July 25 – Hey, Eddie!

Today’s factismal: Reptiles are found on every continent except Antarctica (and they used to live there!).

If you want to call a group of animals successful, then you have your choice of how to define the term. You can base it on the distribution of the critters: those that live in more places are more successful. Or you can base it on the longevity of the critters’ clade: those that have been around longer are more successful. Or you can base it on all of the other critters that have evolved out of that clade: having more branches on their tree of life makes them more successful. But no matter how you define success, the reptiles have it.

An alligator in Texas (My camera)

An alligator in Texas
(My camera)

They are found on every continent except Antarctica and used to live there until it got too cold for them about 15 million years ago. Reptiles are found in a wide variety of environments, from the rocky shores of the Galapagos to the lush rain forests of North America. They eat an incredible variety of foods, from salty seaweed to juicy grubs to each other. And the reptiles have been around for a long, long time; the earliest known reptile lived some 338 million years ago. But most importantly, they gave rise to a wide variety of other types of animals, from the dinosaurs (who gave rise to the birds) to the mammals (who gave rise to us and the internet).

An iguana in Florida (My camera)

An iguana in Florida
(My camera)

But success has its price. In the case of the reptiles, it means getting pushed out by younger and more vigorous critters, like humans. In Los Angeles and other parts of California, the native lizards have almost entirely disappeared, thanks to changes in the environment caused by building and water use. It has gotten so bad that now researchers are out looking for lizards, and they’d like your help. If you happen to live in Los Angeles (or are just stuck in a tourist trap ☺), then why not give them a hand by reporting any lizards that you see to the RASCals Project at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum:
http://www.nhm.org/site/activities-programs/citizen-science/rascals

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