The world´s highest-altitude reptile spotted in Peru

Credit: The lizard Liolaemus tacnae (pictured) is native to the high Andes of Peru, where it’s recently been spotted setting a world altitude record for reptiles.  AARÓN J. QUIROZ

Zoologist José Cerdeña and his colleagues  spotted a lizard at Chachani mountain (6,054 m), located 20 km north of Arequipa in south-western Peru. The lizard (Liolaemus tacnae) was spotted as high as 5,400 meters in elevation, exposed to frigid temperatures, intense ultraviolet radiation and low oxygen, researchers report February 15 in Herpetozoa.   

Based on the pattern, colouration and size (approx. 11 cm total length) of the observed animals, we consider them to belong to the alticolor-bibronii group of the genus Liolaemus. We provisionally assign this population to Liolaemus aff. tacnae, because of its similarity to the L. tacnae which inhabits Chiguata (4,000 m elevation), approx. 30 km SE of Chachani mountain

Life at high altitudes is particularly challenging for ectothermic animals like reptiles and involves the evolution of specialised adaptations to deal with low temperatures, hypoxia and intense UV radiation. As a result, only very few reptile taxa are able to survive above 5,000 m elevation and herpetological observations from these altitudes are exceedingly rare.

Source:  Cerdeña.  Herpetozoa. , 2021. doi: 10.3897/herpetozoa.34.61393.

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