18 The Daily News, Friday, June 28,1996
Learn to appreciate lizards by studying their differences
I used to pretend as a child that I
was a biologist who studied lizards.
I would stay for hours in the bush
watching lizards eating insects for
Like any other child of today or
yesterday. I would get into mis-
chief. I used to make guinea grass
stems into hooks to catch small
lizards. After I hooked a small
lizard. I would put the small lizard's
head into the big lizard's mouth to
see if it could get away.
I was a curious child. My mother
used to tell me. "Olasee. curiosity
will kill the cat."
Despite my mischief, today. I
am an ecologist, a person who
believes in protecting the environ-
ment and its wildness including
such animals as lizards.
Lizards play an important role
by helping to keep the environment
in balance. This role includes catch-
ing flies, mosquitoes, spiders and
other small invertebrates. Most
species are harmless to humans.
Certain species of lizards have
even been used to treat people for
asthma. This treatment requires the
making of lizard soup. Old folks
will tell you that the treatment will
only cure the asthma if you do not
tell the person that he or she is
drinking lizard soup.
The common gecko that we see
in our house catching insects at
night is the West African species,
Hemidacrylus mabouia, which was
brought on the slave ship. Today.
this species of lizard is known by
some as the wood slave.
The wood slave's color varies
from dark grey to white chalk with
blackish markings. It has no eye-
lids; its eyes are covered by a large
scale. Its toes allow the lizard to
walk upside down.
Another common lizard Is
known only by its scientific classifi-
cation. Thecadactylus rapicandus.
Some varieties of the Thecadactylus
are almost as big as the world
largest gecko. Some can reach over
7 inches in length with a head I
inch wide. Like the wood slave, the
Thecadactylus rapicaudus hunts
insects on the wall at night. On SL
Croix. they can be found mostly in
The skin of this lizard is very
finely scaled and delicate. The
upper surface of the body is mottled
dark brown on a beige background.
Its head is broad. When it loses its
tail, it can regenerate it, as most
lizards can, but the regenerated tail
has a puffy appearance. Its toes are
very broad and slightly webbed. Its
belly is light beige. It has been said
that this species has a bark like a
dog's, which is very loud.
The Sphaerodacrylus macrolepts
is probably the most common lizard
in the Virgin Islands. but it is rarely
noticed. This species' color ranges
from grey to brown to blackish. It
usually has a black blotch on the
shoulder area, sometimes with two
Other species of lizards, such as
the Anolis acurrs. Anolis
pulchelhtl. Anolis strartuh. and the
Mabuya mabouya, inhabit Anegada.
Virgin Gorda. Tortola, St. John.
Jost Van Dyke. St. Thomas.
See LIZARDS. facing page
LIZARDS CONMUED FROM PAE 18
Vieques. Culebra. and Puerto Rico.
The St. Croix ground lizard,
Ameiva polops, is now on the
endangered species list federally
and locally. Although this species
was first noted in 1862. very little is
known about its life history, other
than that it once populated areas of
Frederiksted, Christiansted and the
East End of St. Croix.
Quick-moving and delicate, the
St Croix ground lizard ranges from
7 to 9 inches in length, most of
which is its tail Its back is marked
with parallel snipes of brown. black
Its belly is light gray with bluish
markings along the sides, and the
undersides of its snout, legs and tail
are faintly flushed with pink. The
tail itself is ringed with alternate
stripes of black and blue.
This species of lizard disap-
peared from Christiansted in 1920,
and from Frederiksted in 1968.
Wildlife biologists believe the
mongoose, which was introduced to
St Croix in 1884. is responsible for
wiping out this species of lizard on
On Protestant Cay. two hundred
lizards wer estimated to have sur-
vived before 1968. However, the
development of the local hotel in
1969 is thought to have reduced the
An attempt was made to intro-
duce this lizard to Buck Island, but
the mongooses there eventually
wiped them out.
Today, the largest population of
this lizard probably lies on Green
Recently, the St. Croix ground
lizard was introduced to Ruth Cay,
a man made island off the channel
near the St. Croix Alumina Corp.
We hear about the endangered
whales and other endangered
species of the world all the time.
What a pity if the SL Croix ground
lizard were to be lost to us forever
before we had learned to know it
SOlasee Davis, who holds a mas-
ter ofscience degree in range man-
agement and forestry ecology. Is a
St. Croix ecologist, activist and