US Navy credited with recovery of island night lizards

April 2, 2014

In what is being hailed as an environmental victory for the U.S. Navy, the island night lizard has been taken off the list of federally endangered species.

An estimated 21.3 million night occupy 21-mile-long San Clemente Island off the coast of Southern California, one of the highest densities of any lizard on earth, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week.

The population number is especially significant because the 57-square-mile volcanic isle, about 75 miles northwest of San Diego, hosts the only ship-to-shore bombardment training range in the United States.

The lizard's recovery on San Clemente and two other Channel Islands - San Nicholas and Santa Barbara - was credited to habitat conservation and restoration efforts by the U.S. Navy and the National Park Service.

"The incredibly high numbers of lizards on San Clemente Island," Christopher Sund, commanding officer of Naval Base Coronado, said, "shows that unique island species can thrive alongside high-tempo Navy operations through protective management."

The lizard that scientists know as Xantusia riversiana was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1977 due to severe habitat loss caused by ranching, grazing and the introduction of non-native goats, pigs and rabbits, which browsed native plants to oblivion and trampled the landscape.

The islands' unique assemblage of flora and fauna, including night lizards, has been on the rebound since the goats, pigs and rabbits were removed in the mid-1990s. Also important has been cultivation of native vegetation on the islands.

Much larger than its mainland cousins - up to 8 inches long compared with 2-inch lizards in the California desert - the lizard with bright stripes and mottled green scales spends its entire life within a few yards of ground and bears its young live, as mammals do.

Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity said: "It's amazing that the Navy was able to save this precious creature from extinction, and still be able to carry out its mission."

Explore further: Global Survey of Lizards Reveals Greater Abundance of Animals on Islands Than on Mainland Ecosystems

Related Stories

Living on islands makes animals tamer

January 10, 2014

( —Most of us have seen pictures and probably YouTube videos of "tame" animals on the Galapagos Islands, the biological paradise that was Charles Darwin's major source of inspiration as he observed nature and gradually ...

Personality and sex explain learning ability in a lizard

March 12, 2014

( —Researchers have discovered that the sex and personality of lizards can influence their learning ability, with males faring better than females in spatial learning, and bold or conversely shy personalities faring ...

Sobering update on Jamaica's largest vertebrate

April 1, 2014

In 1990, the Jamaican iguana was removed from the list of extinct species when a small population was re-discovered on the island. Unfortunately, the species continues to be critically endangered, with only a single location ...

Recommended for you

New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

November 25, 2015

Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

How cells in the developing ear 'practice' hearing

November 25, 2015

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular ...

How cells 'climb' to build fruit fly tracheas

November 25, 2015

Fruit fly windpipes are much more like human blood vessels than the entryway to human lungs. To create that intricate network, fly embryonic cells must sprout "fingers" and crawl into place. Now researchers at The Johns Hopkins ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.