New unique Madagascar lizard discovery


This video says about itself:

7 February 2017

In Ankarana National Park, Antsiranana Province, north Madagascar, researchers discovered a new species of fish-scale gecko: Geckolepis megalepis. To escape from predators, the gecko can lose its scales at the slightest touch. The scales grow back, scar-free, in a matter of weeks.

From Science News:

Detachable scales turn this gecko into an escape artist

Newly discovered lizard leaves predators with a mouth full of the largest scales yet

By Elizabeth Eaton

7:00am, March 17, 2017

Large, detachable scales make a newly discovered species of gecko a tough catch. When a predator grabs hold, Madagascar’s Geckolepis megalepis strips down and slips away, looking more like slimy pink Silly Putty than a rugged lizard.

All species of Geckolepis geckos have tear-off scales that regrow within a few weeks, but G. megalepis boasts the largest. Some of its scales reach nearly 6 millimeters long. Mark Scherz, a herpetologist and taxonomist at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, and colleagues describe the new species February 7 in PeerJ.

The hardness and density of the oversized scales may help the gecko to escape being dinner, Scherz says. Attacking animals probably get their claws or teeth stuck on the scales while G. megalepis contracts its muscles, loosening the connection between the scales and the translucent tissue underneath. The predator is left with a mouthful of armor, but no meat. “It’s almost ridiculous,” Scherz says, “how easy it is for these geckos to lose their scales.”

From BirdLife:

Some places are so rich in natural wonders, so extraordinary, so important for people, and yet so threatened, that we must pull out all the stops to save them. Madagascar, the “island continent”, with its flora and fauna so unlike any other, is one such place. Tsitongambarika, then, is even more special: forest unique even within Madagascar, with bizarre-looking Ground-rollers, local species of lemur, and species known only from this site. It is no wonder that this highly-threatened Important Bird & Biodiversity Area (IBA) – the only remaining area in the south of the country that supports significant areas of lowland rainforest, but with unprecedented rates of deforestation – has inspired a magnificent donation from Birdfair.

Birdfair, the annual British celebration of birdwatching, raised an incredible £350,000 last year at its 2016 event, and now this special funding is now going to the protection of IBAs in danger in Africa. This money will not only go towards the immediate protection of Tsitongambarika, through supporting national BirdLife Partner, Asity Madagascar, and local communities; but the future of other threatened sites in Africa will be bettered thanks to capacity building of other BirdLife Partners to advocate their protection, and to a new awards scheme.

Dinosaur age lizard discovery


This video from the USA says about itself:

3 June 2013

A team of U.S. paleontologists, led by Jason Head of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, describes fossils of the giant lizard from Myanmar in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Their analysis shows that it is one of the biggest known lizards ever to have lived on land.

At almost six feet long and weighing upwards of 60 pounds, the lizard provides new and important clues on the evolution of plant-eating reptiles and their relationship to global climate and competition with mammals.

From the University of Washington in the USA:

24 January 2017

Prized fossil find illuminates the lives of lizards in the Age of Dinosaurs

Paleontologists picking through a bounty of fossils from Montana have discovered something unexpected — a new species of lizard from the late dinosaur era, whose closest relatives roamed in faraway Asia.

This ancient lizard, which lived 75 million years ago in a dinosaur nesting site, is described from stem to stern in a paper published Jan. 25 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Christened Magnuviator ovimonsensis, the new species fills in significant gaps in our understanding of how lizards evolved and spread during the dinosaur era, according to paleontologists at the University of Washington and the Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture who led the study.

“It is incredibly rare to find one complete fossil skeleton from a relatively small creature like this lizard,” said David DeMar, lead author and postdoctoral research associate in the UW biology department and the Burke Museum. “But, in fact, we had two specimens, both from the same site at Egg Mountain in Montana.”

Right out of the gate, Magnuviator is reshaping how scientists view lizards, their biodiversity and their role in complex ecosystems during this reptile’s carefree days in the Cretaceous Period 75 million years ago.

Based on analyses of the nearly complete fossil skeletons, Magnuviator was an ancient offshoot of iguanian lizards — and they’re actually the oldest, most complete iguanian fossils from the Americas. Today, iguanians include chameleons of the Old World, iguanas and anoles in the American tropics and even the infamous water-walking basilisk — or “Jesus Christ” — lizards. But based on its anatomy, Magnuviator was at best a distant relative of these modern lizard families, most of which did not arise until after the non-avian dinosaurs — and quite a few lizards and other creatures — went extinct 66 million years ago.

The team came to these conclusions after meticulous study of both Egg Mountain specimens over four years. This included a round of CT scans at Seattle Children’s Hospital to narrow down the fossil’s location within a larger section of rock and a second round at the American Museum of Natural History to digitally reconstruct the skull anatomy. The fact that both skeletons were nearly complete allowed them to determine not only that Magnuviator represented an entirely new species, but also that its closest kin weren’t other fossil lizards from the Americas. Instead, it showed striking similarities to other Cretaceous Period iguanians from Mongolia.

“These ancient lineages are not the iguanian lizards which dominate parts of the Americas today, such as anoles and horned lizards,” said DeMar. “So discoveries like Magnuviator give us a rare glimpse into the types of ‘stem’ lizards that were present before the extinction of the dinosaurs.”

But Magnuviator’s surprises don’t end with the Mongolian connection. The site of its discovery is also eye-popping.

Egg Mountain is already famous among fossil hunters. Over 30 years ago, paleontologists discovered the first fossil remains of dinosaur babies there, and it is also one of the first sites in North America where dinosaur eggs were discovered.

“We now recognize Egg Mountain as a unique site for understanding Cretaceous Period ecosystems in North America,” said senior author Greg Wilson, UW associate professor of biology and curator of paleontology at the Burke Museum. “We believe both carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs came to this site repeatedly to nest, and in the process of excavating this site we are learning more and more about other creatures who lived and died there.”

The team even named their new find as homage to its famous home and its close lizard relatives in Asia. Magnuviator ovimonsensis means “mighty traveler from Egg Mountain.”

Through excavations at Egg Mountain led by co-author David Varricchio at Montana State University and meticulous analysis of fossils at partner institutions like the UW and the Burke Museum, scientists are piecing together the Egg Mountain ecosystem of 75 million years ago. In those days, Egg Mountain was a semi-arid environment, with little or no water at the surface. Dinosaurs like the duck-billed hadrosaurs and the birdlike, carnivorous Troodon nested there.

Researchers have also unearthed fossilized mammals at Egg Mountain, which are being studied by Wilson’s group, as well as wasp pupae cases and pollen grains from plants adapted for dry environments. Based on the structure of Magnuviator’s teeth, as well as the eating habits of some lizards today, the researchers believe that it could have feasted on wasps at the Egg Mountain site. Though based on its relatively large size for a lizard — about 14 inches in length — Magnuviator could have also eaten something entirely different.

“Due to the significant metabolic requirements to digest plant material, only lizards above a certain body size can eat plants, and Magnuviator definitely falls within that size range,” said DeMar.

Whatever its diet, Magnuviator and its relatives in Mongolia did not make it into the modern era. DeMar and co-authors hypothesize that these stem lineages of lizards may have gone extinct along with the non-avian dinosaurs. But given the spotty record for lizards in the fossil record, it will take more Magnuviator-level discoveries to resolve this debate. And, unfortunately, part of the excitement surrounding Magnuviator is that it is a rare find.

Other co-authors are the late Jack Conrad of the New York Institute of Technology and the American Museum of Natural History and Jason Head of the University of Cambridge. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the American Museum of Natural History.

Draco lizards ‘flying’, video


This BBC video says about itself:

16 November 2016

Draco lizards have the amazing ability to be able to fly from tree to tree in search of food, a mate and to avoid predators.

This clip was taken from the third episode of Planet Earth II which focuses on jungles.

Green iguana feeds in Florida


This video from the USA says about itself:

Green Iguana Feeding in Florida

7 November 2016

Large wild male Green Iguana Lizard feeding on plants. They are quite stunning multicolored lizards – this one really has more blue than green on its head. Descendants of escaped or released pets – iguanas are now freely breeding in the wild and gradually spreading northward with warm winters. Small iguanas and their eggs have many predators that eat them limiting their numbers, but once they reach two feet tall and larger they have few natural enemies. They can reach six feet in length, but 3 or 4 feet long like this one is more common. This one was spotted in Palm Beach County. Hard winter freezes will generally limit their northward advances to around Palm Beach County and south of Lake Okeechobee.

Saving rock iguanas on Hispaniola


This video says about itself:

Cyclura ricordi – Video Learning – WizScience.com

11 September 2015

The “Hispaniolan ground iguana“, “Ricord’s ground iguana”, “Ricord’s rock iguana”, or “Ricord’s iguana” is a critically endangered species of rock iguana.

It is found on the island of Hispaniola, and is the only known species of rock iguana to coexist with the rhinoceros iguana. Its natural habitat is dry savanna within three subpopulations in the southwestern Dominican Republic. It is threatened by habitat loss due to agricultural encroachment.

Its generic name is derived from the Ancient Greek “cyclos” meaning “circular” and “ourá” meaning “tail”, after the thick-ringed tail characteristic of all “Cyclura” iguanas. Its specific name is a Latinized form of French Biologist, Alexandre Ricord’s last name; Ricord first wrote of the species in 1826.

Morphological and genetic data indicate that the closest living relative of “C ricordi” is “C. carinata” of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Ricord’s iguana is a large species of rock iguana with a body length of 49–51 cm in males and 40–43 cm in females with an equally long tail. Ricord’s iguana’s toes are articulated to be efficient in digging and climbing trees.

Their body color is a grayish green flat color marked by five to six bold pale gray chevrons alternating with dark gray to black chevrons. In adults, the dark chevrons are less contrasting than in juveniles. Ricord’s iguana’s eyes have a dark almost black iris and red sclera.

This species, like other species of “Cyclura”, is sexually dimorphic; males are larger than females, and have more prominent dorsal crests as well as larger femoral pores on their thighs, which are used to release pheromones.

From BirdLife:

Digging deep to save Rock Iguana

By Ali North, 13 Sep 2016

This robust, prehistoric looking species is fighting for survival with all populations covering an area of less than 100 km2.

The soil is hot to touch, the temperature reaches over 37° C in the early morning hours, and someone is covered in dust, lying face down on the ground with their head in a hole in the sand. Not an uncommon sight in certain areas of dry forest on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

What could at best be considered unusual behaviour, or even mistaken for illegal activity – egg stealing, a threat facing many reptiles across the globe, is a scientist – Dr Stesha Pasachnik – conducting vital research to help save a large reptile from extinction. The Ricord’s Rock Iguana Cyclura ricordii is a stocky, prehistoric looking creature that occurs in just four sub-populations on Hispaniola (an island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti).

Classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, the species is fighting for its survival, with a total range of less than 100 km2 and an uncertain global population estimate of fewer than 4,000 individuals. The threats facing this island endemic are broad, and are exacerbated by its restricted range: illegal hunting, predation and disturbance by introduced mammals, agricultural expansion and charcoal production are all ramping up the pressure.

In the early 2000s, a Species Recovery Plan was developed by the IUCN and its implementation brought together five partner organisations. Grupo Jaragua (BirdLife in the Dominican Republic) was one, whose contributions have been instrumental in building a greater understanding of the species and raising environmental awareness among local communities. Ground surveys have revealed the existence of a handful of critical nesting sites, including a population in Haiti that was previously thought to be extinct. These sites, locally called fondos, are small areas with deep dirt/clay soils where the iguanas can dig and lay their eggs in synchrony with the rainy season.

One of the most dense concentrations of iguana nests is Fondo de La Tierra, a conservation area of 26 hectares purchased in 2010 by Grupo Jaragua with funding from the International Iguana Foundation. Since 2006, four fondos have seen a three-fold increase in Ricord’s Rock Iguana nest numbers. Research by Grupo Jaragua, INTEC University in Santo Domingo, Mississippi State University and San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research is helping to better understand population size, genetics and the ecology of this and another iguana – the Vulnerable Rhinoceros Iguana Cyclura cornuta. This explains the dust-covered scientists, excavating nests to determine hatching success and retrieve temperature loggers.

Using camera traps and frequent field surveys, Grupo Jaragua has also been able to document and help control one of the many threats facing Ricord’s Rock Iguana: invasive alien species. These include cattle and donkeys (which degrade iguana habitat) and cats, dogs, and mongoose. (which prey upon iguana hatchlings and adults). President of Grupo Jaragua, Yolanda León, adds:

“We are also documenting the severe habitat destruction caused by charcoal production and have been actively involved in advocacy activities to reduce this illegal activity. We are working with journalists, filmmakers, and social media to document and expose the situation”.

Grupo Jaragua has trained 400 teachers about the species’ ecology and the importance of iguana conservation to help foster positive attitudes towards the species, while the use of native and endemic plants in an agroforestry programme, alongside the promotion of bee-keeping as a biodiversity friendly activity, is ensuring that critical habitat for iguanas, birds and other wildlife will remain for generations to come. To ensure the future of Ricord’s Rock Iguana and the habitat it relies on, conservation organisations on the island really are having to dig deep. However, through a huge collaborative effort involving research, land protection and local engagement, there is now genuine optimism that the decline can be reversed.

This is just one of many non-avian species that are the focus of work by the BirdLife Partnership across the globe. A recent survey, supported by the Aage V Jensen Charity Foundation, revealed that 74% of BirdLife Partners are conducting work that benefits or focuses on taxa beyond birds. Over 370 projects were identified worldwide, with Grupo Jaragua’s work on Ricord’s Rock Iguana being just one of over sixty projects involving reptiles.

Sand lizards of the Veluwe region, videos


This 19 July 2016 video from the Veluwe region in the Netherlands shows a male sand lizard.

This 17 July 2016 video from the Veluwe region in the Netherlands shows a female sand lizard.

This 19 July 2016 video from the Veluwe region in the Netherlands shows a female sand lizard.

Sand lizard in Dutch Veluwe, video


This 8 July 2015 video shows a female sand lizard in heathland near Ede in the Dutch Veluwe region.