The Pink Iguana is now considered to be part of this Laboratory of Evolution known as the Galapagos Islands.
And there are no doubts about it in these crucial moments, when we celebrate the discovery of a new species.
Evolution happens and changes occur in a time frame that is unique and indescribable, and this is what keeps Science active.
A pink iguana was found on Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island! This new species, discovered many years ago by a park ranger and now re-discovered by a group of scientists, is the most recent scientific discovery in the Galapagos Islands.
Had Charles Darwin seen this species along with the other two iguanas back in 1835 during the great voyage of the Beagle, what would have been his observations and conclusions? There are answers that only Science can provide.
The difficulty lies in determining if an animal is in fact a new species, or if it is just a variation on an existing species. In the days prior to DNA testing, it was even more difficult, but even today, before DNA tests can be done, someone needs to wonder if the creature could be a different species than previously thought.
The pink iguana is characterized by multiple series of very rapid ups and downs of the head. For its pattern and the frequency of ups and downs the pink iguana has no match with any of the other species or populations of land iguanas in the Galapagos.
The Islands are all volcanic, the creation of an oceanic hot spot, basically an underwater volcano, that periodically erupts, forming Islands.
This means that unlike many other island chains, the Galapagos Islands have never been connected to any other land mass.
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The plants and animals that colonized the islands, therefore, have developed in isolation since they first arrived. It is still not clear how iguanas got to the Galapagos Islands in the first place, but it's likely that they arrived clinging to floating wood or vegetation, originally swept into the sea from the coast of South America.
But when the iguanas washed ashore in the Galapagos, they found that the barren volcanic Islands offered little in the way of fresh vegetation, their main diet.
That's why some of the iguanas found their way to areas on the islands that offered enough vegetation to survive, and adapted further to sustain themselves during the long dry spells in the Islands.
These iguanas became the Galapagos Land Iguanas. But their much more famous cousins, the Galapagos Marine Iguanas adapted themselves in a different way. They learned to eat the algae that grows on the rocks on the shorelines of the Islands.
The new Galapagos pink iguana baptized as Conolophus Rosada can be distinguished from the other two species by the light pink color and black stripes on its back.
It can reach more than a meter long (over 3 feet) and weights up to 12 kilograms (24 pounds). They are few in numbers and are considered endangered due to the feral animals that inhabit the volcano.
Even though, Conolophus rosada shares some physical characteristics with the other land iguana Conolophus subcristatus, it shows different courtship and territorial displays.
According to the genetic analysis, its divergence along the iguana's lineage might have occurred approximately 5 millions years ago, much longer time than any other species in Galapagos!
Further studies will give more information of the iguana's status and the time they have lived on the Galapagos Islands.
Conolophus Rosada constitutes a legacy for evolutionary science and it is necessary to establish a conservation program in order to evaluate its status and its future.
Early theories speculated that the pink iguana was a hybrid of existing species of land and marine iguanas, but the researchers' genetic analysis disproved that.
It turns out that this unique critter predates them both. This makes it more likely that the common yellow land iguana is the progeny of the pink iguana, not the other way around.
They also found that in addition to its striking coloring, the pink iguana differs from most other iguanas with its flat dorsal head scales and striking differences with regard to technique in the oh-so-important head-bobbing behavior used in marking territory and courtship. (Gets the girl every time).
Wolf Volcano is the highest volcano of the largest island (Isabela) in the archipelago. This volcano which is home to the pink iguana, has no visitor sites, and is categorized under the management plan of the national park as "primitive-scientific zone".
Ninety-five percent of the Galapagos' territory 8,000 sq. kilometers (a little over 3,000 sq. miles) constitutes a protected area that is home to more than 50 species of animals and birds found nowhere else on the planet.
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