January 06, 2009
Genetic analysis of the "rosada" iguana by Gabriele Gentile and colleagues shows that the species diverged from its iguana ancestor more than five million years ago, making it one of the oldest known examples of diversification on the fabled island chain where Charles Darwin collected much of the evidence — mostly among finches — to support his theory of evolution through natural selection.
Pink iguana. Photo courtesy of Gentile et al.
The rosada iguana — which was first spotted in 1986 — is so rare it is at risk of extinction. This status, coupled with its evolutionary importance, makes the species a top conservation priority write the researchers.
"These findings call for a conservation program aimed at evaluating the risk of extinction of this newly recognized species, which, based on currently available data, would be assignable to the 'critically endangered' category by meeting criteria B and C of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List."
CITATION: Gabriele Gentile, Anna Fabiani, Cruz Marquez, Howard Snell, Heidi Snell, Washington Tapia, and Valerio Sbordoni. "An overlooked, pink, new species of land iguana in the Galápagos," PNAS for the week of Jan 5, 2009.