Cuvier’s Oplure …

The Anjajavy webpage burbles thus …

The forest sheltering rosewoods and baobabs is home to many animal species such as the famous Verreau lemur (Coquerel’s Sifaka), birds of paradise, the chameleon, the Cuvier oplure (a type of iguana)…

The range of Verraux’s Sifaka brings it nowhere near Anjajvy. It is reasonable to suppose that Coquerel’s Sifaka was inserted as a correction. The nearest bird of paradise is on an entirely different island – New Guinea, but considerable licence has to be allowed when dealing with common names. But what to make of the Cuvier Oplure? A google search turned up 358 results most of which bore a striking similarity to each other, this creature has an entirely new mode of reproduction, not sexual, not parthenogenesis but by an asexual means known as cut and paste.

In Madagascar Wildlife a Visitors Guide from Bradt Guides we find that “The presence of iguanids (family Iguanidae) is unexpected as the stronghold of the group is Central and South America“. There are no iguanas in Africa, nor have any fossils turned up there. The Madagascan representatives, seven species in two genera, were included in the Iguanidae on morphological grounds. DNA sequencing has opened up a whole new approach to working out patterns of descent and relationship and, as a result, taxonomy is undergoing considerable revision. The Madagascans now get a family of their own, the Opluridae. The genetic distance between them and the Iguanidae indicates that they shared a common ancestor well before the break up of Gondwana. It is likely that they rafted to their present position on Madagascar the Ark rather than by swimming.

Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) was to all intents and purposes the founder of modern vertebrate paleontology, the guy who demonstrated the reality of extinction by the careful comparison of fossil forms with modern animals and was the first to describe a number of Iguanid taxa. He thoroughly deserves to be remembered in the name of a reptile and so I present to you Cuvier’s Oplure, Oplurus cuvieri

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Or in English English (and as we have seen, not quite accurately) the Black-collared Iguana. It may be found on the ground or climbing trees and is common around Anjajavy.

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