Exciting news! There’s a new lizard species making its way into New England. It is called Podarcis sicula (the Italian Wall Lizard), and it’s officially in Greenwich CT, just over the New York state border. I’ve been down to visit the area half a dozen times now looking to see where the lizards are and in what number. Now that the official description is published, I want to fill you in on some of the back story.
It all started with this Facebook post just before I was coming back from Greece last summer:
I’ve blotted out names for privacy’s sake, but as you can see, the landowner was spot on! This is a (very) pregnant female Italian wall lizard. He even gave some really plausible suggestions for how it got there – by tracks or by truck.
I couldn’t believe that after months of studying this little gal’s cousins in Greece (Podarcis erhardii is very closely related to sicula – See how similar they look), there was a population living just over an hour down the road from home base. As soon as I got back, Max and I went down to see who we could find. As we were early for a meeting with this homeowner, we went looking for nearby rock walls (my go-to). Our searching was haphazard and unsuccessful until we found ourselves near a pet store – excellent sources for information on pet lizards that might have gotten out, or reports of nearby reptiles that seem out of the ordinary.
To our amazing good fortune the highschooler working the reptile section had actually seen some of these little lizards in Greenwich! They were living behind his girlfriend’s house just down the road. He very kindly gave us her address and, (much to her father’s surprise) we showed up on their doorstep just a few minutes later asking about lizards.
We were in the right spot. This landowner showed us a picture his son had snapped of the species just a couple weeks earlier. We didn’t find any lizards there, then, but wandering next door we got our first glimpse. It was official, they were in CT.
Our next stop was the house of the original poster on Facebook. His yard has a really strong population of males, females, juveniles and adults. We were able to snap a few more pictures:
Right now our working theory is that the lizards are hopping on the tracks and working their way north from large, known populations in NY. I’ll talk more about that though as we get more info this summer.
I’m adding a new page to the header just for the Lizards in Connecticut project. I’ll be updating that with maps and any new information as we get it (we currently have DNA out to a lab for analysis… exciting!) Stay tuned by subscribing above or following along on twitter (@colindonihue)