Article ID: CBB001321130

The Early Scientific History of Galapagos Iguanas (2014)


The oldest known specimen of Galapagos marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), now in the University Museum, Oxford, was originally thought to have come from Mexico. A plausible history of its origin with sealers in the Galapagos Islands about 1824 and transportation to and across Mexico is advanced. The naturalists David Douglas and John Scouler, on James (Santiago) Island in January 1825, encountered and attempted unsuccessfully to preserve specimens of the land iguana (Conolophus subcristatus) but only a Scouler specimen of marine iguana made it back to England, and it has since disappeared. Published and previously unpublished journal entries from the voyage of HMS Blonde, which had shore parties at Albemarle (Isabela) and Narborough (Fernandina) islands in March 1825, establish that the specimens on which the original description of Amblyrhynchus (later Conolophus) subcristatus J. E. Gray, 1831, was based originated in the voyage of the Blonde. Banks Bay, Albemarle Island, is here designated as the type locality for Conolophus subcristatus. Specimens of the marine iguana were also brought back by the Blonde. The published accounts of Scouler and the voyage of the Blonde established the Galapagos as the true home of the marine iguana well before the return of Charles Darwin and HMS Beagle in 1836.

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Authors & Contributors
Grant, Peter R.
James, Matthew J.
Grant, K. Thalia
Estes, Gregory B.
Lipps, Jere H.
Gibson, Sally A.
Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences
Archives of Natural History
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology
Reaktion Books
Oxford University Press
Scientific expeditions
Biological specimens
Specimen exchange
Collectors and collecting
Natural history
Darwin, Charles Robert
Cartier, Jacques
Champlain, Samuel de
Mueller, Ferdinand, Baron von
Rothschild, Lionel Walter
Scouler, John
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
17th century
16th century
18th century
20th century
Galapagos Islands
North America
California Academy of Sciences
East India Company (English)
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology
Zoological Society of London

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