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Sdlizard

A large monitor lizard, a characteristic member of Spec's fauna.

INTRODUCTION

This diverse, speciose group – no less than 8000 species in our timeline, maybe a hundred more in Spec – includes the tuataras, "lizards" (geckos, skinks, thorn lizards, true lizards, zallingersaurs and glyphons, iguanas, agamas, chameleons, monitor lizards, slow-worms, Gila monsters, and so on), mosasaurs, and snakes. Spec is home to practically all the squamate groups of Earth, in addition to some oddball species that have gone extinct in our timeline, most notably the mosasaurs, the madtsoiid snakes, and the polyglyphanodontid lizards.

SPHENODONTIDA

In HE the tuataras are down to three species (of which one is extinct) that used to be limited to New Zealand and are now even restricted to a few small islands between North Island and South Island. In Spec sphenodontids are more widespread and diverse, reminiscent of the Cretaceous state of affairs, but with unique differences!

SCINCIDAE

It appears that skinks are indeed present in the world of Spec.

Ferret Skink (Arbroscincus pervasor)

One interesting home invader, specially in Mauritius & Reunion, to note is the Ferret Skink (Arbroscincus pervasor), a member of a genus of arboreal skinks unique to the Mascarenes. The Ferret Skink will make it's way into a city at night and settle into an abandoned chamber. From there on, it feeds on the cityfinches, like a ferret in a prarie dog town. If the birds discover the lizard, it's tough (for a skink) skin will protect it from the birds’ pecks.

GEKKONIDAE

Geckos are best known to most people as little lizards that can stick to any surface that isn't liquid. As on Home-Earth, many geckos have developed unique means of intraspecies communication. Many geckos use sound, chirping and singing to rival any frog chorus. Appropriately, these geckos have been divided into squawks (Vocigekko), which chatter like birds, and chucklers (Hilarigekko), whose calls sound like human laughter.

Okay Gecko (Okayyi okayi)

The okay gecko (Okayyi okayi) seems to fit in neither group, declaring "o-kay" loud and high on warm summer nights.

Other geckos use light. The rare geckglos, uniquely among lizards, have symbiotic fungi growing on their body, most often on the underside of the tail and down "portholes" on the flanks. Fungi (Saurophilomyces) grow the interstices between the scales; in fact, the underside of geckglo tails are often honeycombed with cracks, crevices, and otherwise translucent scales to make the fungus' life easier and its glow brighter. On the other hand, the upper surface of the tail is flat and opaque; should a geckglo wish to extinguish its fire, it flattens its tail against the bark to snuff out the light. Lights on the sides are veiled by flaps of skin. While the fungus exerts an obvious weakening influence on the geckglo, it is also a sign of strength – a male or female geckglo that shines bright is fit enough to maintain both itself and its fungi. The fungus probably also renders its host inedible.

Discolight Geckglo (Lucigekko polychroma)

Communication is made by flashes of light between the two sexes, with each species having its own sequence and even colour of lights. In some areas, the simultaneous display of hundreds of geckglos is staggering. The most spectacular display belongs to the discolight geckglo (Lucigekko polychroma), which has green light under the tail, yellow light down its sides and red light under its throat. Not all geckglos use their lights for communication.

Large Fishing Geckglo (Lucigekko mordax)

The large fishing geckglo (Lucigekko mordax) utilizes a particularly bright light at the tip of its tail to entice prey within striking range.

Pineapple Gecko (Ankylogekko armatus)

Several arid-habitat geckos have large tails that stock up with fat to carry them through difficult times. The pineapple gecko (Ankylogekko armatus) has the most spectacular appendage – a tail shaped unusually like a pineapple.

Skunkos, "those darn stinky lizards", are massive ground-dwelling geckos. While they have lost their adhesive pads in favour of all-terrain claws, the skunkos hide a secret weapon, betrayed by their all-too-familiar color scheme. While a spiny-tailed gecko does a similar trick in our home timeline, it is the skunkos of Spec that have brought it to perfection. Glands at the tip of a skunko's swollen tail secrete a foul-smelling, noxious, and irritating fluid, which is sprayed with great accuracy at the target's eyes. This behaviour is solely defensive; the skunkos themselves are catholic omnivores, taking whatever they can get at.

Humbug Skunko (Putorisaurus melanoleucus)

Skunk gecko2

Humbug skunko, Putorisaurus melanoleucus (Northern Africa)

The humbug skunko (Putorisaurus melanoleucus) is a classic and well-documented skunko of northern Africa. Its warning stance involves raising its tail up like a scorpion before ejecting its spray. Other skunkos have brightly coloured tails as an added reminder of their toxicity.

DENDROGEKKONINAE

Jewel geckos (Dendrogekkoninae) are the among the most beautiful inhabitants of Asian and African rainforests. Like countless other animals, including frogs in both timelines and carbuncles on Spec, the jewel geckos are highly poisonous as a result of eating poisonous insects (which in turn derived their venom from toxic plants). Diverse in colour and in habit, the jewel geckos are agile and fearless, a direct side-effect of having flesh so toxic it would make a tyrannosaur gag.
Jewel Geckos

An assortment of recently-discovered jewel geckos. Clockwise from top: Dendrogekko morrisi, Polychromatosaurus rodloxi, Roygbivia tobini, Caleidoscopia marjanovici, Vespagekko volkovi, Dendrogekko santosi and Dendrogekko terribilis

As a result, jewel geckos are probably the most common and diverse lizards in their area; most are known by scientific names alone. The bright colors are as distinctive as their behavior. Geckos belonging to Dendrogekko live in the highest branches, where they feed on insects gleaned from foliage. Polychromatosaurus geckos tend to stalk their prey on tree trunks. Roygbivia species sport an unusual signal-tail used in display. The large Caleidoscopia geckos will go after small vertebrates. Vespagekko species are ground prowlers. Despite their deadly poison, some species of snake and one eccentric arbro, the ringspot skreecher (Strigosaurus circulimaculatus), can and do feed on jewel geckos.

PYGOPODINAE

Pygopodines are more apparent in Spec than in our timeline, as the redoubtable arrowheads. Long believed by early spexplorers to be giant sand snakes, the arrowheads of the Australian outback were revealed to be enormous finfoots, growing up to the dimensions of a good-sized boa. Their most bizarre feature is a long, narrow, and tapering head, which sticks out of the sand like a javelin and mimics a reed, twig, or blade of grass. A narrow head conceals a cavernous mouth, ever ready to snatch passing prey items.

Javelinsnoot (Apatophoneoceps javelinus)

The largest arrowhead, the javelinsnoot (Apatophoneoceps javelinus), will even eat the highly venomous sandipedes (Desertiscolopendra frankherberti) that crawl through the dunes.

SCINCIDAE

Sausagetail (Adipocauda rodloxi)

Maybe the most unusual lizard on Spec is the sausagetail (Adipocauda rodloxi). Originally named after its fat-storing, bratwurst-like tail,this lizard soon gained notoriety by having a most original reproductive life. Sausagetails are burrowers, leaving their holes in the ground to find insect and small animal prey. Early before the mating season, the male gorges himself on insects until the excess nutrients taken in are shunted to the fat reserves in his swollen tail. He then proceeds to seek out a female, and attracts her with an elaborate courtship dance in which the female sizes up his caudal appendage. Finally, in a move of shocking brusqueness, the female bites onto the male's tail and pulls it clean off. Like many lizards, the tail of the sausagetail can break off painlessly and grow back, but this lizard uses the tail as a nuptial gift. As the female swallows the tail (a time-consuming task, as the tail can be quite large), the male proceeds to mate with her. Even after the tail is eaten, the male will jealously guard the female from prospective suitors by holing her up in her burrow and defending the entrance with his gaping mouth. Any claimants to his mate are seen off with wrestling matches that may end up with the loser losing his tail – an irrecoverable loss for a reproductive lizard. Eventually, with the help of the extra nutrition in the tail, the female lays her eggs and seals them up in a shallow burrow, which is guarded by the male until the young hatch.

CORDYLIDAE

Thornbush Lizard (Acantharbutosaurus thagomizator)

As the resident "walking pincushions" of Spec's Africa, many cordylids have, appropriately, taken up residence in Spec's most aggressive and wide-ranging thornbush, the death-thorn. Their names are as sharp as their baroque coats of armor: shardback, bramble lizard, spiked fig… The largest of these, the thornbush lizard (Acantharbutosaurus thagomizator), is armed with two almost stegosaurian spikes at the tip of its tail, which are used very effectively for defense.

Cordylid 2

Thornbush lizard, Acantharbutosaurus thagomizator (African bush savanna)

LACERTIDAE

Mention "lizard" to most people, and the first image that springs to mind will be something small, greenish-brownish, and fast – a lacertid. Lacertids are very common in Spec as on Home-Earth, skittering across deserts and plains, mountains and riverbanks. For the most part, they are indistinguishable from their HE counterparts, but there are always exceptions. Saqqayas and harbayas (Arabilacerta) are lacertids that have taken over the position of monitors in Mediterranean areas. Saqqayas are large and powerful opportunists, while the smaller harbayas tend to climb trees and hunt insects. Tree-whiptails (Longocaudolacerta) fulfill a similar role in more northerly forests, spending the winters hibernating under thick layers of leaf litter.

Cuckoolizard (Cuculacerta oviphaga)

The unusual cuckoolizard (Cuculacerta oviphaga) is a nest parasite of birds. While it does not act the same as the cuckoo, the cuckoolizard devours a small bird's clutch of eggs and uses the newly vacant nest for its own purposes.

POLYGLYPHANODONTIDAE

The polyglyphanodontids of our own timeline went extinct with most of their dinosaurian contemporaries. In Spec, these lizards, differing from iguanas and teiids by specialized, advanced dentition, went on to produce some of the largest lizards on the planet. The largest polyglyphanodonts are referred to as zallingersaurs, and they are found in two groups solely in the Western hemisphere. Most are heavy-bodied, slow, and sluggish, dragging an immense tail behind them. While island forms (Zallingersaurus) tend to be massive lizards with few defenses and fewer fears, the continental species (Hoplozallingersaurus), constantly exposed to danger, are quicker, smaller, and more heavily armed.

Barnett's Zallingersaur (Zallingersaurus barnetti)

Polyglyphanodont2

Barnett's zallingersaur, Zallingersaurus barnetti (Galápagos)

Zallingersaur coloration is often incongruous – the insular Barnett's zallingersaur (Zallingersaurus barnetti) is dark purple with blue "flames" down its back. At 5 meters in length, Barnett's zallingersaur is the largest lizard on the planet. Found on far-flung islands off the South American coast, this gentle herbivore moves slowly as it feeds on greenery, but is a surprisingly agile swimmer. On the other end of the scale, the well-protected Rudolf's zallingersaur (Hoplozallingersaurus zallingeri) is dark green, with three pairs of orange spikes on its body, red-orange armor nodules down its flanks, and a tail furnished with defensive spikes. Other species include the celestial zallingersaur (Hoplozallingersaurus bonestelli), the Knight zallingersaur (Hoplozallingersaurus knighti), and the ground zallingersaur (Hoplozallingersaurus harrisoni). Despite their armor, zallingersaurs are always ready to dive into a burrow, leaving their powerful spiked tails protruding.

Rudolf's Zallingersaur (Hoplozallingersaurus zallingeri)

Zallingersaur

Rudolf's zallingersaur, Hoplozallingersaurus zallingeri

The glyphons have taken another route: they have escaped predation by burrowing, and have become the reptilian moles of Spec. Glyphons such as the plains glyphon (Talpasaura lewickii) have reinforced heads, strong claws, and cylindrical bodies, to better excavate soil and seek out worms and grubs. The least glyphon (Talpasaura wilsongartlandi) can often be seen aboveground, where it seeks out insects. Another glyphon, the whiskered glyphon (Talpasauroides freundi) has bizarre tentacles at the tip of its nose to help detect prey. Found worldwide, glyphons tend to be solitary insect-eaters.

Uplift Glyphon (Geokinesisaurus petruccellii)

The exception is the uplift glyphon (Geokinesisaurus petruccellii), which lives in loosely attached groups of dozens of lizards. Excavating a communal tunnel, uplift glyphons can move prodigious amounts of soil, forming a complex underground network in the process. In time, the tunnels house countless squatters and freeloaders that do not interfere with the glyphons's life but use the tunnel for hiding, hunting, or hibernating. One uplift glyphon tunnel was home to, besides twenty-three glyphons: fifteen xenotheridians, five tortoises, eight snakes (including one ultraviper), six multituberculates, three toads, a dozen lizards, and a healthy smattering of beetles, spiders, bugs, and cockroaches.

Polyg digging

Plains glyphon, Talpasaura lewickii (southern Great Plains)

IGUANIDAE

A multifaceted group, the iguanas are highly diversified in either timeline. Their membership in the Toxicofera clade means that they are latently venomous, but the herbivores have largely lost this ability. In Spec, the iguanas count among their number several oddballs. The treeguanas (Mylosaurus), for example, are heavy and massive lizards that have taken over the function of tree sloths. Moving slowly between branches, their mottled colors camouflaging them from aerial and terrestrial predators, treeguanas crop foliage in seeming slow motion. If attacked at all, treeguanas are roused from their torpor dramatically, wielding their curved claws with terrible accuracy. These lizards make crude nests in the trees to lay eggs, and live in small groups. Juveniles will feed on insects before switching to the adults' diet of leaves, fruit, and stripped bark.

Cockatrice (Coquatrix ferox)

Sliding smoothly in the murky waters of the Amazon is a reptile nastier than any caiman – a large lizard with a deadly bite. The cockatrice (Coquatrix ferox) is probably the largest iguanid, swaggering in at 2 – 3 meters in length. It has evolved into a crocodilian niche, evading competition with crocodilians by being smaller and facultatively aquatic, terrestrial, or arboreal when needs be. Prey is often taken by ambush at the water's edge and snatched, croc-style. This attack mode is enhanced by a venomous bite, which rapidly weakens prey as the cockatrice pulls it under. Male cockatrices have bright red crests used a signals towards other cockatrices.

Cockatrice 2

Cockatrice, Coquatrix ferox (Amazon Rainforest)

Zebra Dralloc (Bipedodraco callisaurus)

Zebra striped lizard 2

Zebra dralloc, Bipedidraco callisaurus (southwestern North America)

Drallocs are small venomous lizards of North American deserts. They can sprint along for short periods of time on their hind legs, and their venom both incapacitates prey and dissuades attackers. The zebra dralloc (Bipedodraco callisaurus) is one of the more common types.

AGAMIDAE

Echoing the jewel geckos of South America are the gemmules, little agamids that have convergently evolved deadly venom and bright colors as safeguards against predators. Unlike the jewel geckos, the gemmules actually produce their own venom from venom glands in their mouth, and can inject it by biting, making it a useful prey-subduer.

Many types are known. These flamboyant species are known mostly by their colors and spectacular frills, crests and horns. Thus the wiclastips (Cephalocristus) have display flaps on their head and a display "diamond" at the tailtip; sliralis (Basiliscagama) have iguanid-like ridges and crests; Umbrellaheads (Parasolsaurus) have colorful frills around their necks; and the massive, bright-blue sorafrant (Sorafrantia splendida) has horns, frills, and black markings.

CHAMAELEONIDAE

Few lizard features have earned as much renown as those of the chameleons – the ability to change colour at whim and the propensity to catapult a sticky tongue at prodigious speeds to snag prey. These said abilities have been developed into unusual adaptations by the chameleons of Spec. Jack-in-the-boxes (Geosaltisaurus), for example, are highly derived burrowing chameleons, probably an offshoot of the branch that led to more familiar chameleons. Tubular-bodied and blunt-headed, they do not look much like chameleons, except when feeding. They wait at the tunnel entrance, their rough scaly head well-camouflaged. In the same manner as trap-door spiders, Jack-in-the-boxes leap halfway out of the opening of their burrow and extend their tongue to engulf whatever small prey passes by. Flypapers (Muscalingua) are arboreal chameleons that hang upside-down from branches with their tongues extended downwards. The said tongues exude a sweet-smelling but sticky saliva that attracts flies and other insects to their doom. The flypaper itself is superbly camouflaged (even its tongue looks like a liana) and so goes unmolested by larger animals. Tree-toads (Dryophrynosaurus) are small, squat, toadlike chameleons that function as generalist insect-eaters in the treetops. The larger tree-toads can eat even small mammals and nestling birds.

Malagasy Insidiator (Insidiosaurus problematicus)

Insidiator by sphenacodon

Malagasy Insidiator, Insidiosaurus problematicus (Madagascar) All credit for this artwork goes to Sphenacodon on DeviantArt.

Most impressive of all is the giant Malagasy Insidiator (Insidiosaurus problematicus), which has no trouble devouring birds, bats, mammals, other lizards, and snakes.

VARANIDAE

While a large number of monitors perished during the ice ages, the majority, living in the tropics, was unharmed. A highly successful lineage of varanids is the veres, monitor lizards which have held onto their venomous properties. With a deadly bite that ensures quick killing, veres are nasty and indiscriminate predators.

Burroughs' Vere (Toxivaranus burroughsi)

Burroughs' Vere (Toxivaranus burroughsi) is wide-ranging across African plains. The great chalk vere (Toxivaranus albus) frequents caves, gorging itself on the glut of bats to be found there.

Egguzzlers (Oviphilosaurus oviphagus)

Egguzzlers (Oviphilosaurus oviraptor) feed almost exclusively on eggs, using their venomous bite to dissuade protective parents.

Whowie (Australovaranus grandis)

The whowie (Australovaranus grandis) of Australian deserts is probably the largest varanid on the planet. Unlike the Komodo Dragon and †Megalania prisca of our home timeline, the whowie is gracile and long-legged, an adaptation to its arid habitat. Conversely, its head is massive and powerful to crush bone and rip flesh. A whowie running after its prey is truly an unforgettable sight, as its spindly legs kick out in all directions as it darts, sprawling, over the sands.

ANGUIDAE

Lambton Worm (Vermophisaurus lambtoni)

The Lambton worm (Vermophisaurus lambtoni), Spec's version of the scheltopusik, lives in the branches of death-thorns. Its long plated body allows it to avoid the dangerous thorns while seeking out prey. It uses the thorns to impale prey on for later consumption, in the same way as shrikes.

HELODERMATIDAE

Z-Shadow Lizard (Zinsignosaurus evivbulgrozi)

The Z-shadow lizard (Zinsignosaurus evivbulgrozi), related to the Gila monster of Home-Earth, is distinguishing by having a vaguely Z-shaped marking on its pied back. Slimmer and faster-moving than most heloderms, the Z-shadow lizard possesses a neurotoxin that paralyzes its prey. Although not deadly to humans, the poison has an uncanny numbing effect, deadening, paralyzing, and effectively anaesthetising bitten limbs. Research is now ongoing into developing a painkiller and possibly a therapy for various ailments based on the Z-shadow's venom.

MOSASAURIA

Squamates have ruled the seas ever since the middle Cretaceous. Except in cold latitudes, mosasaurs can be found throughout the seven seas. Some mosasaurs, however, live in freshwater.

OPHIDIA

The closest relatives of the mosasaurs, the snakes, have traded their limbs for impressive evolutionary success.

- Émile Marc Moacdieh and David Marjanović

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