A bustling airport would hardly seem the place to find a new species of reclusive animal, but a team of California biologists recently found a shy new species of legless lizard living at the end of a runway at Los Angeles International Airport.
What’s more, the same team discovered three additional new species of these distinctive, snake-like lizards that are also living in some inhospitable-sounding places for wildlife: at a vacant lot in downtown Bakersfield, among oil derricks in the lower San Joaquin Valley and on the margins of the Mojave desert.
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All are described in the latest issue of Breviora, a publication of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.
“This shows that there is a lot of undocumented biodiversity within California,” Theodore Papenfuss, one of the scientists, was quoted as saying in a press release.
Papenfuss, an amphibian and reptile expert at Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, made the discoveries with James Parham of California State University, Fullerton.
“These are animals that have existed in the San Joaquin Valley, separate from any other species, for millions of years, completely unknown,” Parham said.
Legless lizards look a lot like snakes, but they’re different reptiles. The lizards are distinguishable from their slithery relatives based on one or more of the following: eyelids, external ear openings, lack of broad belly scales and/or a very long tail. Snakes, conversely, have a long body and a short tail.
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