Tree lizards to help solve evolutionary conundrum

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The Independent Online
NINE West Indian tree lizards which could help to solve the scientific puzzle as to the speed of evolution have been brought to England, writes Nick Walker.

The three different species of lizard - anolis luciae, from St Lucia, anolis extremis, from Barbados, and anolis wattsi from Antigua - will be put together in controlled conditions so that their behaviour can be studied.

St Lucia has recently been colonised by the tree lizards from Barbados and Antigua. The invaders, thought to have been introduced to the Caribbean islands on plants imported for the botanical gardens, compete with the unique native St Lucian species just as in Britain red squirrels competed with and in some areas have been replaced by the greys.

Louis Lawler, a science student, who led an expedition from the University of East London to the Caribbean, said: 'We were surprised how fast the introduced lizards are spreading: the native St Lucian species has now disappeared from the capital, Castries, where it was reported common just a few years ago.'

Scientists at the university hope to find funds to research the genetic development of the different species, and find out how fast each species has evolved.

(Photograph omitted)