According to Galapagos Tour Operator Metropolitan Touring, a team of Ecuadorian and Italian researchers have discovered a unique species of pink land iguanas living on the Galapagos Islands. Researchers at first thought that the iguanas, which are pink with black spots, simply had skin pigmentation deficiencies.
Pink iguanas have been identified as a new species 150 years after Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution in The Origin of Species. “It is surprising to have made a find of this magnitude in the 21st century,” said Washington Tapia, head of research at the Galapagos National Park. Analysis of the DNA of the pink iguana showed it probably branched away from the two other land iguanas about 5.7 million years ago. Further studies will clarify more genetic evidence on how these unique reptiles evolved in such high isolation.
The population of these lizards seems to be limited to fewer than 250 individuals, all found on Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island. The specimens studied measured up to 1.2 meters (4 feet) long and weighed up to 7 kilograms (15 pounds).
The findings, published in this week’s edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shed new light on the divergence of species in the Galapagos Archipelago 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) west of Ecuador, where Darwin collected finches that led to his theory that species evolve by natural selection. Official designation of the new species needs to be approved by the London-based International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, to whom an application has been sent.
Wolf Volcano is the highest volcano of the largest island in the archipelago. This volcano has no visitor sites, and is categorized under the management plan of the national park as “primitive-scientific zone”. Ninety-five percent of the Galapagos’ territory 8,000 sq. kilometers (a little over 3,000 sq. miles) constitutes a protected area that is home to more than 50 species of animals and birds found nowhere else on the planet.