London, Jan 6 (ANI): New genetic analysis by scientists has revealed that a long-overlooked pink iguana on the Galapagos Islands is a species in its own right, and was missed by English naturalist Charles Darwin in 1835.
Galapagos land iguanas belong to the genus Conolophus, of which there are currently three recognised species.
Remarkably, given their colour, pink iguanas were apparently not seen until they were noticed by park rangers in 1986.
They are sometimes known as "rosada" iguanas, from the Spanish for pink.
Though Charles Darwin spent five weeks exploring the Galapagos in 1835, he did not encounter the pink iguanas.
According to a report in New Scientist, Gabriele Gentile of Tor Vergata University of Rome, Italy, and colleagues took blood samples of rosada iguanas and the other two species in order to test their relatedness.
Genetic analysis shows that the rosada iguana originated in the Galapagos more than five million years ago, and diverged from the other land iguana populations even as the archipelago was still forming.
The species came into being even before the appearance of the Volcan Wolf volcano in the north of Isabela Island - the only place the rosada is now found.
The pink form, according to Gentile, should be considered a third species, and is evolutionarily older than the other two species, and is also one of the earliest examples of species diversification on the islands.
Though it has only recently been discovered, Gentile said that conservation measures are needed to prevent the pink iguana from going extinct.
"Available data suggest that the population size of the pink iguana is very small," he said.
Gentile speculates that feral cats in the region could be eating eggs and young iguanas. Direct hunting by humans is also blamed for the small population of the species. (ANI)