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Article
Published: 2021-02-15

Historical and fossil evidence of an extinct endemic species of Leiocephalus (Squamata: Leiocephalidae) from the Guadeloupe Islands

PACEA—UMR CNRS 5199, Université de Bordeaux, 33 615 Pessac, France. Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Department of Archaeology, Kahlaische Straẞe 10, 07745 Jena, Germany.
Muséum de Bordeaux—sciences et nature, 5 Place Bardineau, Bordeaux 33 000, France.
PACEA—UMR CNRS 5199, Université de Bordeaux, 33 615 Pessac, France.
Reptilia Curlytail lizard Extinction Human Impact Lesser Antilles Osteology

Abstract

Documenting recent extinction events against the backdrop of increasing human-induced environmental pressure is complicated by the lack of historical and subfossil evidence for most parts of the world. This paucity of data renders it particularly difficult to evaluate the human impact on fragile environments, such as small islands, that may have been heavily altered by historical human exploitation. Here we describe a new species of an extinct Leiocephalus lizard from Guadeloupe, Leiocephalus roquetus sp. nov. based on recent discoveries of both a previously undocumented historically taxidermy specimen and of a large assemblage of subfossil bone remains from La Désirade Island. This new species presents a primitive morphology compared to all extant species of its genus and provides evidence for the past existence of a Lesser Antillean clade of Leiocephalus lizards that was completely wiped out in the centuries following the European colonization of these islands. Our study demonstrates how paleontological approaches can help to better understand the history of human environmental impact as well as the degree of degradation of modern ecosystems.

 

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