OXFORD, Miss., Jan. 12 (UPI) — Iguanas may have walked to Fiji and Tonga when the islands were part of an ancient southern super continent, U.S. scientists said.
Scientists long believed iguanas rafted 5,000 miles to the islands, floating across the Pacific on a mat of vegetation or debris.
The latest genetic, geological and fossil data, however, suggests the lizards may have walked to Fiji and Tonga millions of years ago before the islands broke free from Gondwana, the ancient super continent, said biologists Brice Noonan of the University of Mississippi and Jack Sites of Utah’s Brigham Young University.
DNA of living iguanas tested against DNA in fossils suggest iguanas in Fiji and Tonga have been there for more than 60 million years, which makes them old enough to have been there during the time of the super continent, Noonan and Sites wrote in the January issue of The American Naturalist.
Fossil evidence suggests iguanas also inhabited other nearby Pacific Islands but became extinct about the time humans colonized the islands, possibly because they were a part of the diet of those islanders.
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