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New endemic reptile species discovered

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Another endemic reptile species has been added to the island’s biodiversity, the University of Cyprus (UCy) announced Monday.

According to the UCy, the lizard known as ‘kοurkoutas’ corresponds to a distinct species (Laudakia cypriaca), found only in Cyprus.

It now belongs to the country’s important biodiversity with the Cypriot snake (Hierophis cypriensis) and the Troodos lizard (Phoenicolacerta troodica).

These lizards were thought to correspond to a species with wider distribution throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.

However, the study of the genetic material (DNA), which was carried out at the university’s Laboratory of Ecology and Biodiversity, in collaboration with researchers from Greece, Austria, Germany and Turkey, showed the Cyprus lizard corresponds to a distinct species.

It revealed the existence of two other species, with Laudakia vulgaris spreading to neighbouring countries of the Near East (Syria, Jordan, Israel and Egypt) and Laudakia stellio limited to Greece and Turkey.

The study results were published in the distinguished scientific Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society and provided important data on the evolution of these animals in the eastern Mediterranean.

This included estimating the periods during which each of their different lineages evolved.

It appears that kourkoutas was diversified in Cyprus about 2.5 million years ago at the beginning of the “Ice Age”, which brought the island’s coasts closer to Syria and Israel.