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Is It A New Species Or A Subspecies Of Whiptail Lizard?

When scientists put two different species of lizard into an enclosure and they mate, generating offspring, are the offspring a new species or a s

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When scientists put two different species of lizard into an enclosure and they mate, generating offspring, are the offspring a new species or a subspecies?
That is the question that is beguiling scientists and herpetologists as researchers describe what they call a new species of lizard in the journal Breviora.

The lizard in question, a hybrid of two species of whiptail lizard is being called Aspidoscelis neavesi. It is a cross between Aspidoscelis exsanguis (capable of reproducing via parthenogenesis) and a male Aspidoscelis inornata. The two were placed in the same enclosure, and the lizards mated. The genes of the offspring of the two lizards were examined and the scientists found that they had four sets of chromosomes. Four were female and could clone themselves via parthenogenesis. 

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The scientists, Dr. Peter Bauman and Dr. William B. Neaves were convinced that a new species was created and ran their data by herpetologist Charles J. Cole of the American Museum of Natural History, a whiptail lizard expert who has studied the reptiles since the 1960s. Cole agreed with Bauman and Neaves but reiterated to the New York Times that what the duo did was not some sort of freak experiment, but rather just a simple act of putting two lizards together in the same enclosure and hoping for the best outcome, which was a successful mating. 

The three scientists formally described the new species and named it Aspidoscelis neavesi in honor of Dr. Neaves, who coincidentally discovered such a lizard in the wild with four sets of chromosomes in the 1960s.

So is this lizard, which was created in a lab a new species? 


John B. Virata keeps a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata 

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