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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 (wall lizard) that, as its name indicates, lives in the littoral zone of La Palma in the Canary Islands; 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 (and likely will remain classified as such until the Red List is updated), it was rediscovered in 2007.[1][2]

Its decline started 2000 years ago with the arrival of humans on La Palma. Until its recent rediscovery, 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 rats,[3] consumption by people, 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 and La Gomera Giant Lizards (rediscovered 1974 and 1999, respectively); the somewhat smaller Tenerife Speckled Lizard was only discovered for the first time in 1996.

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). Specimens 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 discovered individual of the La Palma Giant Lizard was slight 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]

Unfortunately, the present 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).

See also

References

  • 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

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