Past Meeting, Oct 2020: Walter Meshaka Jr. – Exotic Amphibians and Reptiles of the United States

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October 18, 2020 by lancasterherp

The Lancaster Herpetological Society (LHS) wants to thank everyone who attended October’s digital meeting on Friday!

We were delighted to have Walter E. Meshaka Jr. speak to us about exotic reptiles and amphibians in the United States. An exotic species is one that humans introduced into an ecosystem in which it did not evolve, either intentionally or unintentionally. If the species was introduced to the United States by some natural means, like being blown there by a hurricane, it is not considered an exotic. These exotic species often outcompete native species, leading to their decline. There are 104 (identified) exotic herpetological species in the United States, with nearly 60% of the species being lizards. Of these exotic species, 60 are present in Florida and 30 in Hawaii (with 15 species shared between the two states). The Argentine Tegu, native to eastern and central South America, is an example of an exotic reptile in Florida. They may have been introduced to Florida by the pet trade, but now they are now abundant and thriving. There are many aspects that contribute to introduced species successfully colonizing a new ecosystem, including high fecundity (capable of producing many offspring), high vagility (able to spread through an environment), having a broad diet, and having few competitors. All of these things apply to the Argentine Tegu (what is going to eat a giant lizard in the United States?!).

The Argentine Tegu is an exotic reptile species in Florida.

What can we all do about exotic species here in the United States? For one thing, we need to strive to protect and maintain the natural communities around where we live. If we can’t protect our own home communities, how can we protect rainforests? Ecological history of the United States is something that should be included in public education, to give a sense of where we have come and to inform people about problems they might not even know exist. Helping to fund and finance life history studies of native and exotic species can provide invaluable information for managing the environment.

It was a pleasure to have a herpetology expert like Walter Meshaka Jr. speak with us at the Lancaster Herpetology Society. Thanks again for all who attended the meeting. Stay tuned for more information about next month’s meeting of the Lancaster Herpetological Society, which will be on November 20th at 7pm EST. It will likely be another digital meeting.

-Gregory Wier


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