There are many species that are listed as endangered, and efforts are being made to conserve them. However, with 24 new species of lizards, known as skinks, recently discovered in the Caribbean, this is not the case. All of the newly discovered lizards are threatened, or close to extinction, and we’ve only just discovered them. We don’t know much about them, except the type of lizards they are, and where they live. In fact, half of the them may already be extinct.
What put all these lizards in peril? During the late 1800s, farmers introduced the invasive predatory mongoose to the islands to kill rats in their sugarcane fields. The rat-killing solution unknowingly wreaked havoc, as the invasive predator destroyed some of the local wildlife (just as the Burmese pythons are doing in Florida today). Another factor contributing to the loss of lizards in the islands is habitat destruction, specifically forests.
It is the first time in well over 100 years that this number of reptile discoveries have been added to scientific literature at one time.
“Now, one of the smallest groups of lizards in this region of the world has become one of the largest groups. We were completely surprised to find what amounts to a new fauna, with co-occurring species and different ecological types,” said lead researcher and Penn State biology professor Blair Hedges. (Source: Penn State)
One of the unique things about these skinks is that they have a placenta similar to a humans, and gestate their offspring for up to one year.
Image Credit: 1. Karl Questel, 2. Joseph Burgess