The Invader

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Russ writes:

Podarcis sicula (Italian wall lizard) is native to Italy, and the nearby Mediterranean coast. It thrives in cities, and has probably been a human urban commensal for 2000 years. They and their congeners (P. muralis) have been introduced into many places in Europe, including France, southern England, and Germany. they may be the most widely introduced temperate reptile species. There are at least four extant populations of Podarcis sicula and muralis introduced to North America: Long Island (NY), Topeka (KS), Cincinnati (OH), and Vancouver Island, British Columbia. there was a population in Philadelphia but they are apparently now extinct, and I recently heard of what sounds like a separate introduction in central NJ. All releases are associated with the pet trade and are decades old. Podarcis is here to stay, lacertid lizards finally made it over the pond.

I’m interested in them because I’m interested in invasive species and what they can tell us about natural invasions. I’ve looked at the parasite loads of all four extant pops, and they are quite depauperate compared to what would be expected. I’ve done really detailed work on the demography and the food habits of the LI pop, and next year I’m going to Italy to document the same things in the native habitat. I’m
expecting to see evolutionary changes as they adapt to the new environments.

I mostly study turtles; this is my first real foray into lizard work. However, I couldn’t see how my favorite turtles would transfer into a nice tattoo, not quite colorful enough.