Giant ameiva

Ameiva ameiva

SUBFAMILY

Teiinae

TAXONOMY

Ameiva ameiva Linnaeus, 1758, America, restricted by Hoog-moed, 1973, to the confluence of the Cottica River and the Perica Creek, Suriname.

OTHER COMMON NAMES None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The largest males reach snout-vent lengths of nearly 7.87 in (200 mm), with the tail about twice body length. Males are larger than females with enlarged jaw musculature. The head is pyramid-shaped with a blunt snout. The tympana are well developed. The eyes are fully developed with functional eyelids. The limbs are fully developed with five fingers and toes with claws. As in all teiids, the teeth are pleurodont, being attached to the inner side of the jaw. The tongue is forked and covered with scale-like papillae except for the smooth tips. Well-developed femoral pores that produce a waxy secretion are present on the underside of the hind limbs. Head scales are large and smooth. Dorsal scales are small and granular. The ventral scales are plate-like, smooth, and rectangular. Scales around the tail are rectangular and mostly keeled except near where

the tail joins the body. Color pattern varies across the geographic range of this species and also with age. Juveniles are mostly brown, sometimes with the head and anterior part of the back green, with a dark strip on each side running from the eye down the flanks to the hind limbs. Larger individuals may be completely green dorsally, and the dark strip is less prevalent in larger individuals. Adults have a brown reticulated pattern anteriorly, with green back, hind limbs, and tail. The underside of the head, chest, and forelimbs are white. The belly can be pale turquoise and the underside of the tail bright turquoise.

DISTRIBUTION

Central and South America.

HABITAT

Wet and dry forests, primary and secondary forests.

BEHAVIOR

These are diurnal lizards with high operating temperatures around 98.6°F (37°C). Giant ameivas live in burrows they excavate themselves. Males are larger than females and compete for mates. These active lizards bask in the morning to reach preferred operating temperature and embark on long foraging expeditions seeking patchily distributed prey that they find by using a combination of visual and olfactory cues.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Giant ameivas are active, widely foraging lizards that are opportunistic feeders on insects, fallen fruits, and small vertebrates.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

This species is oviparous, laying eggs in soft soil, leaf litter, or rotting logs.

CONSERVATION STATUS

The giant ameiva is common throughout its range in open areas in wet or dry forests. Threats include habitat destruction and alteration.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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