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Face to face, Sir David and the pink iguana as Attenborough reveals lizard even Darwin missed in new series on Galapagos IslandsSir David Attenborough examines the iguana in his new series Galapagos 3DThe lizard is so rare it wasn't documented by science until 2009Islands which were beloved by Charles Darwin are famous for unique wildlife
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Close up: Sir David Attenborough reveals the secrets of the rare pink iguana for the first time on screen from its home in the Galapagos Islands
At his age, David Attenborough thought he’d seen most things – but his extraordinary career still holds surprises.
For the first time on screen, the veteran broadcaster reveals the secrets of the very rare pink iguana from its remote home on the Galapagos Islands.
Sitting 600 miles west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, the archipelago’s treasure trove of weird and wonderful wildlife intrigued Charles Darwin and inspired his theory of evolution.
Now, almost two centuries later, Sir David reveals a spectacular lizard that Darwin missed.
In his latest TV series, the 86-year-old naturalist introduces the world to a pink iguana that is so rare that it took until 2009 for it to be documented by science, despite the islands being among the most studied in the world.
Describing the reptile, which can grow to more than three feet in length, Sir David said: ‘It’s a remarkable thing in this day and age when you think about the number of scientists per square metre in the Galapagos and yet suddenly we have discovered a new species.
‘A little periwinkle or something which nobody has identified before is one thing. But this is more than that, it’s a large pink iguana.
‘I used to collect stamps and this was a Penny Black of the natural world in a very big way.’
In Galapagos 3D with David Attenborough, the broadcaster describes how he placed his hands on the creature, thought to be one of fewer than 100 in existence, to calm it ahead of filming.
Sir David said: ‘This is a very rare animal I’ve got sitting here and it was a privilege to see it.’
Unfortunately, the iguana took flight mid-way through filming and almost damaged the delicate 3D camera equipment.
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Rare: Sir Richard Attenborough with Dr Gabriele Gentile (right) and a pink iguana that he filmed while he worked on his new Sky series Galapagos 3D in the Galapagos Islands
Anthony Geffen, who produced the three-part series for Sky 3D, said: ‘When he finally came face to face with the iguana it was just one of the most extraordinary moments that I’ve ever experienced: here was the world’s greatest naturalist coming face to face with a new species.
‘In the footsteps of Charles Darwin, but almost 200 years later, David Attenborough was capturing the rare species on film for the first time.’
The pink iguana is believed to be one of fewer than 100 and related to a more yellow iguana that is found on the islands.
No one knows why it is pink but scientists think the two species can mate with one another, with studies showing a yellow iguana has genetic material that points to a pink grandfather.
Last filming: Sir David was the last to film Galapagos Islands legend Lonesome George who was a 100-year-old giant tortoise – the last of his species
Sir David was also the last to film another of the islands’ icons – Lonesome George, the last of his species of giant tortoise.
Thought to be around 100 and with several failed mating projects behind him, he became famous as the world’s rarest creature.
He died last June, just ten days after being filmed by Sir David.
Sir David, who first visited the Galapagos in 1978 while working on his groundbreaking Life On Earth series for BBC, said: ‘I can’t say I was surprised but I was saddened when the news came two weeks after we’d filmed our interview, old Lonesome had just not woken up and that was his end but he will be…
‘I know his effigy will be around in the Galapagos for a long time yet.’
The new iguana will feature in the third episode of Galapagos 3D With David Attenborough. The series begins today at 7pm.
DARWIN'S FAVOURITE ISLANS: OTHER ANIMALS FOUND ON THE GALAPAGOS
The Blue Footed Booby is one of the extraordinary creatures native to the Galapagos Islands
Described as ‘hideous looking’ by Darwin and the only sea-going lizard in the world, these digest their own bones to make themselves smaller and more energy-efficient when a change in weather makes food scarce.
Found solely on the Galapagos, they can hold their breath underwater for 40 minutes and spit out excess salt from their food through glands near their noses – creating a white ‘wig’ effect.
With the Galapagos just north of the equator, these live further north than any other type of penguin.
Their feet sit underneath their bodies to prevent sunburn in temperatures of 86f-plus (30c+).
Only found on the cooler side of the archipelago, they are a petite 16 to 18in tall and weigh just 5lb.
These live in a network of hollow volcanic ‘pipes’ beneath the islands.
The lack of daylight means they don’t need to waste energy making a coloured pigment that provides camouflage, leaving them see-through.
Territorial males threaten intruders by perching on rocks in the sun and doing ‘press-ups’.
It is thought that the seven different species of lava lizard on the islands had a common ancestor that evolved in different ways to live in different habitats.
They live for up to ten years with survival mechanisms including the ability to jettison their tail when a predator grabs hold of it and grow a new one as necessary.
Found along the northern Pacific coast of Central and South America, half of all breeding pairs are found on the Galapagos Islands.
Male birds show off their feet to prospective mates with a high-stepping strut.
The bluer the feet, the more attractive, and likely younger, the suitor.
Ungainly on land, blue-footed boobies are exceptional divers and will plunge into the water in search of a meal at speeds of up to 60mph.
VIDEO: SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH TALKS ABOUT HIS NEW DOCUMENTARY
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