July 27 – We’re Off To See The Lizard

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’ family tree (what biology wonks call a 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.

An alligator in Texas (My camera)

An alligator in Texas
(My camera)

But no matter how you define success, the reptiles have it. They’re found on every continent except Antarctica (they moved away from there when it got too cold), they’ve been around for 312 million years, and their descendants include obvious suspects like crocodiles and turtles, and some not-so-obvious ones like the dinosaurs, the birds, and the mammals.

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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