Land of Encroachment: the lizards

From Emily Rizzo, in South Florida, on Facebook:

They may look like anoles but they are two feet long and moving north. Let’s hope bobcats like to eat them.

The bobcats and the alligators come with the territory, but there are plenty of introduced pests, both animal and vegetable.

As I declared in this posting: South Florida, Land of Encroachment:

on 5/6/18 “On the track of men’s deodorant”: on the tree Melaleuca quinquenervia

Tegus on Wikipedia:

A tegu is a member of a number of lizard species that belong to the family Teiidae. Tegus are native to Central and South America. They occupy a variety of habitats and are known for their large size and predatory habits.

Although they resemble monitor lizards, they are only distantly related to them; the similarities are a result of convergent evolution.

Some species are of economic importance as food and pets.

Some species have become invasive species in regions of South Florida.

Not all lizards known as tegus belong to the same genus. The word “tegu” may refer to any of the following genera: Callopistes“dwarf tegus” (2 species); Crocodilurus“crocodile tegus” (1 species); Dicrodon“desert tegus” (3 species); Dracaena“caiman lizards” also known as “caiman tegus” (2 species); Teius“Four-toed Tegu” (3 species); Tupinambis/Salvator“giant tegus” (7 species, paraphyletic group)

In the news, “Tegus on list of Sunshine State’s most aggressive invasive species” in the Orlando Sentinal, by Jenny Staletovich on 7/20/15:

This month, a two-foot tegu identified as No. 1125 scampered through a bramble of thick sawgrass in the southern Everglades, a tiny backpack carrying a GPS tracker attached to her back and a string of purple party beads secured around her belly.

No. 1125 has a mission: to reveal the secret life of Argentine tegus.

First spotted in the wild near a Homestead trailer park and rock pits in south Miami-Dade County less than a decade ago, the black and white reptiles have staked their claim as Florida’s latest, most aggressive invasive species.

With their numbers climbing, they have expanded their range from the south end of Miami-Dade, west to Collier County and north to Hillsborough County. In 2009, when biologists first began trapping them in South Florida, they captured just 13 tegus. This year that number is fast approaching 500.

Such a rapid rise has wildlife biologists starting to ask a scary question: could tegus be the next Burmese python?

… To get a handle on the threat, biologists enlisted, or rather drafted, No. 1125.

The female tegu was captured last month by two biologists on [University of Florida biologist Frank] Mazzotti’s team, Lindsey Garner and Kyle Allen, in a trap on a rutted dirt road that runs through state lands in the southern Everglades, not far from a home for delinquent boys on Southwest 424th Street.

The area has been the epicenter of the tegu invasion.

Like with pythons, biologists believe the first tegu – native to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay — was either a freed or escaped pet.

Tegus live in burrows and forage around water, so they found plenty of hospitable habitat in the marshes that border Florida City and Homestead.

They also eat almost anything: fruits, seeds, eggs, insects and small mammals.

When biologists opened up the guts of 124 captured along the Miami’s urban fringes, they found frogs, toads, lizards, snakes and turtles.

But unlike pythons, hardy tegus can survive in the cold, as low as 35 degrees, meaning they could potentially threaten a broader range of native species.

… “There is no debate about tegus. All of Florida is at risk,” Mazzotti said.


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