Monday, January 10, 2011

Legless Lizard Identified as New Species

A legless lizard discovered earlier this year in Brazil’s Cerrado grasslands has been given a scientific name, officially making it a new species.
The scientific name, Bachia oxyrhina, is derived from the Latin oxy (sharp) and rhinos (nose).
The lizard was recently described for the first time, in a study published in September by the scientific journal Zootaxa.
To an untrained eye, the lizard could easily pass for a snake. It’s very long and thin, and doesn’t appear to have any legs.
However, although it appears legless, the lizard does have small limbs. It’s just that, they don’t really do much. As a result, the lizard moves about by slithering like a snake.
Apart from having legs (albiet, undeveloped), there are other factors that differentiate ”legless” lizards from snakes. One factor is the lack of extreme modifications in cranial morphology that enables snakes to ingest large prey.
In fact, all you’re likely to see this legless lizard munching on is small bugs, termites and ants.

Recognition Happened Very Quickly 

The name Bachia oxyrhina was named after the lizards sharp nose. Photo: Miguel Trefaut Rodrigues
The name Bachia oxyrhina was named after the lizard's sharp nose. Photo: Agustin Camacho
Given the species was only discovered in January this year, the recognition of the lizard as a new species has happened relatively quickly. The process of recognition for new species often takes many years. This depends on the accumulation of basic of scientific knowledge about the group to which it belongs.
“Recent research with lizards of the same genus, together with the large amount of data collected on the diversity of lizards living in the Cerrado and the experience of the team of herpetologists (zoologists who study reptiles and amphibians) involved in this project, contributed to the quickness of the recognition process,” said Miguel Trefaut Rodrigues Leading Brazilian zoologist from the Universidade de São Paulo, and first author of the description of the lizard.

13 Suspected New Species

The lizard is one of 13 suspected new species that were found during an expedition to Cerrado in Brazil. Out of the 13, this is the first species to be officially identified.
“It’s very exciting to find new species and data on the richness, abundance, and distribution of wildlife in one of the most extensive, complex, and unknown regions of the Cerrado,” said the expedition leader  CI biologist Cristiano Nogueira at the time of the expedition.
The wooded grassland once covered an area half the size of Europe, but is now being converted to cropland and ranchland at twice the rate of the neighboring Amazon rainforest, resulting in the loss of native vegetation and unique species.

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