Observation of the Week, 7/15/17

Our Observation of the Week is this Dotted Galliwasp, seen in Colombia by @juanda037

The island of Malpelo, located about 500 km off the coast of Colombia, is a tiny (~1.2 square kilometers), rocky, and barren place. “Despite of these characteristics,” says Juan Daniel Vásquez-Restrepo, “the island maintains the largest population known of Nazca boobies (Sula granti), an endemic species of crab (Johngarthia malpilensis) and some other small secretive invertebrates, and three endemic species of reptiles: an Anolis (Anolis agassizi), a gecko (Phyllodactylus transversalis) and the galliwasp (Diploglossus millepunctatus). But, I'm only talking about land species, because if you dive you will see colorful fishes, hammerhead sharks, corals, sea turtles, dolphins and a lot of awesome marine creatures.” It is a nationally protected Fauna and Flora area.

As herpetology student at the University of Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia, Juan “was invited to participate in the XXXII scientific expedition to study the lizard populations on the island, as a result of an agreement between Fundación Malpelo and the Herpetological Group of Antioquia,” and sailed forty hours to reach Malpelo. “I was responsible for conducting the census of reptile populations on the island, and let me say that there are thousands and thousands of them.” 

Galliwasp lizards range throughout much of Central and South America, and are thought to be highly adaptable. The Dotted Galliwasp, especially, has had to adapt to its salty, lonely home, It feeds on amphipods and crabs, but also exploits the many birds of the island. The lizards are known to eat bird carcasses, eggs, guano; they even mob birds and force them to regurgitate their food for the lizards, instead of the young birds!

Juan (pictured above, with a Western basilisk (Basiliscus galeritus) in hand), says his “main research interest focuses on snakes and [their] taxonomy, biology, evolution and diversity in the Neotropical region. I’m also strongly interested on the scientific divulgation about the important role that these organisms play in nature and why we should protect them.” He only recently joined iNat, and says “I believe this is a powerful tool, because anybody can interact and learn directly from scientists, specialist and amateurs from all parts of the world.”

- by Tony Iwane

- Couldn’t find any footage of Dotted Galliwasps, but there’s a ton of great diving footage from the Malpelo on YouTube

Posted by tiwane tiwane, July 15, 2017 19:27


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