Theory in Biosciences

, Volume 132, Issue 4, pp 259–265

Alfred Russel Wallace and the destruction of island life: the Iguana tragedy

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s12064-013-0193-4

Cite this article as:
Kutschera, U. & Kleinhans, S. Theory Biosci. (2013) 132: 259. doi:10.1007/s12064-013-0193-4


The Galápagos Islands (Ecuador) are usually associated with the explorations and theoretical deductions of Charles Robert Darwin (1809–1882), but Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) also investigated these islands and published several reports on the living world of this unique archipelago. In contrast to Darwin, Wallace described the destruction of natural ecosystems by humans and foresaw the resulting extinction of species. Here, we outline two case studies pertinent to Wallace’s prediction. First, we summarize the behavior of the predator-naive marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) on the Galápagos Islands, which are threatened by feral dogs and cats imported by humans. We also describe the unique life cycle of the spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura bakeri) from the island of Utila (Honduras), a rare species whose populations are declining because of habitat destructions. In contrast to these threatened, endemic island species, the Green iguana (Iguana iguana) is still widely distributed, although, as a result of de-forestation, in some areas of South America local populations have disappeared. We conclude that Wallace was correct in his prediction that, because of human activities, numerous species of animals and plants will be driven to extinction, notably on islands.


EvolutionExtinctionDarwinIguanasIsland lifeWallace

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of BiologyUniversity of KasselKasselGermany