When pink is a question: Comparative gross and microscopic skin structure analyses reveal the histological basis of skin colour in Galápagos pink land iguanas (Conolophus marthae)

Photograph of a mature male pink land iguana (Conolophus marthae) near the rim of the Wolf Volcano caldera. (Photo courtesy of Giuliano Colosimo).

One of the rarest and most unusual iguanas on the planet is the Galápagos pink land iguana (Conolophus marthae). There have been a number of hypotheses on the source of their pink coloration, including that the colour is from blood and a relative lack of dermal pigmentation. We obtained full thickness skin biopsies of three species and compared tissue from darkly pigmented areas and lightly pigmented surfaces. “Pink” areas of pink iguanas are devoid of pigment cells (e.g. melanophores) and the dermal tissue is rich with aggregates of confluent capillaries. This was in sharp contrast to the minimally vascular (only capillaries were observed) dermal areas of the marine and yellow iguanas. The dermal stratum laxum of every biopsy site contained melanophores except for the pink skin of pink iguanas. Interestingly, marine iguanas have a much thicker epidermal stratum germinativum/granulosum, between 2 and 10 cells thick depending on location, compared to the thinner epidermal stratum germinativum/granulosum of land iguanas (one to three cells thick with most areas possessing just one or two cell layers). These microscopic differences might reflect differences in habitat and ecology of the three species.

Read the article in the link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/azo.12488

Recent Posts


Follow Us

Scroll to Top

In 2022, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the broader UNC & USFQ Galapagos Initiative will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We are proud to announce the World Summit on Island Sustainability scheduled to be held on June 26–30, 2022 at the Galapagos Science Center and the Community Convention Center on San Cristobal Island.

The content of the World Summit will be distributed globally through social media and results documented through papers published in a book written as part of the Galapagos Book Series by Springer Nature and edited by Steve Walsh (UNC) & Carlos Mena (USFQ) as well as Jill Stewart (UNC) and Juan Pablo Muñoz (GSC/USC). The book will be inclusive and accessible by the broader island community including scientists, managers, residents, tourists, and government and non-government organizations.

While the most obvious goal of organizing the World Summit on Island Sustainability is to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the GSC and the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, other goals will be addressed through special opportunities created as part of our operational planning of the World Summit.

For instance, we seek to elevate and highlight the Galapagos in the island conservation discourse, seeking to interact with other island networks in more obvious and conspicuous ways to benefit the Galapagos Islands, the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, and the world. We will seize the opportunity to further develop the I2N2 – International Islands Network-of-Networks. Further, we wish to highlight and emphasize multiple visions of a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands and we cannot do this alone. Therefore, engaging the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Government Council of Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, and local Galapagos authorities, including government and non-government organizations and local citizen groups, is imperative.

The Galapagos Science Center on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Borrowing from Hawaii’s and Guam’s Green Growth Program and the Global Island Partnership, we wish to examine existing global programs that emphasize island sustainability and their incorporation into life, policies, and circumstances in the Galapagos Islands. We will also seek to enhance our connections with the institutional members of our International Galapagos Science Consortium and expand the Consortium through the recruitment of other member institutions. We will also work to benefit islands and their local communities by working with citizen groups as well as important NGOs who seek to improve the natural conditions in the Galapagos and diminish the impact of the human dimension on the future of Galapagos’ ecosystems.

Lastly, we will use the World Summit to benefit UNC & USFQ and our constituencies through a strong and vibrant communication plan about the World Summit, creating corporate relationships as sponsors, identifying funding goals through donors, and benefiting our study abroad program for student engagement in the Galapagos Islands. We plan to develop and issue a Galapagos Sustainability Communique after the World Summit that includes the vision and insights of all its participants for a sustainable Galapagos with applicability to global island settings.

We are eager to hear your perspective and have you join us at the World Summit on Island Sustainability!