Anyway, back in 1952, a then young member of the extended Lazarus clan named George Rau lived in Mt. Lookout, a Cinci suburb. While visiting the area of Lake Garda near Milan, Italy in 1952 on a family vacation, George took a shine to the local lizards and stuffed some in his luggage, importing them back to the Queen City. Upon return to the Mt. Lookout compound, he liberated the reptiles; a species known as the common wall lizard, Podarcis muralis.
They flourished in the Queen City, and have come to be known locally as the "Lazarus Lizards".
I was in Cincinnati last Tuesday to speak at a conference, and connected with Jeff beforehand to see if he'd be willing to meet me afterwards to look for wall lizards. Jeff lives in the Cincinnati area and his lab at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History is just ten minutes from the conference I was at.
So it was a go, and thanks to Jeff I was able to add this scaley oddity to my list, and more importantly learn more about wall lizards and how they operate.
Note the lichenlike blotchy dappling of the skin. I would imagine this pattern evolved to help the animal better blend with lichen-encrusted rocks.
From its humble start of ten lizards in 1952, the Cincinnati wall lizard population has ballooned to perhaps 200,000, maybe more. They are abundant in many neighborhoods and well known to local citizens, and have expanded very locally into neighboring Indiana and Kentucky. How far they get remains to be seen.
The ecological impacts of having perhaps one-quarter million introduced lizards running about can't be good, but it is difficult to ascertain with certainty exactly what damage they have done. Wall lizards, given their success, must have had a role in reducing native lizards such as eastern fence lizard and five-lined skink, which are rare or absent where the wall lizard occurs although both used to occur in this area.
I appreciate Jeff taking me to see some of these curious little lizards, which certainly qualify as Ohio's oddest tale of reptilian introduction.