The newest lizard species known to man have an awesome family name, an epic history, and an uncertain future.
A research team has identified 24 new kinds of lizards in the Caribbean, called skinks (from the family Scincidae). Using a combination of museum specimens and DNA sequences, the team identified a total of 39 species of lizards, which arrived in the Caribbean Islands 18 million years ago from Africa by floating on mats of vegetation. The species vary widely in size, and are unique among lizards because they produce a human-like placenta, providing nutrients to offspring.
Unfortunately, one half of the newly discovered species are either extinct or close to extinction, and the other half could disappear soon. Skink populations in the Caribbean may have become threatened during the late 19th century when farmers began using the mongoose to help control rat populations in sugarcane fields. Researchers hope their data will help with conservation efforts. Maybe it’s time for some corporate sponsorship? Geico’s done wonders for that gecko.
Video produced by Jim Festante.