PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The smallest state has some big news, if you’re a biologist: its first lizard.
A five-lined skink discovered on Earth Day in Rhode Island is not native to the state, meaning there might be a population here, excited scientists said.
“This is a huge deal. It’s very rare that a state would pick up an entirely new vertebrate species, let alone an entirely new vertebrate group — lizards,” said David Gregg, the executive director of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey.
A scientist found the juvenile lizard, small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, in South County and contacted Nancy Karraker, a herpetologist at the University of Rhode Island, who confirmed it was a five-lined skink, WJAR-TV reported.
The skinks previously have been found to the west of the Connecticut River, scientists said.
“This lizard wouldn’t be able to swim across the Connecticut River,” Karraker said.
It’s possible the skink hitchhiked to Rhode Island on a delivery of wood or mulch.
“We need to find more to really verify that there’s an actual population there,” said Lou Perrotti, director of the Conservation Program at Roger Williams Park Zoo.