Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

ECOVIEWS: Europe-Based Wall Lizards Are Here to Stay

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

ECOVIEWS: Europe-Based Wall Lizards Are Here to Stay

Article excerpt

Milan, Italy, and Cincinnati, Ohio, are seldom mentioned in the same sentence. One reason to do so is that both are home to a reptile known as the common wall lizard. In books about U.S. lizards, the wall lizard has become a standard entry because it's become naturalized, meaning it is a non-native species that is reproducing successfully and maintaining sustainable population levels.

Wall lizards arrived in North America more than 60 years ago. They thrive on outdoor walls of brick or concrete with plenty of crevices, presumably a preadaptation from living in rocky habitats of cliffs and boulders in their native range of southern Europe. They are handsome creatures, reaching lengths of more than 9 inches from nose to tail. Like many birds, the males become more brightly colored during the mating season, displaying a row of bright blue spots down their sides.

Cincinnati's local habitat is perfect for the wall lizards -- so is the climate. Milan and Cincinnati could use the same weather map much of the year as daily and seasonal temperatures, rainfall and humidity are similar. When wall lizards arrived in Cincinnati, they may not even have known they had left Italy. As often happens with invasive species, they could have become exceedingly unpopular with local residents. But according to an upcoming publication by Jeff Davis, wall lizards "are beloved creatures, and [the residents] enjoy seeing them scurry about their landscape."

Jeff is an Ohio herpetologist who has done more research and is more knowledgeable about the species than anyone else I know.

Recently, I talked with Jeff about wall lizards. The most plausible story of how a European lizard made its way to Ohio involves a boy named George Rau, who returned home to Cincinnati from a vacation in northern Italy in the early 1950s. Like many another youngster of that era, George collected critters. While he was on vacation in Milan, he caught some lizards that were common in the area. Turns out he brought 10 of them home with him. He released them in his Cincinnati neighborhood, which proved ideal habitat because of the stacked rocks and brick retaining walls in the hilly residential areas. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.