Invasive Lizards Immune to Cold Threatening Florida Alligator and Turtle Populations
Wikipedia Commons An Argentine Black and White Tegu Lizard
Meet the newest threat to Florida's face. The Argentine Black and White Tegu Lizard -- native to Argentina and parts of South America -- was found in Florida first back in the early 2000s.
Thanks to an ability to withstand cold and reproduce rapidly, the lizards aren't going away -- the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says there's been almost 700 reported cases of the animal in Miami alone since its first sighting. Still, the most haunting detail going forward comes via a recent study conducted by the University of Florida alongside the U.S. Geological Survey and the FWC.
The lizards are a threat to alligators, turtles and and a number of other small mammals, according to Scientific American.
University of Florida scientists placed cameras in the Everglades during Spring and Summer of 2013. The video captured the four-foot long lizards taking two eegs per day from alligator nests until, eventually, there remained no eggs.
Frank Mazzotti, the lead author of the study and a science professor at UF says the future of many animal populations could be in jeopardy thanks to the creature that so far has already been found in Miami-Dade, Polk and Hillsborough County, as well one case of a Tegu survivng a winter in Panama City.
"They have the potential to make a serious ecological impact based on what they eat and their tolerance of cold weather," Mazzotti told the Miami Herald. "The situation with the invasive species is such that we don't really have the option of waiting to see whether the threats are going to materialize," Mazzotti said. "If we wait, it may be too late."
Besides feasting on eggs, the study found that Tegus will eat small mammals, if need be. The FWC is asking Florida residents to report any sightings of the tegus to the exotic species hotline at 888-483-4861.