Worlds smallest reptile is discovered in the Caribbean forest.
Turn on a dime: the Jaragua lizard.
© S.B. Hedges
Isla Beata and the Dominican Republic.
© S.B. Hedges
At just 16 mm from nose to tail, the Jaragua lizard is the worlds smallest. In fact, its the smallest vertebrate that can reproduce on dry land1.
The newly discovered lizard lives on Isla Beata, a small, forest-covered island in the Caribbean off the Dominican Republic. Blair Hedges, an evolutionary biologist at Pennsylvania State University, together with Richard Thomas of the University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, found the lizard in three sites, including one at the very southern tip of mainland Dominica. The researchers believe the lizard lives only in these areas.
Giant pigeons, pygmy elephants
Islands are natural evolutionary laboratories. Their isolation means that the creatures that do wash up, perhaps clinging to floating vegetation, have less competition, and can evolve to do ecological jobs that are already taken on the mainland.
In the Jaragua lizards case, it has downsized to "live like an insect", says Bauer. It feeds on small insects, and must be on guard against being eaten by centipedes and scorpions.
Island species are often unusually large or small. Mauritius dodo, for example, was an overgrown pigeon, while the ancient inhabitants of Crete included a pygmy elephant and hippopotamus.
JOHN WHITFIELD | © Nature News Service
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