A Scientist’s Search for the Elusive Lizard in Texas
Cross an elusive lizard, a determined zoologist and a historic Air Force base and what do you get?
Several years ago, Nature Conservancy vertebrate zoologist Mike Duran was concerned. In his seven years of conservation work, he’d never once seen a spot-tailed earless lizard (Holbrookia lacerata).
The northern subspecies, or H.l.lacerata, historically occurs above the Balcones Escarpment, the fault line that separates the Edwards Plateau from the Tamaulipan Thornscrub ecoregion of southern Texas. The southern subspecies, or H.l.subcaudalis, has dwelled traditionally below that fault line. But in modern times, finding either type of the lizard—which measures four-and-a-half to six inches long and has no external ear openings—has proven difficult, if not impossible…
An Eastern Hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos) flattens itself and hisses loudly, in a defensive display, Southern Georgia, USA. If this doesn’t work, the snake may also “play dead”; flipping over, letting its tongue hang out, releasing a death like odor from the cloaca.
Three different species of Gartersnakes can be found living within the same habitat in certain parts of the San Francisco Bay Area. Subspecies aside, these distinct species are Thamnophis sirtalis, Thamnophis elegans, and Thamnophis atratus.
Pictured above is such a “trifecta” of the three species as seen in coastal Marin County.
Aquatic Gartersnake (T.atratus)- This highly aquatic snake can be distinguished by the bright yellow dorsal stripe. The atratus found in Marin County are intergrades amongst different subspecies of Aquatic garters.
California Red-sided Gartersnake (T.sirtalis infernalis)- Representing the Common Gartersnake, the Red-sided Gartersnakes of Marin County are known for their bright blue dorsal stripes and underbellies. They are closely related to the endangered San Francisco Gartersnake (T.sirtalis tetrataenia).
Coast Gartersnake (T.elegans terrestris)- Coast Gartersnakes are a subspecies of the Western Terrestrial Gartersnake. These snakes are highly variable in coloration- ranging from bright red to dull in coloration.
The above pictured snakes were all found within minutes of each other along a single stretch of wetland.
Robert Horan of Georgia Department of Natural Resources found a late-season (12 - Nov.) four-foot Rainbow Snake (F. erytrogramma) recently. She was crossing a primitive road during daylight, and Robert posed her nicely here—-at the edge of an Altamaha River swamp. This non-venomous, primarily aquatic, wetland associated snake feeds on eels and aquatic salamanders.
Cerastes cerastes are among the most abundant and easily distinguishable of the venomous snakes of the North African and Middle Eastern deserts.
The African Horned Viper is a Saharan animal, it lives in the sand deserts of Northern Africa and the Sinai and the Northern Negev in Israel. In order to get rid of potential enemies , it makes scary sounds. The sound is not caused by huffing and puffing, but by rubbing the scales on the sides of the body.
The Jewelled Gecko, Naultinus gemmeus, is endemic to the South Island of New Zealand. There are two main subgroups of jewelled geckos, with different coloring and patterns. Their diet mainly consists of insects and moths, but they also enjoy berries of certain plants, and the nectar of certain flowers…
…a species of calamariine colubrid snake that occurs throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo and Java. C. schlegli is fossorial (burrowing) and active at night. Its diet consists mainly of terrestrial gastropods and frogs which are found in leaf litter. C. schlegli is often confused with the venomous Blue Malayan Coral Snake (Calliophis bivirgatus) due to its characteristic pink head.
One major advantage to being nocturnal is that in tropical and arid regions, it allows animals to prevent overheating and water loss. During the day, the Gila monster – a large venomous lizard – stays in its burrow to avoid the extreme heat of the Mexican and the US deserts where it lives. Hunting at night, it flicks its forked tongue to pick up scents in the air and other information about its surroundings.
The range-restricted dwarf chameleon, Rhampholeon viridis, found only in Tanzania’s Pare Mountains. This species remains unassessed by the IUCN Red List. Less than half of the world’s reptiles have been assessed by the IUCN.
The world’s rarest viper: Barbour’s short-headed viper (Atheris barbouri). Found only in the sky islands of the Uzungwe and Ukinga mountains of south-central Tanzania in Africa. maximun length of 16 in (40 cm).
Variegated Skink (Plestiodon gilberti cancellosus) - Alameda County, CA
The Variegated Skink is a subspecies of the Gilbert’s Skink. Juveniles have a bright pink tail that fade with age. Adult Variegated Skinks, pictured below, are large bodied lizards with strikingly defined patterns.
The Florida Worm Lizard(Rhineura floridana) is the only amphisbaenian in all of North America! They’re found only in the northern half of Florida.
Amphibaenians are those strange reptiles who have adapted to a life burrowing underground, using their bony skull to plough through the soil.
They’re definitely not snakes, but research is ongoing to find out exactly how they relate to the various groups of lizard.
There used to be lots of amphisbaenians all over the United States, and fossils have been found dating back to just after the extinction of the dinosaurs. Now there’s just one species left, enjoying retirement in Florida.
Naultinus is a genus of geckos endemic to New Zealand. There are two genera of geckos found in New Zealand, both endemic, the other being Hoplodactylus.
Naultinus species are commonly known as “green geckos” or “Northland green geckos”. All green geckos are both arboreal and predominantly green but can be plain, spotted or striped, and occasionally overall lemon yellow (in varying shades). Since they are also diurnal, they are generally more frequently seen in the native forest ecosystems than their predominantly nocturnal relatives in the Hoplodactylus genus.
None of the Naultinus gecko populations are sympatric, presumably because each species is adapted to its local environment and also because their respective ecological niches are incredibly similar. Naultinus species also possess prehensile tails as an adaptation to their habitat. They are more reluctant to shed their tail when disturbed by a predator than Hoplodactylus. They also have comparatively slender toes, another adaptation to their arboreal lifestyle.
Unlike their close relatives in the Hoplodactylus genus, Naultinus species lack the ability to alter their skin color. In addition to chirping and or chattering communication calls, green geckos can also produce a loud croak or “bark” of alarm or distress. Coupled with the vivid coloration (bright red, deep blue) of the interior of their mouths, some Naultinus species use this as a defensive behavior to scare off predators.
Solenodonsaurus is an extinct genus of Reptiliomorph amphibian (probably), which lived about 320-305 million years ago. Classification is disputed, it may have possibly been an early reptile, or an amphibian close to the diadectomorphs. Its remains were found in the Czech Republic. Its name means “single-tooth lizard”. It measured about 45 cm…