Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Land of the Pink Iguana?

It will probably never catch on as a nickname for the Galápagos Islands, given the enormous variety of weird animals already known to live in and around the Pacific archipelago — giant tortoises, flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies and hordes of iguanas, to name just a few. No pink iguanas, though, until one was spotted two decades ago by rangers on the rugged island of Volcan Wolf. It wasn't clear at the time whether it was just a mutant variant of the iguanas Charles Darwin spotted during his 1835 visit. It took DNA analysis by a team of Italian scientists to settle the matter this year. The conclusion, published in January in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: the pink iguana is a species in its own right and probably a more ancient one than the more common yellow variety. That was the first question on scientists' minds. The second one, all too obvious these days: Is it endangered? No word on that yet.