Odd-Looking Lizards More Diverse Than Thought

Plica Caribeana
This image shows the new species Plica caribeana. (Image credit: John C. Murphy)

This odd-looking lizard is a collared treerunner, and a new study finds there's more than one species of these multi-colored reptiles.

Scientists previously thought a group of collared treerunner lizards, known as Plica plica, were a single species.

The lizards were first described in 1758 and live on vertical surfaces. Their diet mainly consists of a variety of insects.

The study found treerunners from Trinidad and northern Venezuela were 4.5 percent genetically different from those in southern Venezuela, and more than 5 percent different from those in Brazil. That's quite a variety as humans and chimps are less than 2 percent genetically different. 

The differences can be easy to detect, according to the study. Changes in coloring, such as having a red-colored head versus a yellow one or a series of spots on the body instead of transverse bands, can distinguish different species.  

The study was published in the November issue of the journal ZooKeys.

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Nina Sen
Nina Sen is a frequent contributor to Live Science’s Life’s Little Mysteries series: an exploration and explanation of our world’s phenomena, both natural and man-made. She also writes astronomy photo stories for Live Science's sister site Space.com.