Monday, January 5, 2009

Pink Iguana That Darwin Missed Holds Evolutionary Surprise

Pink Iguana That Darwin Missed Holds Evolutionary Surprise : "Biologists report that a rare type of pink iguana found on a single volcano in the Galapagos Islands is a genetically-distinct species from its green cousins — and that it's probably critically endangered.

'This form, which we recognize as a good species, is very important because it carries substantial evolutionary legacy,' the authors of a new paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences wrote. 'Thus far the rosada form is the only evidence of deep diversification along the Galapagos land iguana lineage.'

Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos islands in 1835 but didn't make it to the northernmost volcano, Volcan Wolf, which is the lone habitat for these pink lizards. Later travelers and scholars also seem to have missed or failed to report the curiously striped creature until 1986 when some Galapagos National Park rangers spotted the animals. Still, no scientists had looked into whether they represented a distinct species until now."