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Rediscovering the Nose-Horned Lizard

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D:        When I was young, I wanted to be a famous scientist, discovering all sorts of new plants and animals. There’s so much biodiversity out there! Now it seems like every corner of the world has been studied and cataloged.

Y:        Sometimes, fascinating creatures sit right under our noses. In fact, I have a story about a lizard with an unusual nose, and it might cheer you up!

D:        Well, I’m always sniffing around for a good story.

Y:        In 2018, a wildlife biologist was in the forests of North Sumatra. One day, he noticed a dead lizard with a strange feature: a horn, sticking straight ahead out of its snout! It was a nose-horned lizard, part of the family of dragon lizards, and it hadn’t been seen in almost a hundred and thirty years.

D:        So it was a rediscovery. But those are also important for science: rediscovering animals from long ago shows us that they’re not extinct, and we can gain information about the creatures’ habits and environment. Then we can call for species conservation.

Y:        Exactly. And the story gets better. This was one of the rarest lizards in the world, known to science from just a single specimen in Italy—the only recorded account of this creature, from 1891. It had been brought to Europe by explorer Elio Modigliani, and carefully preserved.

D:        Did the wildlife biologist ever find a living nose-horned lizard?

Y:        Several days later, he did! It was sleeping on a nearby branch, with bright, yellow-green scales. But when stressed, it turned brown.

D:        Wow. I guess planet Earth still has some secrets.
Lizard

(Bhuddika Mawella, Wikimedia Commons)

Many years ago, it seemed like there was so much biodiversity out there, with all kinds of new plants and animals to discover. Now it seems like every corner of the world has been studied and cataloged.

Yet sometimes fascinating creatures sit right under our noses. In fact, today A Moment of Science has a story about a lizard with an unusual nose.

In 2018, a wildlife biologist was in the forests of North Sumatra. One day, he noticed a dead lizard with a strange feature: a horn, sticking straight ahead out of its snout! It was a nose-horned lizard, part of the family of dragon lizards, and it hadn’t been seen in almost a 130 years.

This is technically a rediscovery, but those are also important for science: rediscovering animals from long ago shows us that they’re not extinct, and we can gain information about the creatures’ habits and environment. Then we can call for species conservation.

This was one of the rarest lizards in the world, known to science from just a single specimen in Italy—the only recorded account of this creature, from 1891. It had been brought to Europe by explorer Elio Modigliani, and carefully preserved.

Several days later, the wildlife biologist found a living nose-horned lizard. It was sleeping on a nearby branch, with bright, yellow-green scales. But when stressed, it turned brown.

 

 

Reviewer: Chairunas A. Putra

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