Cyprus: The Cypriot kourkoutas is the only species in the world
This study adds another endemic species of reptile to the country's significant biodiversity, along with the Cypriot snake and the Troodos lizard.
Until recently, we thought that these lizards, known as "crocodiles" in Greece and as "kourkoutades" in Cyprus, corresponded to a species with a wide distribution throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. However, the study of the genetic material (DNA) carried out in the Laboratory of Ecology and Biodiversity of the Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Cyprus, in collaboration with the Museum of Natural History of Crete of the University of Crete, showed that turmeric in Cyprus corresponds to a separateLaudakia cypriaca), which in fact is found only in Cyprus. The study revealed the existence of two other also distinct species, with the first (Laudakia vulgarisspread to neighboring countries in the Near East (Syria, Jordan, Israel and Egypt) and the second (Laudakia stellio) be limited to Greece and Turkey.
The results of the study were published in the distinguished scientific journal Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society (https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlab107) and provided important data on the evolution of these animals in the countries of the eastern Mediterranean, such as the estimation of the time periods in which each of their different lineages evolved. Thus, it seems that kurkoutas diversified in Cyprus about 2,5 million years ago today, when the "Ice Age" began to manifest, which brought the coasts of Cyprus closer to those of Syria and Israel.
The study was led by Dr. Emmanuela Karameta, postdoctoral researcher at the MFI of Crete and the Department of Biology of the University of Crete (laboratory of Molecular Systematics, led by Professor Nikos Poulakakis, Director of the University of Athens) Panagiotis Pafilis), and research associate at the University of Cyprus (Laboratory of Ecology and Biodiversity, led by Professor Spyros Sfendourakis), in collaboration with researchers from Austria, Germany and Turkey.
This study adds another endemic species of reptile to the country's significant biodiversity, along with the Cypriot snake (Hierophis cypriensis) and the Troodos lizard (Phoenicolacerta troodica).
It is interesting that this animal gave its name to the "normal" crocodiles since the ancient Greeks called the Nile crocodile when they first saw it because it reminded them of the "crocodile" (kourkouta) of the Aegean islands!
The research of the genetic material and other species of Cyprus, both reptiles and other animals, continues at the University of Cyprus and is expected to reveal many more hidden aspects of the wealth of the Cypriot fauna.