Saturday, April 26, 2008
The Wall Lizard
The high diversity of Kentucky's terrain is unmatched by possibly no
other state but Texas - mountains, forests, swamps, highlands,
lowlands, everything but deserts. This means that when you transport a life form here that's not indigenous, there's a really good chance that it will be able to carve out an ecological niche for itself.
There's no better testimony of this than in the case of the Wall Lizard, which is increasingly common here but never existed in the United States until just a few decades ago. In September 1951, a young boy named George Rau released ten Wall Lizards into the Ohio Valley's ecosystem. He'd obtained them while on a trip to Italy, brought them back to the states, and set them free in his back yard in Cincinnati, on the Ohio/Kentucky border.
Today the Wall Lizard is thriving exponentially in northern Kentucky and southern Ohio, to such great extent that it's now considered a native species, although it's acknowledged as an introduced one.
Rau's experiment in European reptile introduction didn't stop there, however: in 1958, returning from a trip to Spain, he brought back specimens of a strange blue-bellied lizard he'd found there, and once again, he released them into the wild at the Ohio/Kentucky border. It has been reported that interbreeding occurred between the two lizards he released, thus creating a new, third, anomalous lizard!
These lizards are often referred to as the "Lazarus Lizards" because Rau was related to the Lazarus family, once well known locally for their Lazarus line of department stores (now merged with Macy's).