Four new lizard species discovered in California

This story is more support for the conclusion that the new species we have left to find, while fascinating and beautiful, will be found already in our midst.

Legless lizard discovered near LAX (and no, it’s not a snake) –

Scientists have discovered four new species of legless lizards in California, including one species that lives beneath the sand dunes near LAX.

Parham and his coauthor Theodore Papenfuss, a herpetologist with the UC Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, have been scouring the state for legless lizards for 15 years. When they began their research, only one type of legless lizard was known to live in California.

One of the four newly identified species of Anniella, the Southern California legless lizard, was found under some dead leaves in dunes at the west end of Los Angeles International Airport.

The Bakersfield legless lizard was found in three vacant lots in downtown Bakersfield.

The southern Sierra legless lizard was spotted in three dry canyons on the edge of the Mojave Desert, and the Temblor legless lizard was found in the oil fields around the city of Taft, on the southwestern edge of the San Joaquin Valley.

The technique was simple: Scatter 2,000 pieces of cardboard and plywood throughout the state to create moist, cool areas and check back a few months later to see what has made their home underneath. They still have a lot of boards left to lift. Why not try this in your backyard? Sounds fun.

Note that legless lizards are not snakes (so don’t freak out). They can blink and they are pretty small.

Bakersfield legless lizard (Anniella grinnelli) is a lovely little thing. Photo: James Parham

Bakersfield legless lizard (Anniella grinnelli) is a lovely little thing. Photo: James Parham

  2 comments for “Four new lizard species discovered in California

  1. September 20, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    If numbers of new vertebrates are still being discovered in California, how many undiscovered species must there currently be in the world? It must be thousands. When we move on from there to invertebrates (98% of all animals), there must be millions of unrecorded varieties out there. If this is your area of study you will not be short of work.

  2. neko
    September 25, 2013 at 7:01 PM

    I was wondering why there are no legless terrestrial mammals or birds, but lots of reptiles, insects and worms, and the straight dope helped me out. Thought it was interesting.

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