List of 100 most unique and endangered reptiles released

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  • Zoological Society of London has released a list of the 100 Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered Reptiles.
  • Using a formula published in a PLOS ONE Study, each species receives a score that takes into account how evolutionarily unusual it is as well as its risk for extinction.
  • ZSL hopes these rankings will provide a scientifically rigorous and standardized method to assign conservation priority to vanishing species.

What do the world’s tiniest chameleon, a color-changing snake, and a turtle that breathes through its genitals have in common? Each of these reptiles sits perched on its own unique branch of life and, according to Zoological Society of London (ZSL), is headed for extinction unless urgent steps are taken for their protection.

The ZSL has released a list of 100 Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered Reptiles through its EDGE of Existence program. Using a formula published in a PLOS ONE Study, each species receives a score that takes into account how evolutionarily unusual it is as well as its risk for extinction. ZSL hopes these rankings will provide a scientifically rigorous and standardized method to assign conservation priority to vanishing species.

The worm-like Madagascar blind snake (Xenotyphlops grandidieri) has no use for eyes as it burrows through the forest floors of Madagascar. Photo by: Jörn Köhler courtesy of ZSL.
A juvenile Minute leaf chameleon (Brookesia micra) perches on a match head. This is the smallest chameleon in the world and is found exclusively in the forests of Madagascar. Photo by: Glaw et al
A juvenile Minute leaf chameleon (Brookesia micra) perches on a match head. This is the smallest chameleon in the world and is found exclusively in the forests of Madagascar. Photo by: Glaw et al

“When EDGE launched in 2007,” said EDGE of Existence Program Manager Nisha Owen, “our vision was to shine a light on those species that, if they were allowed to go extinct, would effectively take an entire branch of the Tree of Life with them.”

EDGE has published lists for mammals, birds, amphibians, and corals in the past and has partnered with other organizations to fund work at the frontlines of conservation. Beyond increasing awareness of these high priority life forms, EDGE and partners invest in early-career conservationists and conservation research, working with species from the pangolin to the Philippine Eagle.

“Reptiles often receive the short end of the stick in conservation terms, compared with the likes of birds and mammals,” said EDGE Reptiles co-ordinator Rikki Gumbs. “However, the EDGE Reptile List highlights just how unique, vulnerable and amazing these creatures really are. From the world’s largest sea turtles to a blind species of snake found only in Madagascar, the diversity of EDGE Reptiles is breath-taking.”

The color changing Round Island keel-scaled boa (Casarea dussumieri) is the last remaining member of its evolutionary family. Photo by: Nick Page courtesy of ZSL.
The color changing Round Island keel-scaled boa (Casarea dussumieri) is the last remaining member of its evolutionary family. Photo by: Nick Page courtesy of ZSL.
The Gharial crocodile (Gavialis gangeticus) uses its slim snout for fishing. Photo by: Josh More courtesy of ZSL.
The Gharial crocodile (Gavialis gangeticus) uses its slim snout for fishing. Photo by: Josh More courtesy of ZSL.
The largest turtle in the world, the Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) is the last of its phylogenetic family and Photo by: Hans Hillewaert courtesy of ZSL.
The largest turtle in the world, the Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) is the last of its phylogenetic family and Photo by: Hans Hillewaert courtesy of ZSL.

Breath-taking indeed. This top 100 list includes the charismatic, slick, and scaly likes of turtles, tortoises, geckos, lizards, snakes, chameleons, and crocodiles which demonstrate some unusual survival strategies. The #1 EDGE ranking Madagascan big-headed turtle (Erymnochelys madagascariensis) has large, golden plates which protect its big head; the Pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) uses its pig-like snout as a snorkel; and the Mary River turtle (Elusor macrurus) can breathe underwater for up to three days.

“Just as with tigers, rhinos and elephants, it is vital we do our utmost to save these unique and too often overlooked animals,” said Gumbs.

“Many EDGE Reptiles are the sole survivors of ancient lineages, whose branches of the Tree of Life stretch back to the age of the dinosaurs. If we lose these species there will be nothing like them left on Earth,” Gumbs continued. “We also hope to bring the plight of these weird and wonderful creatures to the public’s attention before they disappear.”

The Madagascan big-headed turtle (Erymnochelys madagascariensis) uses golden plates to protect its giant head. Photo by: Bill Hughes courtesy of ZSL.
The Madagascan big-headed turtle (Erymnochelys madagascariensis) uses golden plates to protect its giant head. Photo by: Bill Hughes courtesy of ZSL.
The Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi) is still hunted for food and is among the 15 most endangered turtles in the world. Photo by: Daniel Kane courtesy of ZSL.
The Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi) is still hunted for food and is among the 15 most endangered turtles in the world. Photo by: Daniel Kane courtesy of ZSL.
Able to stay underwater for up to three days, the Mary river turtle (Elusor macrurus) uses specialized breathing organs in its cloaca. Photo by: Chris Van Wyk courtesy of ZSL.
Able to stay underwater for up to three days, the Mary river turtle (Elusor macrurus) uses specialized breathing organs in its cloaca. Photo by: Chris Van Wyk courtesy of ZSL.

EDGE’s 50 top reptiles

  1. Madagascar Big-headed Turtle (Erymnochelys madagascariensis)
  2. Central American River Turtle (Dermatemys mawii)
  3. Madagascar blind snake (Xenotyphlops grandidieri)
  4. Chinese Alligator (Alligator sinensis)
  5. Chinese Crocodile Lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus)
  6. Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina mccordi)
  7. Dahl’s Toad-headed Turtle (Mesoclemmys dahli)
  8. Hoge’s Toadhead Turtle (Mesoclemmys hogei)
  9. Western Short-necked Turtle (Pseudemydura umbrina)
  10. Flattened Musk Turtle (Sternotherus depressus)
  11. Flat-tailed Tortoise (Pyxis planicauda)
  12. Ploughshare Tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora)
  13. Radiated Tortoise (Astrochelys radiata)
  14. Spider Tortoise (Pyxis arachnoides)
  15. Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
  16. Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)
  17. Magdalena River Turtle (Podocnemis lewyana)
  18. Big-headed Turtle (Platysternon megacephalum)
  19. Pig-nosed Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta)
  20. Asian Narrow-headed Softshell Turtle (Chitra chitra)
  21. Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei)
  22. Round Island Keel-scaled Boa (Casarea dussumieri)
  23. Union Island Gecko (Gonatodes daudini)
  24. Bojer’s Skink (Gongylomorphus bojerii)
  25. Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
  26. Marbled Gecko (Oedodera marmorata)
  27. Big-headed Amazon River Turtle (Peltocephalus dumerilianus)
  28. Pritchard’s Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina pritchardi)
  29. Bell’s Sawshelled Turtle (Myuchelys bellii)
  30. Chaco Side-necked Turtle (Acanthochelys pallidipectoris)
  31. Mary River Turtle (Elusor macrurus)
  32. Newman’s Knob-scaled Lizard (Xenosaurus newmanorum)
  33. Williams’ Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus williamsi)
  34. Paroedura lohatsara (Paroedura lohatsara)
  35. Rhampholeon hattinghi (Rhampholeon hattinghi)
  36. Lygodactylus mirabilis (Lygodactylus mirabilis)
  37. Desperate Leaf Chameleon (Brookesia desperata)
  38. Zong’s Odd-scaled Snake (Achalinus jinggangensis)
  39. Colombian Dwarf Gecko (Lepidoblepharis miyatai)
  40. Gulbaru Gecko (Phyllurus gulbaru)
  41. West African Slender-snouted Crocodile (Mecistops cataphractus)
  42. Nguru Pygmy Chameleon (Rhampholeon acuminatus)
  43. ‘Eua Forest Gecko (Lepidodactylus euaensis)
  44. Uroplatus guentheri (Uroplatus guentheri)
  45. Uroplatus malahelo (Uroplatus malahelo)
  46. Pronk’s day gecko (Phelsuma pronki)
  47. Black-breasted Leaf Turtle (Geoemyda spengleri)
  48. Ryukyu Leaf Turtle (Geoemyda japonica)
  49. Chapman’s Pygmy Chameleon (Rhampholeon chapmanorum)
  50. Mount Inago Pygmy Chameleon (Rhampholeon bruessoworum)

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This story first appeared on Mongabay

South Africa Today – Environment



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