Will This Newly Discovered Lizard Disappear Before Scientists Can Study It?

Luke Maher, a researcher from the University of Toronto, tells the university’s newspaper his first reaction when he saw images of the Anolis landestoyi: ”I need to buy a plane ticket.”

The photos he saw were captured by naturalist Miguel Landestoy and showed a chameleon-like lizard found in the Dominican Republic. Researchers were immediately interested in the Greater Antillean anole, but the new lizard species could disappear before scientists get around to studying it.

Why Are Scientists Excited About This New Lizard?

According to the University of Toronto, scientists are excited about Anolis landestoyi for many reasons. The lizard’s mere existence supports the theory that “communities of lizards can evolve almost identically on separate islands.”

The new species could represent a missing link of sorts that explains how other similar lizards inhabit different Caribbean islands. While Anolis landestoyi was photographed in the Dominican Republic, it looks like a lizard “that’s supposed to be in Cuba, not in Hispaniola — the island that Haiti and the Dominican Republic share,” explains Maher to the University of Toronto newspaper. The new species discovery is particularly exciting because scientists “haven’t really seen any completely new species here since the early 1980s,” adds Maher.

The Lizard’s Deforestation Demise

Sadly, the new chameleon-like lizard is already in trouble. The problem is that Anolis landestoyi is limited to a small habitat in the western region of the Dominican Republic, and that same habitat is being exploited by illegal deforestation, reports Mongabay.

Generally speaking, deforestation is a major concern in Hispaniola, particularly in Haiti. Earlier this year, the Huffington Post reported on the deforestation crisis in Hispaniola: “Haiti currently has less than two percent forest cover,” while the Dominican Republic’s forest cover ranges between 25 and 39 percent. Even though the Dominican Republic has a slight advantage, “the risks of continued deforestation for both countries of Hispaniola are significant,” reports the Huffington Post.

The charcoal trade is a large source of deforestation in both countries. In the Dominican Republic, charcoal is considered as contraband and it’s “comparable to the drug trade” in the sense that “as long as there is high demand for the product, there will be producers willing to meet that demand,” explains the Huffington Post. And like in most deforestation cases, this form of deforestation in the Dominican Republic has legal loopholes that make the practice possible, even though species like Anolis landestoyi suffer.

Researchers, like Maher, hope that the new lizard’s presence will highlight conservation needs in its habitat. Scientists still have many questions about Anolis landestoyi, for instance: Did the new lizard evolve to be similar to other Cuban lizards or do they share a common ancestor? The sad reality is that they might never find out if the rampant deforestation in the Dominican Republic continues.

Take Action!

Time is running out for this newly discovered lizard species. Sign and share this petition urging authorities in the Dominican Republic to protect Anolis landestoyi and its habitat from deforestation.

Photo Credit: Miguel Landestoy, used with permission from Luke Maher

82 comments

Angela K.
Angela Kabout a year ago

petition signed & shared

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Melania Padilla
Melania Pabout a year ago

Gorgeous animal; again, we "discover" a species and it is already endangered. Nice.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Kate Kenner
Kate Kenner1 years ago

Part of the problem with humans is that they have to study everything. No animal can be oft alone without being studied. Sure people are curious as am i but can we not just let animals alone for once.

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Valentina R.
Valentina R1 years ago

Absolutely gorgeous, lizards are adorable. Petition already signed.

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Terri S.
Terri S1 years ago

Petition signed!!

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Ron B.
Ron B1 years ago

If it disappears, may it be because it somehow found a safe place to hide from destructive humans. But with our irresponsible overpopulation, that is getting harder to do all the time for an increasing number of the species that still remain.

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william Miller
william Miller1 years ago

lets hope not

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Randy Q.
Past Member 1 years ago

"Will This Newly Discovered Lizard Disappear Before Scientists Can Study It?"

Yes, if it loses in November.

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Pablo B.
.1 years ago

tyfs!!

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