So far underestimated: the pink iguanas of Isabela. Picture: Gabriele Gentile
Read There are pink land iguanas in the Galápagos Islands? and probably much longer than previously thought: An international team of researchers has discovered in the study of idiosyncratically colored animals that their development line split much earlier from their well-researched, yellowish-colored conspecifics, as scientists had previously suspected. The pink iguanas are found only on a single island of the Galápagos archipelago and had also been overlooked by Charles Darwin during his visit. Although the Galápagos Islands have been explored extensively for a long time, the pink animals were only discovered by chance in 1986 by a national park ranger. They live exclusively near the volcano Wolf on the Galápagos Isabela Island. Gentile and his team gave the little-studied animals the name "Rosada", which means "pink" in Spanish.

So far, only two different species of land iguanas were known in Galápagos, both of which belong to the genus Drusenköpfe (Conolophus). However, according to genetic studies on both the Rosadas and the two known species Gentile and his team assume that the Rosadas represent a separate species. Although the animals are still able to reproduce among themselves, the scientists explain. Nevertheless, the genetic differences are so great that a classification as a separate species seems justified. However, a formal description moved the scientists to a later date.

The development paths of the Rosadas and the other land iguanas were probably already shared about 5.7 million years ago, the researchers determined with their investigations. So far, scientists had assumed that the drusen heads had developed apart only during the Pleistocene? this geological age began about 1.8 million years ago and ended about 11, 500 years ago. However, the new results are a mystery to Gentile and his colleagues: The volcano Wolf, where the Rosadas were previously only discovered, was created at the time of the assumed species splitting. In order to further research the animals, however, their protection must first be guaranteed, the scientists demand. According to currently available data, the Rosadas are directly threatened with extinction.

Gabriele Gentile (University of Tor Vergata, Rome) et al .: PNAS, online pre-publication, DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.0806339106 ddp / Markus Zen's ad


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