The curly-tailed lizards belong to the family Leiocephalidae. One of the defining features of these lizards is that their tail often curls over. They were previously regarded as members of subfamily Leiocephalinae within the family Tropiduridae. There are presently 29 known species, all in the genus Leiocephalus.
Frost & Etheridge, 1989
The curly-tailed lizards are native to the West Indies, with the extant (living) species in the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and nearby small islands. Additionally, Leiocephalus carinatus and Leiocephalus schreibersii have been introduced to Florida.
The curly-tailed lizards vary in size depending on species, but typically are approximately 9 cm (3.5 in) in snout-to-vent length. These lizards have no femoral pores, pterygoid teeth, or palatine teeth. Additionally, these lizards are observed to have overlapping scales.
As suggested by their name, most species of this family often lift their tail and curl it. This is done both when a potential predator is present and when not present, although in some curly-tailed lizard species it increases when one is present. It shows the fitness of the lizard to a would-be predator and—in the case of an attack—draws attention to the tail, which increases the lizard's chance of escaping. Although it has been suggested that it also functions as a territorial display, studies have been unable to find support for this, as the tail curling does not change when another member of the same species is present.
The conservation status of the species in this family varies greatly. Several species, for example Leiocephalus carinatus, are common and widespread. Others are rare and highly threatened, especially those restricted to a single small island or a single location on a larger island, like the critically endangered Leiocephalus (barahonensis) altavelensis from Alto Velo Island and critically endangered Leiocephalus onaneyi from Guantánamo Province in Cuba. Primary threats to their survival are habitat loss (for example, expanding agriculture, charcoal production and grazing goats) and introduced predators (for example, small Indian mongoose). Several species are already extinct. Some of these are only known from fossil or subfossil remains and became extinct in the Pleistocene or pre-Columbian era, but others survived into recent history. Three species, Leiocephalus endomychus, Leiocephalus pratensis and Leiocephalus rhutidira, have not been seen since the 1960s and 1970s and are recognized as critically endangered, possibly extinct, by the IUCN. They are among the "most wanted" EDGE species.
Newly discovered speciesEdit
Lizards of this family are diurnal and mostly inhabit fairly open habitats in a generally well-studied part of the world. Consequently, the majority of the species and subspecies already were scientifically described several decades ago. In 2016, the first new curly-tailed lizard since the early 1980s was described. The species was found in the coastal dunes of Bahía de las Calderas in the southwestern Dominican Republic. This species differs from the rest within Leiocephalidae in that its bony parietal table is U-shaped versus V-shaped, the males have 3-4 enlarged post-postcloacal scales versus 2, and there are specific sexual dimorphism trails.
Species and subspeciesEdit
- Leiocephalus barahonensis Schmidt, 1921 – orange-bellied curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus barahonensis altavelensis Noble & Hassler, 1933 – Alto Velo curly-tailed lizard (likely better regarded as a separate species)
- Leiocephalus barahoensis aureus Cochran, 1934
- Leiocephalus barahonensis barahonensis Schmidt, 1921
- Leiocephalus barahoensis beatanus Noble, 1923
- Leiocephalus barahoensis oxygaster A. Schwartz, 1967
- Leiocephalus carinatus Gray, 1827 – Cuban curly-tailed lizard, northern curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus carinatus aquarius A. Schwartz & Ogren, 1956
- Leiocephalus carinatus armouri Barbour & Shreve, 1935 – Little Bahama curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus carinatus carinatus Gray, 1827
- Leiocephalus carinatus cayensis A. Schwartz, 1959
- Leiocephalus carinatus coryi Schmidt, 1936 – saw-scaled curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus carinatus granti Rabb, 1957 – Cayman Brac curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus carinatus hodsoni Schmidt, 1936
- Leiocephalus carinatus labrossytus A. Schwartz, 1959
- Leiocephalus carinatus microcyon A. Schwartz, 1959
- Leiocephalus carinatus mogotensis A. Schwartz, 1959
- Leiocephalus carinatus virescens Stejneger, 1901
- Leiocephalus carinatus zayasi A. Schwartz, 1959
- Leiocephalus cubensis (Gray, 1840) – Cuban brown curly-tailed lizard
- † Leiocephalus cuneus Etheridge, 1964 – Antiguan curly-tailed lizard (extinct, Pre-Columbian era, but might have survived into the 17th century)
- Leiocephalus endomychus A. Schwartz, 1967 – Hinche curly-tailed lizard (extinct?, last seen in 1976)
- † Leiocephalus eremitus (Cope, 1868) – Navassa curly-tailed lizard (extinct, 19th century)
- † Leiocephalus etheridgei Pregill, 1981 – Etheridge's curly-tailed lizard (extinct, Late Pleistocene)
- Leiocephalus greenwayi Barbour & Shreve, 1935 – East Plana curly-tailed lizard
- † Leiocephalus herminieri (A.M.C. Duméril & Bibron, 1837) – Martinique curly-tailed lizard (extinct, 19th century)
- Leiocephalus inaguae Cochran, 1931 – Inagua curly-tailed lizard
- † Leiocephalus jamaicensis Etheridge, 1966 – Jamaican curly-tailed lizard (extinct, Pleistocene or Holocene)
- Leiocephalus loxogrammus (Cope, 1887) – San Salvador curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus lunatus Cochran, 1934 – Santo Domingo curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus macropus (Cope, 1863) – Cuban side-blotched curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus macropus aegialus A. Schwartz & Garrido, 1967
- Leiocephalus macropus asbolomus A. Schwartz & Garrido, 1967
- Leiocephalus macropus felinoi Garrido, 1979
- Leiocephalus macropus hoplites Zug, 1959
- Leiocephalus macropus hyacinthurus Zug, 1959
- Leiocephalus macropus immaculatus Hardy, 1958
- Leiocephalus macropus koopmani Zug, 1959
- Leiocephalus macropus lenticulatus Garrido, 1973
- Leiocephalus macropus macropus (Cope, 1863)
- Leiocephalus macropus phylax A. Schwartz & Garrido, 1967
- Leiocephalus macropus torrei Garrido, 1979
- Leiocephalus melanochlorus (Cope, 1863) – Tiburon curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus onaneyi Garrido, 1973 – Guantanamo striped curly-tailed lizard
- † Leiocephalus partidus Pregill, 1981 (extinct, Pleistocene or Holocene)
- Leiocephalus personatus (Cope, 1863) – Hispaniolan masked curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus pratensis (Cochran, 1928) – Haitian striped curly-tailed lizard (extinct?, last seen in 1966)
- Leiocephalus psammodromus Barbour, 1920 – Turks and Caicos curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus psammodromus aphretor A. Schwartz, 1967
- Leiocephalus psammodromus apocrinus A. Schwartz, 1967
- Leiocephalus psammodromus cacodoxus A. Schwartz, 1967
- Leiocephalus psammodromus hyphantus A. Schwartz, 1967
- Leiocephalus psammodromus mounax A. Schwartz, 1967
- Leiocephalus psammodromus psammodromus Barbour, 1920
- Leiocephalus punctatus Cochran, 1931 – Crooked Acklins curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus raviceps (Cope, 1863) – pallid curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus rhutidira A. Schwartz, 1979 – black-throated curly-tailed lizard (extinct?, last seen in 1978)
- Leiocephalus schreibersii (Gravenhorst, 1838) – red-sided curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus semilineatus Dunn, 1920 – pale-bellied curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus sixtoi Kohler, Bobadilla, & Hedges, 2016
- Leiocephalus stictigaster A. Schwartz, 1959 – Cuban striped curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus stictigaster astictus A. Schwartz, 1959
- Leiocephalus stictigaster celeustes A. Schwartz & Garrido, 1968
- Leiocephalus stictigaster exotheotus A. Schwartz, 1959
- Leiocephalus stictigaster gibarensis A. Schwartz & Garrido, 1968
- Leiocephalus stictigaster lipomator A. Schwartz & Garrido, 1968
- Leiocephalus stictigaster lucianus A. Schwartz, 1960
- Leiocephalus stictigaster naranjoi A. Schwartz & Garrido, 1968
- Leiocephalus stictigaster ophiplacodes A. Schwartz, 1964
- Leiocephalus stictigaster parasphex A. Schwartz, 1964
- Leiocephalus stictigaster septentrionalis Garrido, 1975
- Leiocephalus stictigaster sierrae A. Schwartz, 1959
- Leiocephalus stictigaster stictigaster A. Schwartz, 1959
- Leiocephalus varius Garman, 1887 – Grand Cayman curly-tailed lizard
- Leiocephalus vinculum Cochran, 1928 – Cochran's curlytail lizard
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