Canberra, September 17 : A team comprising of Australian and US researchers has discovered a new species of Pacific Iguana in the Fijian archipelago.
According to a report by ABC News, the team has shown that there are three living species of Brachylophus iguanas, not two as indicated in current taxonomy.
The new species is named 'Brachylophus bulabula', after the Fijian word for 'hello'.
"In the reptile world, the Fijian iguanas are iconic," said lead author Associate Professor Scott Keogh, of the Australian National University's School of Botany and Zoology. "To discover a new species of them is very exciting," he added.
The new species was uncovered after analysis of the mitochondrial DNA of 61 iguanas from 13 islands.
The study shows the B. bulabula iguana is genetically and physically different from the two other species.
It has a different coloured nose, is intermediate in size, has a slightly different pattern on its body and is found only in the central region of Fiji.
As part of the research, the team also evaluated competing arguments about how the iguana arrived in the Pacific.
Keogh said that the Pacific iguanas of the Fijian and Tongan archipelagos are a bio-geographic enigma because their closest relatives are found only in the Americas.
According to him, the genetic analysis adds weight to the theory the iguanas "floated on some kind of raft" to the Fijian islands somewhere between 13 to 14 million years ago.
The analysis also shows that with only one exception, every island for which there were samples was represented by at least one distinct iguana lineage.
Keogh said that their work is particularly important in helping the Fijian Government find ways to protect the reptile.