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Lizard found in Cyprus revealed as unique species

κουρκουτάς

A small lizard found on the island was on Monday announced as unique to Cyprus by researchers at the University of Cyprus.

The lizard known as ‘kοurkoutas’ in Cyprus is a distinct species (Laudakia cypriaca), which is found only on the island, and which now belongs to the island’s unique biodiversity along with the Cypriot snake (Hierophis cypriensis) and the Troodos lizard (Phoenicolacerta troodica).

The lizard was thought to correspond to a species with a wide distribution throughout the eastern Mediterranean region.

However, according to UCy, study of the reptile’s DNA, which was carried out at the Laboratory of Ecology and Biodiversity of the Department of Biological Sciences at the university, in collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Crete of the University of Crete, along with researchers from Austria, Germany and Turkey, showed that the Cyprus lizard corresponds to a distinct species.

The study also revealed the existence of two other species, the first (Laudakia vulgaris) spreading to Syria, Jordan, Israel and Egypt, and the second (Laudakia stellio) limited to Greece and Turkey.

Its results were published in the prestigious Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, providing important data on the evolution of the lizards in the eastern Mediterranean region, such as the estimation of the time periods during which each of their different lineages evolved.

According to researchers, the “kourkoutas” completed its evolution process in Cyprus about 2.5 million years ago at the beginning of the Ice Age, which brought the coasts of Cyprus closer to those of Syria and Israel.

The study was led by Dr Emmanuela Karameta, postdoctoral researcher at the department of biology of the University of Crete.

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