Friday, July 10, 2009

The Lazarus lizard by any other name…

...is the European Common Wall Lizard!
So what are they doing roaming free at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens?


The Lazarus lizard on a wall at the Cincinnati Zoo. 
I’d heard about the non-native lizards for years, 
but until Wednesday at the zoo, I’d never seen one. 


In many of the neighborhoods on the eastern side of Cincinnati, Ohio, these cuties are everywhere. You can find them lazing in the sun on any of the many beautiful stone walls scattered throughout gardens and along streets. These quick-moving fellows are descendents of ten lizards smuggled in from Milan, Italy in 1951 or 1952 in the socks of a small boy who couldn’t bear to leave his new little friends behind. How was he to know his little stowaways would go on to populate an entire part of the city and make his already famous family’s name (Lazarus Department Store) even more so as a moniker for the Cincinnati variety of the European Common Wall Lizard (podarcis muralis)?


Matty and I watched this guy soaking up the sun 
on a wall outside the education center. We saw 
many more on walls throughout the park. 



Who would have guessed the weather and environment 
in Milan, Italy would match Cincinnati, Ohio's perfectly, 
allowing this little lizard to be the only non-native 
lizard to thrive in the midwest.

The Lazarus lizard hasn’t made it out to Mason, but it might some day. Until then, my craggy rock walls perfect for sunbathing will have to remain home to insects and the occasional vole. The lizards are on the move, however, having made it into Indiana and gaining a foothold in the Falls of the Ohio park (although Indiana has worked hard to eradicate them). Click here for details. Although they have not made it into the California Woods Nature Preserve on the eastern edge of the city (home to three native lizard species), they have been spotted just a couple hundred yards away. Click here to read about Stanley Hedeen, a retired biology professor from Xavier University who has been tracking the lizards for more than 30 years and is waiting to see what will happen when the species meet.  

30 comments:

Sue said...

I'm not a reptile person myself, but gotta admit, he's kinda cute. Just keep em down there, okay?
:D

Elaine said...

I am not a reptile person either, but that's one of the advantages of living in Fairbanks--no snakes or lizards unless they're somebody's pets. If they get loose here they aren't going to make it through the winter. It's interesting though how many plants and animals have been transplanted to such distant places from their native habitat, often to the detriment of the native species. I just looked at my word verification and it's lizea. Hmmmm......

Jayne said...

Interesting history of their coming to be here. I like seeing the little skinks around here.

Kelly said...

Sue...other than at the zoo on Wednesday, I've never seen a lizard around here. Lizards always seem tropical to me.

Elaine...at 47 below, I wouldn't think anything would make it! We go well below zero in the winter, but they lizards escape into the cracks of the walls and burrow in deep for protection, but I doubt they could hide from Alaska's 47 below!

Jayne...We have 2 native skinks but they are forest dwellers. You don't see them in the suburbs...

Roy said...

An object lesson on why our non-native species laws are so tough, and so important. Before they were passed, we got things like the European Wall Lizard, and Starlings, and Asian Bittersweet, and Kudzu, and Phragmites... And then there's poor Australia and the Jackrabbits. Brining home a plant or animal that doesn't live where you are is never a good idea, no matter how cute or pretty the critter or flower might be.

Uncommon Depth said...

He's a cute looking fellow, although I don't think I'd notice the difference between it and the other native lizards.

Kelly said...

Roy...so true. They are worried he will eventually hit the coast, eradicating native species as he goes.

Uncommon....he seems out of place here...he should be where it's warmer it seems!

NCmountainwoman said...

Interesting. I'll have to look him up and find out why he is called the Lazarus lizard. He must have more than one life.

Abe Lincoln said...

Lizards by the name often gives me chills and I don't know why. It isn't like snakes that bit me when I was about three. I don't know why I dislike lizards.

Kelly said...

Carolyn...he's called the Lazarus lizard because the little boy that brought him over was part of the Lazarus family (from the department store). The street he released them on became known as Lizard Hill.

Kelly said...

Abe....maybe because we don't have that many around here? He's the first I've seen, but I like them! They are fun to watch, and their faces are cute. I'm not going to pick one up, however! :-)

JRandSue said...

Hi Kelly.
Great Iizard shot.
In cornwall there's a place named The Lizard which is at the very tip of Cornwall.UK
John

E said...

Very good, Kelita, love all the photos and the interesting tales.
See you soon. :)

Warren Baker said...

Now you've got me curious ! I wanna know what will happen when they meet!

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Kelly.
You just never know what is going to arrive in any area and make it it's home.At Sheerness docks in Kent,England, there is a nocturnal Scorpion living in the craggy walls. It originally came over a few on a cargo ship a few hundred years ago and now there are about 300-400 living there.It is about 2 inches long, and their sting is about as potent as a wasp.

Heather said...

Most interesting. We don't have any lizards around our place (not enough sun, I suppose).

holdingmoments said...

He can come live with me; I think he's great. :)

Steve said...

Excellent Lizard shots Kelly, and a nice bit of history as well.

Adrienne in Ohio said...

Cute little guy with interesting background history. :) Are biologists concerned about them competing with native lizards for resources?

Kelly said...

John...cool. Do you have these common wall lizards there? Are they in England at all?

Enita....thank you! Had a great time today!

Warren...the herpetologist are very curious too. They are more aggressive than native species, but their preferred environment is a little different than the two varieties of skinks in the nature preserve here.

Ken...yikes. Scorpions are scary...even if they have the sting of a wasp!

Heather....probably have the skinks, which are forest dwellers. The wall lizards definitely prefer rock walls and outcroppings with a southern exposure.

Keith....I think he's cute too. He's lived here so long, he's considered permanent now!

Steve...thanks. They are quick moving. I would have liked to have gotten a few other poses!

Adrienne....yes, they definitely are. The biologists and herpetologists are watching very carefully. In Indiana, they removed them because they already were having an affect on the indigenous species...but they think they are here to stay.

Montanagirl said...

I too, am not a reptile person, but how interesting! The closest I want to come to one of them is the little green fellow in the Geico commercials! Good photos though.

Kelly said...

Mona...haha! you made me chuckle! :-)

Ginnymo said...

That little boy must have smuggled a male and a female in?? Ha! Ha! It's a cute lizard though! I've only seen lizards in the pet shops. Almost bought myself one years ago..They fascinated me and still do. I wouldn't have thought there would be lizards in Ohio either. Neat story Kelly!! Neat photos too!!

Mary said...

What a neat story and a neat lizard, too!

Kelly said...

Ginny and Mary....thank you! It was so shocking to finally see this little lizard. I think of them only in warm tropical climates!

Abe Lincoln said...

I did put up a photo of a couple of old primitive style carvings on Abe Lincoln Blogs.

54th Wedding Anniversary Today

ShySongbird said...

He's gorgeous, I would love one in my garden! The fears about it eradicating the native species remind me of how the Grey Squirrel, which I believe originally came from the USA ;), has had such a terrible effect on our own Red Squirrel, the greys carry a virus which devastates the reds, although with careful work they have been re-introduced in some areas of the UK.

P.S. I have left a late comment on your previous post too :)

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi There, We're home after a wonderful weekend in the gorgeous North Carolina mountains. I'll post in the morning.

I have never seen the Lazarus Lizard before. Very interesting post, Kel.

Hope you had a great weekend.
Hugs,
Betsy

Linda said...

Your article was very helpful - my husband just brought home a lizard captured in his office building near the Precinct that looks like it might be this wall lizard.

Any suggestions for how to care for it - what bugs it eats (the centipede, beetle, and dead cricket my boys found for it seem a bit big for it. We have a long aquarium tank to house it in right now.

I'm guessing if/when the care for it slacks off, any releasing of it should happen outside my husband's office building so we're not expanding its region.

Kelly said...

Hi Linda!
If he caught it near the Precinct it could definitely be a Lazarus Lizard. Email me, and I'll send you more info.
Thanks! Kelly