Pink, Giant & just coming out of the biodiversity closet: A new species of Galapagos Land Iguana has been described for science and named Conolophus marthae. This new iguana species of approximately 50 cm is characterised by having a pink overall colouration with black marks. It was discovered on the Wolf Volcano of northern Isla Isabela, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Darwin did not visit the volcano on his travels to the Ecuadorian Archipelago of Galapagos in the 1830s, and the Galapagos Pink Iguana was only first observed in 1986, when park rangers of the Galapagos National Park climbed Wolf Volcano and observed 5 pink iguanas with dark marks. Initially, they were thought to be some intra-population variation or even stained by some substance. But, when studies took body measurements and blood samples from 36 individuals, morphological and genetic analysis confirmed that they were an undescribed new species.
This new species differs in its morphology, behaviour, and genetics from the other two Galapagos Land Iguanas, Conolophus subcristatus and Conolophus pallidus, which are usually brown coloured.
Besides the taxonomic implications of this discovery, the Pink Iguana is extremely important as it is the only evidence of deep divergence within the Galápagos land iguana lineage. In fact, the new species carries an ancient evolutionary legacy, being the only remnant of a lineage originated when the Galápagos archipelago did not have its present geography and configuration.
This new species is endemic to the Wolf Volcano, the highest of the Galapagos. It is estimated than less than 200 adult individuals are alive. Feral cats introduced to the island may be eating the young reptiles and goats may be competitors for food. Thus, the Galapagos Pink Iguana is Critically Threated by Extinction.
The description of this new species was published by Gabriele Gentile of Università Tor Vergata (Roma, Italia) and Howard Snell of University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, USA) in the scientific journal Zootaxa of 18 August 2009.
Citation of the scientific article:
Gentile, G. & Snell, H. (2009) Conolophus marthae sp.nov. (Squamata, Iguanidae), a new species of land iguana from the Galápagos archipelago. Zootaxa, 2201, 1–10.
Download the PDF of the article: http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2009/f/zt02201p010.pdf
Potography: Gabrielle Gentile