BARRANQUILLA, Colombia – A group of researchers from the Magdalena and Quindio universities has recorded individuals and populations of the Lepidoblepharis miyatai, the smallest lizard in the world and for a long time considered “possibly extinct,” in the Tayrona National Natural Park, on the Colombian Caribbean.
The National Park Unit reported Monday that the species was found and recorded in Tayrona by a group of researchers made up of biologists and anthropologists, as well as professionals in film and audiovisual.
This was accomplished as part of a project called “The small world of Lepidoblepharis miyatai: Taxonomic-ecological relationships as conservation tools,” which is funded by the Zoological Society of London under the Edge of Existence program.
The purpose of the research is to re-evaluate the taxonomic status and distribution of the lizard, as well as to create information on population density and specific habitat requirements.
Researcher Liliana Saboya Acosta said that “the Lepidoblepharis miyatai is a small lizard endemic to the tropical dry forest of the northwest of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the original description of this species is based on seven specimens collected in 1964 in the Bahia de Gairaca sector.”
“Finding this lizard in the leaf litter was like looking for a needle in a haystack, so the researchers used quadrants where they removed all the material from the ground until they found the individuals,” she said.
“For more than 52 years this species went unnoticed and because no work had been done on the population status, it was considered as possibly extinct,” said the researcher, adding that the information obtained has been very useful in implementing a strategy for conservation that includes rural communities.
The greatest number of populations of this species was found in the forests of sectors such as Bonito Gordo, Ensenada Concha, Gayraca, Neguanje, Pueblito and Los Naranjos, while other populations were reported in Las Tinajas, Termonorte and some forests adjacent to the Hacienda de Palanganas.
In Colombia, Lepidoblepharis miyatai is classified as an endangered species taking into account criteria such as the small distribution range where it lives (1,214 square kilometers), the age of their records, and the highly threatened vegetation types found within their habitats.
Before the coronavirus quarantine was declared in Colombia on March 25, to last until May 11, the researchers held workshops with communities in the area, in which they offered environmental education and made the little lizard that inhabits the dry forest known.