Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Who knew? Pink iguana and other nature

I think this story is fascinating for all sorts of reasons:

'Pink' iguana product of ancient divergence, scientists say

CBC News An adult male iguana of the rosada species, found near Volcan Wolf, the northernmost volcano of the island of Isabela, the largest of the Galapagos islands.An adult male iguana of the rosada species, found near Volcan Wolf, the northernmost volcano of the island of Isabela, the largest of the Galapagos islands. (Gabriele Gentile/PNAS)

Pink iguanas found near a volcano on the Galapagos islands — and unknown to naturalist Charles Darwin during his visits to the region — are a distinct species that diverged from other land iguana populations some five million years ago, scientists said Monday.

The findings are the first to describe the extremely rare pink, black-striped land iguanas, which escaped the notice of scientists until Galapagos National Park rangers spotted them in 1986.

The land iguana, called rosada or "pink" in Spanish, live near the northernmost volcano of the island of Isabela, one of the few places on the island Darwin did not visit during his visit in 1835.

Darwin's trip to the remote islands informed his research into the process of natural selection, a theory that became the backbone of modern biology. It also made the Galapagos region off the Pacific coast of South America a hotbed for research into evolutionary history, as many species, including iguanas, are found only on the islands.

"Despite the attention given to them, the Galapagos have not yet finished offering evolutionary novelties," said researcher Gabriele Gentile of the University Tor Vergata in Rome, who led the study.

That the pink iguanas are a unique species is interesting given their rarity, but even more surprising from the analysis of their mitochondrial DNA is how far their lineage can be traced back, said Gentile.

The researchers trace the divergence of the rosada species from other land iguanas back some five million years, to a period when some of the islands had yet to form...

Wow! To read more on this amazing discovery - and the implications - go to CBC online here.

And then. Another awesome story from within Canada:

Rare southern sighting of ivory gull on P.E.I.

The ivory gull is the only all-white gull.The ivory gull is the only all-white gull. (Shirley Gallant)

An ivory gull, normally a resident of the far north and shy of humans, has settled in on P.E.I.'s North Shore for the past week.

The bird was first spotted Dec. 29, and was continuing to accept eel guts from a local fisherman in North Rustico on Tuesday. Ivory gulls usually do not venture even as far south as Newfoundland, with summer breeding grounds north of Baffin Island.

The bird is distinctive because it is the only gull that is entirely white.

This is only the third documented sighting of an ivory gull on P.E.I.

This is not the only arctic bird spotted recently by Islanders. There have been a number of sightings of snowy owls in the last month as well. (source CBC online)

And THAT is your "Brat useful trivia" for today!

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