldest, blood and genetic tests on 36 pink iguanas indicate it is older and likely the predecessor of the two species of iguana on the other islands, said Cruz Marquez, a biologist who is part of the research team. The pink iguana dates back more than 5 million years

“Despite the attention given to them, the Galapagos have not yet finished offering evolutionary novelties,” Gentile and colleagues wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences._45348080_twoiguanas226

“So far, this species is the only evidence of ancient diversification along the Galapagos land iguana lineage and documents one of the oldest events of divergence ever recorded in the Galapagos.

Darwin’s studies on how one type had evolved into several after a probable chance migration thousands of years earlier from the Latin American mainland lay at the heart of his major work “On the Origin of Species,” published in 185

“A genetic analysis showed that the pink reptile likely originated in the Galapagos and split from other iguana populations some five million years ago when the archipelago was still forming,

Rosada (above) has different coloring from most subcristatus (below) the researchers said (images to the right)

Iguanas typically bob and duck when they meet each other a behavior thought to be important for marking territory and courtship – and rosada does so in a more complex fashion than the yellow-colored subcristatus or the other Galapagos species, Conolophus pallidus.

It also has a different shape of crest. There is little sign of cross-breeding between pink and yellow.

Even the oldest parts of the archipelago may be less than five million years old. It is possible that some volcanoes that are now under water were above it at the time when the first iguanas arrived, and this allowed some of the creatures to climb onto land and begin their separate evolution.

Earlier DNA analysis suggests that land-based iguanas split from their marine counterparts about 10 million years ago.

Whatever the history, Dr Gentile’s team believes rosada’s single population is so tiny as to put its survival in danger. It is critically endangered.

The researchers documented fewer than 40 of the iguanas over two years and Gentile said conservation efforts and funds are urgently needed to keep the species from dying off.

“We think the population is very small and there is a great risk of extinction,” Gentile said.

Resource

Pink iguana rewrites family tree – Richard Black   BBC News website

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7811875.stm

New Pink Lizard Found on Galapagos – JEANNETH VALDIVIESO  AP
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090105/sc_nm/us_darwin_iguana

http://news.aol.com/article/new-pink-lizard-found-on-galapagos/297896

Image courtesy of

http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/images/45348000/jpg/_45348807_pink_iguana_pa416.jpg

Richard.Black-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk

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