To many people, the word glade suggests a grassy sun-dappled forest clearing like those in Longfellow's poetry or Hawthorne's stories. The Ozark glades, however, are nothing like these literary glades.
Instead, they are areas of exposed bedrock in the Ozark woodlands that create their own hot, dry, desert-like microclimates. Among the species that live in the Ozark glades are tarantulas, scorpions, prickly pear cactus - and lizards.
The subject of Templeton's research is the startling eastern collared lizard (Crotaphytus collaris collaris), so called for the darkly pigmented bands around its neck.
Missouri is at the eastern end of the collared lizards range, which includes much of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
Odd as a lizard in the woods might seem, the collared lizard is just one of the larger and more visible of the many beautiful and rare species that live in the Ozarks.
The Ozarks are in fact highlands that were uplifted when the South American plate collided with the North American plate to create the Ouachita Mountains south of the Ozarks 300 million years ago.
Because the Ozark highland terrain was higher than the regions that surround it, it was not inundated by seas nor scoured by glaciers like the rest of the continent. It is, Templeton says, the oldest land in North America that has continuously existed as land.
And because life has steadily evolved in the Ozarks for 250 million years, it is a center of endemism, or species uniquely adapted to a particular site, one of the very few centers of endemism in a temperate rather than a tropical region.
The Ozarks are home to more than 200 species found nowhere else on the planet, including the federally endangered snakemouth orchid.
The collared lizard is not endemic to the Ozarks, but its existence is entwined with that of many endemic species, as Templeton was to discover.
|Contact: Diana Lutz|
Washington University in St. Louis