Galapagos National Park Seeks to Protect Baltra Iguanas

August 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

Baltra Iguana

The authorities of the Galapagos National Park of Ecuador and the operators of the airport in Baltra are seek to find protect the land iguanas living on the island of Baltra.

Victor Carrion from the national park stated today, since July a total of (5) iguanas have been found dead in the airport area, (3) were killed when hit by aircraft, (1) by motor vehicle and the other by activity near the airport.  The airport operators have told the park that they will begin an inspection of the runway before any airplane is allowed to land or take off from Baltra in order to protect the iguanas. While the program is new the park authorities believe the efforts will help along with having training pilots on how to protect the iguanas.

Baltra is the busiest of the airports in Galapagos.  “Losing five minutes to protect an iguana, I think it’s worth,” said aware of that little time can mean a lot of money for airlines.Carrion noted that during the 1980’s  the National Park and Charles Darwin Foundation implimented a iguana breeding program to restore land iguanas to Baltra.  In 1932 amateur naturalist G. Allan Hancock capture 20 iguanas from Baltra and introduced them to the island of North Seymour which at the time did not have an iguana population.  While this act would be unheard of today his efforts are what allowed the park to initiate the breeding program. The iguana breeding program was successful, Baltra now has approximately 1,000 iguanas. While at one time land iguanas on the island were at the brink of extinction. “There is increasing population of iguanas, the reproduction in the wild is very good,” said Carrion.

“They in certain areas are looking for new areas of life because iguanas are quite territorial and that has forced to take a step just for the airport area,” said the advance that has been advanced in training for staff who are responsible for remodeling terminal and runway.

Thus, workers will know that before getting into the vehicle should be checked, for example, that motor is not under any iguana sheltering from the sun.


Galapagos Marine Iguanas

January 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Espanola Marine Iguana

The Galapagos Islands are home to a number of endemic wildlife – wildlife found nowhere else in the world. Species include the iconic Galapagos Tortoise and Darwin Finches to Galapagos Mockingbirds and the Galapagos Sea Lion and Flightless Cormorant.

One of the more interesting endemic creatures is the Marine Iguana. These new world lizards are the only sea going iguanas in the world feeding on sea weed and algae. Marine Iguanas can be seen on most islands huddled together in groups for warmth. Their scaling black skin creates a perfect camouflage with the lava rocks along the shore.

They have special glands between their eyes and nostrils that collect and remove salt. The salt gathers in the nostril, and the iguanas sneeze it out periodically spraying the salty water into the air.

Though marine iguanas vary in size and color on each of the islands the most striking are those on Española.   Adult male Española Marine Iguanas are brightly colored with a reddish tint except during mating season when their color changes to more of a greenish shade.  The best time of year to see these Christmas colored iguanas is between December and February.

Iguana study sheds light on wildlife response to disasters

May 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Marine Iguana

Marine Iguana on Santa Cruz Island

by Romero, L. M. and Wikelski, M

Scientists from Germany and the US have gained new insights into the effects of the stress hormone corticosterone on animals. Their study, published in the online issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows that the more quickly an animal can shut down the release of corticosterone (which is similar to cortisol in humans), the more likely it is to survive a stressful situation.
The study is extremely timely since it could help predict how wildlife will react to the pollution caused by the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. ‘As animals encounter the spill, they will have a robust release of corticosterone to help them cope with the consequences of the oil,’ says Dr L. Michael Romero of Tufts University in Medford, US, who is a co-author of the study. ‘However, those animals that can best turn off their corticosterone response once the initial danger from the oil has passed will probably be the most likely to survive.’

Dr Romero and his colleague, Professor Martin Wikelski from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell in Germany, base their findings on their study of Galápagos marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus).

In 2002, shortly before El Niño struck, the researchers had captured 98 male iguanas and injected some of them with a synthetic hormone that lowers natural corticosterone levels via a negative feedback process.

When the researchers sought out the animals again after the El Niño event, 23 of them had starved to death and 75 had survived. The only difference between the survivors was their ability or inability to turn off the stress response.

The continued stress response triggered elevated levels of corticosterone. As a result, these animals used up all of their protein reserves and grew increasingly weak. Hence, a food shortage impacted them harder than their counterparts that had been able to switch off their stress response.

‘The results from the iguanas indicate that the better an individual is at coping with stress – by turning off the response as soon as possible – the better the chance they have to survive,’ comments Dr Romero.

Marine iguanas are found only on the Galápagos archipelago, where they live on the rocky shores of the islands. The lizards are ideal for this kind of study as their living conditions are rather predictable: They feed exclusively on marine algae growing in the seas surrounding the islands. The risk of starvation due to food shortages regularly caused by El Niño-related global climate events is virtually the only natural threat or source of stress. This makes it possible to exclude other stress factors by and large.

They also have a relatively long lifespan and tend to stay in the same area for most of their life. As a result, they are an excellent model for study in general and determining the ultimate function of a stress hormone response in particular.

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