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Galapagos Eruption Threatens Rare Iguanas

author

Stephen Luntz

Freelance Writer

clockMay 27 2015, 14:35 UTC
166 Galapagos Eruption Threatens Rare Iguanas
Parque Nacional Galapagos. The Wolf volcano is putting on a spectacular show, but threatening already endangered species.

Wolf volcano on Isabela Island, Galapagos, has erupted for the first time since 1982. The island's unique pink iguanas could be endangered as a result.

The Twitter account of the Galapagos Islands National Park is providing a steady string of awe-inspiring images and video since the eruption started on Monday.

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Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos, measuring 4,640 km2 (1800 sq miles). Wolf sits near its northern tip and is crossed by the equator.

Like the other Galapagos Islands, Isabela is volcanic, formed from the merger of six large shield volcanoes. Eruptions are frequent, with the Sierra Negra volcano erupting an average of once a decade since 1948, most recently in 2005. However, Wolf has been quiet long enough that its slopes have become a safe haven for local wildlife.

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Wolf is the Galapagos' highest peak at 1700 meters (5,577 feet) above sea level. This has made it something of a hotspot for unusual animals, even by the Galapagos' extraordinarily high standards for vertebrate biodiversity.

The pink land iguana (Conolophus marthae) was only identified as a new species in 2009, and is thought to have been the first of the Galapagos' remarkable collection of iguanas to separate from its mainland relatives after the formation of the islands. Indeed the species emerged before any of the currently existing island of the archipelago. Less than 200 adults were found in a 2012 survey, occupying a range of less than 10km2.

Fortunately, so far the lava is flowing to the south side of the volcano, while the most endangered species live on Wolf's northern slopes, including the iguana and a subspecies of Galapagos tortoises unique to the area. However, the iguanas congregate towards the crater of the volcano from May-July, bringing them uncomfortably close to the eruption.

More than 2000 people live on Isabela Island, but most are at the southern end, safely away from the latest eruption.

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Credit: Parque Nacional Galapagos

[H/T ABC]


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