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|