Worlds smallest reptile discovered in Caribbean

Washington, D.C. Dec 3, 2001 -- The worlds smallest reptile, a 16-millimeter lizard, has been discovered in the Caribbean islands by Pennsylvania State University Evolutionary Biologist Blair Hedges and University of Puerto Rico Biologist Richard Thomas. The discovery will be published in this months Caribbean Journal of Science. The Jaragua Sphaero, or dwarf gecko, is believed to exist only on Beata Island and nearby areas in the Dominican Republics Jaragua National Park.

The discovery of the lizard is just one of several miniature species found in the Caribbean. The worlds smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird, is found only in Cuba. The tiny hummingbird measures barely five centimeters long, hardly twice the size of a penny. The Northern Hemispheres smallest frog, a one-centimeter long frog known as Monte Iberia Eleuth, ties as the worlds smallest frog. The worlds smallest snake, the Lesser Antillean Threadsnake, is so thin it could slither though a pencil if the lead were removed. The snake is found in the West Indies.

Species of extreme size, both smallest and largest, often evolve on islands, where they face fewer competitor species than they would on the continents.

The Jaragua Sphaero, which measures about three quarters of an inch from snout to the base of the tail, is similar in size to a lizard endemic to the British Virgin Islands, and also ties for the worlds smallest amniote, a group consisting of all mammals, reptiles and birds.

Although much is still unknown about the diversity of life in the Caribbean, Michael Smith, Senior Research Fellow for the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science at Conservation International, says we have enough information to appreciate its critical importance. The Caribbean is one of the richest places on Earth in terms of unique species, he says, but they are extremely threatened. If the Caribbean continues to lose species at the current rate, then one of the worlds most dist

Contact: Brad Phillips
Conservation International

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