This Monday morning, a volcano perched on one of  Ecuador’s Galapagos islands erupted spewing lava on its side and dark plume overhead. The Wolf shield volcano is the highest peak in the Galapagos Islands, reaching 1,707 m. Wolf is situated at the northern end of Isabela Island in the Galapagos, which is barely populated. The authorities have indeed confirmed that the population isn’t at risk, however the local, richly diverse fauna is another thing. The tiny island is the only place in the world that the pink iguana calls home.

Wolf volcano view from satellite. The volcano was named after Theodor Wolf a German geologist who studied the Galapagos Islands in the 19th century. Image: Wikipedia

Wolf volcano view from satellite. The volcano was named after Theodor Wolf a German geologist who studied the Galapagos Islands in the 19th century. Image: Wikipedia

Charles Darwin’s visit to the Galapagos in 1835 is one of the most famous few weeks in the history of science. Historians today seem to agree that those fleeting moments spent on the islands and all the marvelous animals and plants the young Darwin encountered later lend him to become an evolutionist. The world soon followed, though reluctantly at the beginning.

His account of the adventure contained many facts about Galapagos: he described the harsh, desert-like condition of the islands, their trademark giant tortoises, marine iguanas, sea lions and the many sea birds. The ping iguana, however, was not discovered by Darwin. In fact, it was identified as a distinct iguana species only recently, in 2009.

Ping iguala. Photo: Gabriele Gentile

Ping iguala. Photo: Gabriele Gentile

 

“What’s surprising is that a new species of megafauna, like a large lizard, may still be [found] in a well-studied archipelago,” Gabriele Gentile, of Rome’s University Tor Vergata.

If an animal the size of a giant lizard remained elusive to science for all this long, you can safely bet other species unbeknownst to biologists can be found on the islands. Maybe by the hundreds or thousands.

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