July 16, 2010
In 1986, National Park wardens found a peculiar variety of land iguana on Volcano Wolf, the northernmost volcano of Isabella Island. These reptiles have a unique pink coloration predominating on their bodies’ skin. At that time, the newly discovered and relatively small population of these iguanas, were considered only a variation, perhaps just an exceptional mutation, of the commonly known species found on the rest of the Archipelago, but limited to this particular area. However, a team of scientists and National Park officials re-discovered the mysterious species in 2009 and decided to study them extensively. Blood samples from 101 adult individuals were taken at that time and several animals were tagged for further monitoring..
The genetic studies performed last year supplied unquestionable evidence that this was a totally new and different species of land iguana than those previously known in the islands…. Galapagos was providing the world with one more testimony of its condition as a “living laboratory” of nature, fully alive until the present days. The same studies revealed that the pink iguana originated some five million years ago and genetically differentiated from the other species, almost at the same time as the Islands were on their process of geological formation.
A new, 18 persons expedition, between scientists, National Park officials and wardens departed this week for Volcano Wolf, on a fifteen day voyage to monitor and study this unique species, in order to learn more details about their life; genetic structure; ecological characteristics; population size and range; feeding and nesting habits, etc. They will scout a wider area to determine the real scope of their territorial distribution; observe and record their feeding and reproductive habits; capture and take new blood samples from males, females and young iguanas and to tag each individual to conduct a long-term monitoring of their lives and behavior.
Considering the scientific importance of this discovery, since 2009, the Galapagos National Park Service established a strategic alliance with the Tor Vergata University of Rome, Italy, to enhance the knowledge about this, the newest and rarest species of endemic animal (in this case a mid-to-large size reptile), found on the Archipelago.
The new blood samples will be analyzed on high-tech laboratories, both in the islands and in the Roman University, to continue studying the genetic variability and phylogeny of this species and to understand and unveil, with present-day technology, the evolutionary processes of these unique animals, freshly discovered after millions of years of seclusion on the total isolation of the remote and totally uninhabited Volcano, hundreds of miles away from populated centers or visitors sites.
The information which these studies will provide, will produce the elements in order to adopt the most appropriate management and conservation measures of the Wolf Pink Land Iguanas and the area where they live, in order to preserve and guarantee their protection and survival. Two hundred years after Darwin’s visit to the islands and millions on years after being there, a new and in many ways unique and rare species, increases and enhances the inventory of endemic creatures, resulting from amazing evolutionary processes, only found on the Enchanted Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.....