New armored lizard discovered in landmine-riddled region

Jeremy Hance
May 21, 2012

The new species of lizard, Cordylus marunguensi, from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo courtesy of Eli Greenbaum.
The new species of lizard, Cordylus marunguensi, from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo courtesy of Eli Greenbaum.

A new lizard has been discovered in a war-torn area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According to a paper in the African Journal of Herpetology, the new species was found hiding under a rock in the high grasslands of the Marungu Plateau, an area known for landmines.

Dubbing the species Cordylus marunguensi after the plateau where it was discovered, the researchers noted that the lizard appears locally-common despite human impacts like agriculture, cattle-ranching, and warfare.

"Marungu Plateau was involved in heavy fighting during a widespread conflict in eastern DRC at the turn of the twenty-first century and, as a result, a large area surrounding the type locality for Cordylus marunguensis is carpeted in land mines and unexploded ordnance," the scientists write.

They recommend more research on the species before determining if it is endangered.

The scientists also note that the Marunga Plateau "might be an undervalued site of conservation importance," given that researchers in the past have described several bird species which may be endemic to the plateau.

"Although the Marungu Plateau has been heavily damaged by warfare and habitat destruction, the new lizard proves that it is not too late to implement conservation efforts," lead author Eli Greenbaum said in a press release.

The plateau, which is around 2,000 meters (6500 feet) above sea level, used to be home to a population of chimpanzees as well, but scientists believe that deforestation resulted in their local extinction.

CITATIOn: Eli Greenbaum, Edward L. Stanley, Chifundera Kusamba, Wandege M. Moninga, Stephen R. Goldberg, Charles R. Bursey. A new species of Cordylus (Squamata: Cordylidae) from the Marungu Plateau of south-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. African Journal of Herpetology. 2012. DOI: 10.1080/21564574.2012.666505

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (May 21, 2012).

New armored lizard discovered in landmine-riddled region.