Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My first encounter with a Canarian dinosaur

As soon as one starts travelling around Tenerife one starts becoming aware of a particular species of reptile populating much of its landscapes. The first things that struck me about this animal are its fairly large size (about 30cm in males) and its bold colouration, which are features by all means not unheard of in lizards (see here for an extinct Maltese giant lizard); however, being more accustomed to the smaller and much more agile Maltese Podarcis, I was surprised.

The lizards are also fearless and will venture very close to their human observers, especially if food is involved. They are endemic to Tenerife and belong to the species Gallotia galloti Oudart, 1839, which has differentiated into four subspecies around the same island and its neighbours. The ones in the following pictures are from the northern population of Gallotia galloti eisentrauti Bischoff, 1982 in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife.

It can be seen here that males are characterized by the larger size and a neon-blue throat, together with several other markings not found in females, which on the other hand are smaller and covered in brown patterns.

male specimen of Gallotia galloti eisentrauti Bischoff, 1982 basking in the sun

male Gallotia galloti eisentrauti Bischoff, 1982

female Gallotia galloti eisentrauti Bischoff, 1982 on the alert

The other subspecies are Gallotia galloti galloti (Oudart, 1839) from southern Tenerife, Gallotia galloti insulanagae Martin, 1985, from the isolated and inaccessible island northeast of Tenerife (Roque de Fuera de Anaga), and Gallotia galloti palmae (Boettger & Müller, 1914) from the island of La Palma.

The lizards are also an icon of the Guanche (aboriginal/ pre-Hispanic) culture on Tenerife, with several depictions and rock carvings still existing and on show in museums. They also ensure a steady income from tourists, their (highly non-realistic) outlines being featured on everything from ashtrays to t-shirts (though I must admit I had to buy one of the latter).

1 comment:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...