Sunday, February 12, 2012

A cool Peruvian lizard

The Americas are full of cool lizards, a fact that is not quite apparent if you live in New England or other northern environs - but just about everywhere else there are some lizards around (if you look hard enough, at least). Many lizards in the Americas belong to the family Teiidae, a rather speciose group that encompasses a large variety of size and ecology.

As a student of evolution in general and ecology, the most fascinating aspect of this group that I have experienced in South America is the convergent evolution with the Varanidae of Africa and Asia. Varanids, the monitors, are very familiar lizards in that they are commonly sold (if often terrible) pets as well as true giants - the Komodo dragon is a monitor, as are several other of the world's largest lizards. They are often active predators but also scavenge carrion and one species apparently eats fruit. Convergently, several genera of Teiids fill the same ecological role in South America and, perhaps unsurprisingly, appear remarkably similar to monitors - so much so that when I saw my first Argentine Black-and-white Tegu (Tupinambis merianae) as roadkill I, embarassingly enough, tried to find which varanids were in Argentina. In Peru, I ran into a rather large and fairly uncommon species, Callopistes flavipunctatus, a few times.

Callopistes flavipunctatus, Bosque de Pomac, Pacora, Peru, Apr 2011
I'm hoping to get a bit more time looking at these guys in Peru soon, as well as with another cool (and simply stunning) herbivorous Teiid. More later.

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