NSights Blog

Into Africa: the lizards of Namibia

Keep up to date with Geography Department Chair Jill Heaton's travels to study lizards, trotoises and snakes of Namibia, Africa.

Girdled lizards are found nowhere else in the world but southern Africa. They are Africa's 'Darwin's Finches', approximately 80 species radiating from a single ancestor between 35 and 25 million areas ago. Yet, unlike Darwin's Finches, we know very little about girdled lizards outside of a few species, and almost nothing about the four species endemic to Namibia. Jon DeBoer, my PhD student, and I are headed to Namibia this week to join up with faculty and student collaborators from the Namibia University of Science and Technology to continue studying these species in wild. Stay tuned here for regular blog updates on our trip through 01 August 2018, and follow the College of Science on Facebook and Twitter for live updates.

Jordan's girdled lizard.

Jordan's girdled lizard.

Namibia is famous for its wildlife, rich cultural history, spectacular geography, and its strong conservation ethic. What few people realize however is that it is rich in reptile diversity. One of the species that Mr. DeBoer and I are working on, Namazonurus campbelli, or Campbell's Girdled Lizard is in fact known by science from only one location - a single rock pile on a farm in south-central Namibia. Besides the most basic of biogeographic distribution information, my team and I will be collecting DNA samples to complete a phylogeographic assessment of both the Namazonurus and Karusasaurus clads.

Below are a few photos from past years' research trips to Namibia.

Jill standingh with three researchers in front of the Gobabeb Research & Training Center.
Researchers in Namibia pose for a photo
Researchers in Namibia
Jill and a man holding a lizard.

Jill Heaton holding a lizard