Three unique and distinct dragon like wood lizards have been discovered in the Andean cloud forests straddling across Peru and Ecuador. Details of the discovery have been published in the April 6th edition of open access journal ZooKeys. The discovery was made by three researchers – Omar Torres Carvajal of the Museo de Zoología QCAZ, Ecuador, Kevin de Queiroz of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and Pablo Venegas, CORBIDI.
It is surprising for the three new to be discovered considering the fact that these animals are one of the largest and most colorful lizards in South America. Wood Lizards (Enyalioides) are diurnal reptiles or in other words are active in daylight. They are found in the lowland tropical rainforests, such as the Chocó and western Amazon basin, as well as cloud forests on both sides of the Andes.
The new species has been described by Torres-Carvajal and brings to 15, the number of new species of wood lizards. Almost half the total number of known wood lizards has been discovered in the last 7 years.
Tropical Andes has within itself 1,542,644 square kilometer hotspot in western South America where most of the discoveries have been made.
In one of the recent expeditions along the Andes of Ecuador and Peru, a number of specimens of woodlizards were collected. The authors had a hunch that these were something new. The researchers compared the new specimens with those deposited in several natural history museums from many countries. The author’s suspicions became stronger and with DNA evidence it was confirmed that these three specimens were indeed new wood lizard species.
Principal author Omar Torres-Carvajal says, “I started working with wood lizards in 2006 as part of my postdoc at the Smithsonian Institution under the direction of Kevin de Queiroz. At that time only seven species of wood lizards had been described, and they were recognized in the literature as one of the less diverse groups of South American lizards. During the last few years we doubled the number of known species of wood lizards, showing that the diversity of these conspicuous reptiles had been underestimated.”