Wolf eruption presents little risk to tiny unique iguana population

Nov 2, 2009

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The spectacular eruption of the Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island registered early May 25 has caused some alarm given that the volcano, near the Equator, is the only habitat for the pink land iguana (Conolophus marthae). Currently available information indicates that the species, described as separate only in 2009, has little to fear. It is considered critically endangered due to its extremely limited geographical range. It has however survived many, many eruptions in its remote homeland since diverging from the more common Galápagos land iguana 5.7 million years ago.

Yesterday’s eruption of Wolf was the eleventh in recorded history! Like eruptions on Hawaii, those on Galápagos tend to be relatively calm, less explosive, and very attractive to view. They also give animals a good chance to move away from potentially dangerous lava flows. The Galápagos National Park has already said that current lava flows are in the southeast, the opposite of the areas inhabited by pink land iguanas. Monitoring of the eruption also promises to help protect the species. When Cerro Azul in southern Isabela erupted in 1998, it eventually threatened a population of giant tortoises. A rescue operation by the Ecuadorean air force managed to save several tortoises threatened by the lava’s advance.

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