A new iguana has been discovered in the central regions of Fiji. The colorful new species, named Brachylophus bulabula, joins only two other living Pacific iguana species, one of which is critically endangered. The scientific name bulabula is a doubling of bula, the Fijian word for 'hello,' offering an even more enthusiastic greeting.
Pacific iguanas have almost disappeared as the result of human presence. Two species were eaten to extinction after people arrived nearly 3,000 years ago. The three living Brachylophus iguana species face threats from loss and alteration of their habitat, as well as from feral cats, mongooses and goats that eat iguanas or their food source.
"Our new understanding of the species diversity in this group is a first step in identifying conservation targets," said Robert Fisher, a research zoologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in San Diego, and coauthor of a study on the new iguana with scientists from the Australian National University and Macquarie University in Australia.
An important study finding for conservation of the genetic diversity in these iguanas is that, with only one exception, each of the 13 islands where living iguanas were sampled showed at least one distinct iguana genetic line that was not seen elsewhere.
The Fiji crested iguana, Brachylophus vitiensis, is gone from many islands it once occupied and is now listed as Critically Endangered on the "Red List" of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The IUCN is the largest global environmental network. "Unfortunately, this new study indicates that the other previously-identified Pacific iguana species, Brachyophus fasciatus, is probably critically endangered also," Fisher said.
The mystery of how the Pacific iguanas originally arrived has long puzzled biologists and geographers. Their closest relatives are found nearly 5,000 miles away across the ocean in the New World.
|Contact: Robert Fisher|
United States Geological Survey