This video is called Galapagos Land Iguana eating dinner.
Scientists encourage ‘continuous and effective management’ and further study of these ‘spectacular and emblematic’ reptiles
The Galápagos Islands, which provided impetus and inspiration for Charles Darwin’s seminal work, “On the Origin of Species”, are home to unique populations of reptiles. Since the time of man’s first visit in the 16th century to this crucial incubator for evolutionary theory, the islands’ native plants and animals have faced grave challenges, including severe pressures from introduced species, habitat destruction and predation by man himself.
In some instances, this has led to reduced populations and even extinction. In the 20th century, conservation efforts began, but according to new research published this week in the scientific journal Molecular Ecology considerably more must be done to insure the long-term survival of land-dwelling iguanas on the archipelago.
In their new article, “Galapagos Land Iguanas Remnant Populations,” an international coalition of scientists, led by Michel Milinkovitch, from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, detail their near-decade-long effort to assess the population genetics of land iguanas on the six islands where the reptiles occur today. …
Galápagos land iguanas diverged from the famous Galápagos marine iguanas 10 to 20 million years ago, and there are currently two recognized species of terrestrial iguanas; Conolophus subcristatus and C. pallidus.
Beginning in the 1930s, and continuing through the 1980s, various threatened populations of land iguanas were relocated from one island habitat to another, or were subject to captive breeding and reintroduction programs. Combined with the eradication of invasive species at some locations, this patchwork of dedicated conservation efforts by the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galápagos National Park Service has undoubtedly preserved some native species from extinction, but unfortunately the records of these activities were not always detailed. As a result, the genetic diversity of captive and reintroduced populations is uncertain.
Given that genetic diversity within – and relationships among – populations are crucial for long-term species survival, the authors investigated genetic variation at nine nuclear microsatellite loci among more than 700 land iguanas from six island habitats. For comparison, the information obtained was compared with similar information gathered from 20 marine iguanas. This represents the first time that extensive and modern molecular genetic analyses have been applied to the study of these unique terrestrial reptiles. Results revealed four distinct “clusters” of iguanas, including two potential new species.
Mosquitoes adapt and expand diet, threatening Galapagos Islands’ reptiles: here.
November 2010: An attempt to illegally export marine iguanas, an emblematic species of the Galapagos, has been stopped by the Ecuadorian Environmental Police’s dog unit: here.