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Re: NFC: Italian Wall Lizards in Topeka
I've never seen one of them. Apparently their distribution is relatively
confined. I found this article in the archives of our local newspaper.
Collegiate students show and tell about rare lizards
By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH
Sixth-grade students at Topeka Collegiate sat on the edge of
their seats Friday as an amateur herpetologist from Germany
examined two species of European lizards that have made their
homes near the elementary school.
The two species -- the Podarcis and possibly the Lacerta -- are
endangered in Europe but thrive in auto repair shops, churches
and backyards near both sides of S.W. Gage from about 23rd
Street to 17th Street. Members of both species apparently
escaped from a commercial animal dealer near S.W. 21st and Gage
during the 1950s. Both species have established themselves in
Dr. Guntram Deichsel is a biostatistician for a pharmaceutical
company, but his hobby is reptiles and amphibians, which is the
reason for his detour to Kansas from Connecticut, where he
traveled on business earlier this week.
Deichsel had read in the Audubon Society's reptile and
amphibian field guide that the Lacerta lizard, which is dark
green and about 18 inches long, is found in Topeka.
The Lacerta was once thought to be a single species, but it was
discovered three years ago that it is two species. The lizards
look nearly identical as adults, although differences can be
detected among the young.
The Lacerta was commonly called the European green lizard, but
the scientific discovery has resulted in the single species
dividing into two separate species -- the western green lizard
and the eastern green lizard.
Deichsel, who is interested in determining which species the
Topeka lizard belongs to and correcting the reptile and
amphibian handbooks, contacted one of the Audubon authors and
was referred to John Simmons, collection manager at the Museum
of Natural History at the University of Kansas.
Simmons referred Deichsel to Joseph T. Collins, professor
emeritus at KU and founder and director of the Center for North
American Amphibians and Reptiles, who referred Deichsel to
Topeka Collegiate science teacher Larry Miller.
Miller's students have conducted annual amphibian and reptile
counts and photographed species that were pictured in several
versions of Collins' field guide.
As Deichsel flipped the lizard over in his hands Friday, he
told the students there was an 80 percent likelihood the
creature was a western green lizard. But he couldn't be sure
until he could examine a young lizard, which the students
hadn't managed to capture.
The cold and rainy drizzle on Friday meant the creatures were
likely seeking cover, and Deichsel would need to pray for warm
weather before his return trip to Germany on Sunday.
Miller conducted a summer class three years ago called "In
Search of the Green Lacerta." He sent fliers to neighbors,
asking them to collect the lizard, but none were caught during
the weeklong class.
The day after the class ended, a neighbor brought in a Lacerta,
and there has been a steady stream since.
"Last year this time people were bringing in young lizards all
the time," Miller said, "but we didn't know."
Copyright 1998 The Topeka Capital-Journal
Environmental Scientist III
Bureau of Environmental Field Services
Kansas Department of Health and Environment
1000 SW Jackson St., Suite 430
Topeka, KS 66612-1367
(785) 296 - 0079