Research Matters

Research Matters

New Lizard


KU graduate student Jesse Grismer is the first to describe a species of lizard that was previously unknown to scientists. Strangely, it was found on the menu of a restaurant in a remote province of southern Vietnam.

Episode #83



2 minutes (2.8 MB) | Download mp3

Transcript


The exciting scientific discovery was fried and served with tomato and lettuce on the side. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

KU graduate student Jesse Grismer is the first to describe a species of lizard that was previously unknown to scientists. Strangely, it was found on the menu of a restaurant in a remote province of southern Vietnam.

The find was made thanks to family friend Ngo Van Tri.

Grismer: He's a real go-getter. He does all this stuff on his own dime. He knew that I was working on Leiolepis for my master's research. And he also knew that my father and I had this ongoing interest Leiolepis for a long time. He took it upon himself to go to southern Vietnam. He went down there and collected a large series of these things, and sent me tissues for DNA analysis and also pictures of the specimens. They looked just liked the females of an already known species that existed there.

But Grismer found it odd that all of the specimens sent by Tri were female. After closely examining the lizards, Grismer, helped by his herpetologist father, determined that the lizards being served a la carte were possibly an asexual species that was new to science. The Grismers soon flew to Vietnam and trekked to the restaurant.

Grismer: We went back to this restaurant owner where Tri had originally saw them. And the guy was like, "he's got like 60 of them waiting for you guys." And so we get there, and you know, I can't blame him, he had a bunch customers come in was like too bad and cooked them up and sold them. We were like oh well, we appreciate the honesty. But he pointed out where to go, and so were able to find some other local people and they showed us how to catch them and that was how we finally got them.

After collecting other specimens locally, the scientists back in the US were able to confirm that the lizards were not yet known to science.

"When we got back to the lab, we were able to lay out all the other known asexuals, including this new one, and then laid out a set of morphological characteristics, then created a key to diagnose if from other populations. It turns out that there are some really unique characteristics that separated this from all the other asexuals. On top of that, it's geographically isolated. It's the only asexual species in southern Vietnam."

For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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