La Palma giant lizard

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La Palma giant lizard
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Sauria
Family: Lacertidae
Subfamily: Gallotiinae
Genus: Gallotia
Species: G. auaritae
Binomial name
Gallotia auaritae
Mateo, García-Márquez, López Jurado & Barahona, 2001
Synonyms
  • Gallotia simonyi auaritae
    Mateo, García-Márquez, López Jurado & Barahona, 2001

The La Palma giant lizard (Gallotia auaritae) is a giant lacertid historically living in the island of La Palma (Canary Islands, Spain); its habitat ranged from sea level up to altitudes of 800 m.

It probably lives in xerophytic vegetation and is presumably an egg-laying species.

Long believed extinct in historic times, there were sightings (including photographic evidence) of a large lacertid in 2007 which may possibly correspond to this species.[1][2]

Taxonomy[edit]

Working on fossil and subfossil evidence, this giant lizard was originally described as a subspecies of the El Hierro giant lizard (Mateo et al. 2001). Later, it was elevated to full species rank (Afonso & Mateo 2003). Specimen remains from La Palma assigned to G. goliath seem to belong to this taxon instead; if this is correct, they indicate that the average size of this species had been decreasing over the last millennia, possibly due to humans preferring to hunt larger lizards (Barahona et al. 2000). The recently sighted La Palma giant lizard individual was slightly more than 30 cm (~1 ft) long and had an estimated age of four years.[1] New expeditions to the area of the rediscovery are planned in the hope of finding more individuals and possibly a breeding population.[2]

However, scientist have not had the chance of studying any living specimen and the present fossil and subfossil material of G. auaritae does not allow for sufficiently detailed analyses of its phylogenetic status. Probably it belongs to the simonyi clade like the other giant Gallotia species from the western islands, but whether it actually was as close to G. simonyi as presumed remains unverified. The reason for this is also that it was only discovered after the present species' description that G. goliath was not another local representative of G. simonyi, as was previously assumed, but a more distantly related species (Maca-Meyer 2003).

Status[edit]

Its decline may have started 2000 years ago with the arrival of humans on La Palma[citation needed]. Until its recent sightings, it was believed to have become extinct in the last 500 years. The main causes of this presumed extinction were believed to have been introduced cats, consumption by the original human population of the Canary Islands, and habitat destruction for agriculture. It is not the only lizard from the Canary Islands to have been considered extinct only to be rediscovered later: This happened with other giant lizards of the Canary Islands, like the El Hierro giant lizard and La Gomera giant lizard (rediscovered 1974 and 1999, respectively); the somewhat smaller Tenerife speckled lizard was only discovered for the first time in 1996.

At this point, not a single living individual has been captured and any remaining population, if existing, is assumed to be tiny.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Giant Lizard found on La Palma typicallyspanish.com. Accessed 28/12-2007
  2. ^ a b Canary island giant lizard sighting gives hope to local biologists EL PAÍS via expatica.com. Accessed 28/12-2007
  • Afonso, O.M. & Mateo, J.A. (2003): Los lagartos gigantes canarios: conservación creativa de poblaciones mínimas. In: Jiménez, I. & Delibes, M. (eds): Al Borde de la Extinción: Integrando Ciencia, Política y Sociedad en la Recuperación de Especies Amenazadas. Evren, Valencia PDF abstract
  • Barahona, F.; Evans, S. E.; Mateo, J.A.; García-Márquez, M. & López-Jurado, L.F. (2000): Endemism, gigantism and extinction in island lizards: the genus Gallotia on the Canary Islands. J. Zool. 250(3): 373-388. doi:10.1017/S0952836900003101 (HTML abstract)
  • Maca-Meyer, N.; Carranza, S.; Rando, J.C.; Arnold, E.N. & Cabrera, V.M. (2003): Status and relationships of the extinct giant Canary Island lizard Gallotia goliath (Reptilia: Lacertidae), assessed using ancient mtDNA from its mummified remains. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 80(4): 659–670. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.2003.00265.x (HTML abstract)
  • Mateo, J.A.; García-Márquez, M.; López-Jurado, L.F. & Barahona, F. (2001): Descripción del lagarto gigante de La Palma (Islas Canarias) a partir de restos subfósiles. Revista Española de Herpetología 15: 53-59. [Spanish with English abstract] PDF abstract

External links[edit]