For those who work primarily in the West Indies, it can be difficult to imagine a lizard fauna dominated by anything other than anoles. However, if you’re interested in learning more about lizard communities that don’t include anoles, no book fits the bill better than L. Lee Grismer’s recent monograph on the Lizards of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and their Adjacent Archipelagos. Grismer takes readers on a tour of Peninsular Malaysia’s impressive lizard diversity, with species-by-species accounts that include morphological diagnoses, notes on coloration in life and among sexes, dot maps, and detailed notes on each species’ natural history. Grismer is the first to comprehensively review Peninsular Malaysia’s 128 lizard species, and his book represents the “first time the entire distribution of this fauna has been precisely mapped.” Of course, Grismer’s book is also chalk full of spectacular photographs, including many of Grismer’s trademark photos of animals in their natural habitat.
Map from Malaysian Bat Education Adventure: http://www.ttu-mbea.org/krau-wildlife-reserve/
Sandwiched between Thailand and Myanmar to the north and Indonesia to the south, Peninsular Malaysia is a geographically, historically, and ecological diverse region that includes numerous mountain ranges, offshore archipelagos, and isolated karstic rock outcrops. The habitats of Peninsular Malaysia range from mangrove forest to lush multi-layered Dipterocarp forest to “post-apocalyptic” oil palm plantation dominated landscapes. Grismer does a great job familiarizing readers with the region by beginning his monograph with detailed information of the region’s biogeography and environmental diversity.
Most importantly, of course, Peninsula Malaysia is home to 128 lizard species, mostly geckos, skinks, or agamids, but also the occasional dipamid, lacertid, varanid, and leiolepid. Some 45% of these species are endemics, the vast majority of which are skinks and geckos that are narrowly distributed in montane habitats, isolated karstic rock outcrops, or off-shore archipelagos. The agamids, however, are likely to attract the immediate attention of anole lovers because this group includes most of the region’s arboreal, diurnal, and often conspicuous, lizards.
Image from http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/draco-lizard/
The most diverse agamid radiation in Peninsula Malaysia is Draco, the remarkable genus of gliding lizards that is found throughout much of southeast Asia. Continue reading