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Mystery Lizard of Wales.

Etymology: From Welsh genau ("mouth") + pryf ("insect") + gwirion ("silly") = "silly insect-eater" (?).

Variant name: Cenaprugwirion. Physical description: Length, 12 inches. Muddy-brown color. Head is the size of an orange. Pronounced dewlap. Long tongue.

Behavior: Rolls its eyes continually. Lives in a burrow, poking its head out to catch flies or insects.

Distribution: Aber Soch, Lleyn Peninsula, Gwynedd, Wales.

Present status: Now rare but said to be common long ago.

Possible explanations:

(1) Naturalized population of a nonnative lizard, such as an Iguana (Family Iguanidae), Agama (Family Agamidae), Skink (Family Scincidae), or Chameleon (Family Chamaeleonidae). However, the Welsh climate is not suitable for a sustained population of these tropical lizards.

(2) Karl Shuker has suggested a naturalized population of Tuataras (Sphenodon punctatus or S. guntheri) of New Zealand, lizardlike reptiles that were often kept as exotic pets in the nineteenth century. Adults measure 16-26 inches long and have such a low metabolic rate that they can go an hour without breathing and subsist indefinitely on two earthworms a week. Their maximum life expectancy in the wild could be 100 years or more. Able to withstand a temperate climate, the Tuatara is the last living representative of the Order Sphenodontida and is now confined to about twenty small islands off the northeast coast of New Zealand and in Cook Strait.

genaprugwirion 187

Sphenodonts were once widespread, and fossils from the Late Triassic through the Jurassic, 210—140 million years ago, have been found in England and continental Europe.

Sources: Richard Wallis (letter), British Herpetological Society Bulletin, Autumn-Winter 1987, p. 65; Karl Shuker, "Land of the Lizard King," Fortean Times, no. 95 (February 1997): 42-43.

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