New iguana species found in Fiji

September 17th, 2008 - 1:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 17 (IANS) A new species of iguana, found by Australian and US researchers in central Fiji, takes the number of such existing Pacific species to three. Scientists named the new iguana species Brachylophus bulabula. Bulabula is a doubling of bula, the Fijian word for ‘hello,’ thus signifying an even more enthusiastic greeting.

“The iconic Fijian iguanas are famous for their beauty and also their unusual occurrence in the middle of the Pacific Ocean because all of their closest relatives are in the Americas,” said Scott Keogh, associate professor at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, and co-author of the study.

Other co-authors of the study are Danielle Edwards, ANU, Robert Fisher of the US Geological Survey and Peter Harlow of Australia’s Macquarie University, reports

The mystery of how the Pacific iguanas originally arrived has long puzzled biogeographers. Their closest relatives, found only in the New World, are separated by about 13,000 km of ocean.

The Pacific iguanas have been adversely affected by human presence. Two species were eaten to extinction after people arrived nearly 3,000 years ago.

The three living Brachylophus iguanas face threats from habitat loss and modification, and from feral cats, mongooses and goats.

The Fiji crested iguana, Brachylophus vitiensis, is now listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

The new discovery was published in a special themed edition of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

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