Conservation of threatened iconic marine iguanas improved by a new taxonomy
A team of European and Latin American scientists from the TU Braunschweig in Germany has discovered five previously not listed subspecies of the marine iguanas. Among them is the Amblyrhynchus cristatus godzilla, which was named after the fictional saurian monster Godzilla.
The researchers now have revised the taxonomy of this emblematic species on the Galapagos and distinguished 11 distinct taxa of marine iguanas, classified as subspecies. The new taxonomy permits a better protection of the marine iguanas. The research results were recently published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
“Bad taxonomy can kill” becomes a major theme for scientists and conservationists with respect to threatened species. It means the loss of genetic diversity of a species by unknown and non-classified differences at the level of populations within one species.
“We were really surprised to see that world’s leading conservation organizations, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), relied on a completely outdated taxonomy for such a unique and threatened species as the marine iguana” explained Steinfartz.
In a study, published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the researchers now have revised the taxonomy of this emblematic species. Based on an intensive study of genomic and morphological characters, the scientists now distinguish 11 distinct taxa of marine iguanas, classified as subspecies. Five of these subspecies are newly discovered and described in their study.
Dr. Aurelien Miralles, the leading scientist of this study from the Natural History Museum in Paris (France) states: “It was astonishing that upon closer inspection, most of the populations from different islands had significant differences in morphology and coloration when compared to their neighbors on other islands.” He adds: “Certainly Charles Darwin would have surely held these lizards in higher regard, if he had known how well their divergence matches the expectations of evolutionary theory.”
The most remarkable of the newly discovered taxa is the cryptic and highly threatened subspecies found only in the northeast of the oldest island of the archipelago, San Cristóbal. For this outstanding population, the scientists have dubbed this subspecies “the Godzilla marine iguana”(Amblyrhynchus cristatus godzilla), in honor of the fictional saurian monster Godzilla, which was in turn originally inspired by marine iguanas. As a species, marine iguanas are threatened.
Many island populations are endangered by predation of feral animals, marine pollution and encroachment of urban developments, such as the building of new hotel complexes at the shore of the island of San Cristóbal.
The new system of subspecies outlined by this study will serve as a basis for conservation management units, which will enable managers to fully safeguard vital genetic diversity of distinct populations, which should ultimately aid the long-term survival of these unique creatures. Steinfartz sums up: “We hope that the new taxonomy will serve as a better protection of this unique species.”
Miralles Aurélien, MacLeod Amy, Rodríguez Ariel, Ibáñez Alejandro, Jiménez-Uzcategui Gustavo , Quezada Galo, Vences Miguel, Steinfartz Sebastian. Shedding light on the Imps of Darkness: An integrative taxonomic revision of the Galapagos marine Iguanas (genus Amblyrhynchus).
Dr. Sebastian Steinfartz
Technische Universität Braunschweig
Division of Evolutionary Biology
38106 Braunschweig, Germany
Phone: +49 531 391-2393
Stephan Nachtigall | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Cells communicate in a dynamic code
19.02.2018 | California Institute of Technology
Studying mitosis' structure to understand the inside of cancer cells
19.02.2018 | Biophysical Society
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.02.2018 | Life Sciences