Lilliputian Lizard

By Lauren Gravitz|Friday, March 01, 2002

On the isle of Beata off the coast of the Dominican Republic, biologists have uncovered the tiniest reptile—a gecko, at right, whose scientific name, Sphaerodactylus ariasae, is longer than the creature itself.

Photograph courtesy of S. Blair Hedges/PSU
Evolutionary biologist Blair Hedges of Pennsylvania State University and a colleague have found eight of the critters so far. The females can lay only one egg at a time; if their eggs were any smaller, the offspring would likely be too tiny to survive. But these marvels may not be around much longer anyway. Although Beata is part of a nature preserve known as the Jaragua National Park, Hedges says the conservation laws don't provide much protection. "People aren't supposed to cut down the trees, but they do because there's no one to stop them," he says. "Ultimately, I think this lizard's going to go the way of the dodo."

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