July 19, 2017
Here Be Dragons
- as seen by -Michael Lieto
The advancement of molecular genetics has helped give us the tools to better understand the true evolutionary history of many organisms. Under a thorough genetic analysis, scientists might discover enough difference between selected groups to warrant separation and new scientific names.
A fantastic example of this is the lizard genus Smaug, aptly named after the dragon from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. These lizards were once part of the large genus Cordylus, but were recently split off based on genetic difference. All Smaug have pronounced spines and sharp, keeled scales running down the length of their bodies—and they occupy rocky outcrops. This makes their genus name even more appropriate, as Tolkien derived it from the Germanic verb smeugan, which translates to “squeeze through a hole.”
At the Bronx Zoo’s World of Reptiles, we have the Mozambique girdled lizard (Smaug mossambicus). They feature the dark, armored scales that is characteristic of this genus. Additionally, adult males have a striking orange underside which they use to attract a potential mate. They eat a variety of arthropods and give birth to live young.
Come and see these fascinating lizards moving about the rock work on exhibit at the World of Reptiles.
EDITOR’S NOTE: National Zoo Keeper Appreciation Week is July 15-23. Wild View is featuring posts by our Wildlife Conservation Society zoo keepers. For more on activities and schedules on keeper week, visit the Bronx Zoo’s website.
Nikon D5, R1C1 Strobe Kit, Nikon 60mm Lens