Photo: RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP / Getty Images
A new species of lizard that was classified as “endangered” almost as soon as it was found has been discovered in the ruins of the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu. and was named after the popular character from Transformer Optimus Prime.
The new species of lizard, discovered in the 15th century city of Machu Picchu, an Inca citadel located high in the Andes mountains of Peru, has been officially named ‘Proctoporus optimus’, in reference to the popular Autobot leader Optimus Prime of Transformers, a famous Hollywood franchise.
The Peruvian conservation authority, the National Service of Natural Areas Protected by the State (SERNANP), issued a statement declaring that the species was “discovered in the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu and named as a tribute to Optimus Primea science fiction character, from the movie Transformers, which was filmed in this protected natural area and in other places in Peru.”
SERNANP said: “The finding was made with the help of genetic sequences (DNA) and a review of specimens in the scientific collections of the Natural History Museum of the National University of San Antonio Abad in Cusco, the Museum of Biodiversity of Peru and The Vertebrate Scientific Collection at the University of Texas at Arlington.
They added that a second species was also discovered in the nearby Machiguenga Communal Reservea protected national park, in the Cusco Region, in southern Peru.
The second species has been named ‘Proctoporus katerynae’ in honor of biologist Kateryn Pino Bolaños. SERNANP said that both species were being considered in danger of extinction due to climate change.
They added that both species “belong to the genus Proctoporus, a group of lizards that are distributed in the Andes of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.”
They said: “As part of the study, it has also been identified that both species would be threatened by anthropogenic activities. [causadas por humanos] and climate change, the latter due to an effect known as the ‘Ladder to Extinction’, in which the temperature of the lowlands increases and species migrate to the upper parts of the mountains in search of their optimum temperature; which causes a reduction in its distribution area”.
The study was conducted by Luis Mamani, Roxana Cruz, Sergio Mallqui, and Alessandro Catenazzi, as a collaborative effort between the Universidad Señor de Sipán in Peru, as well as the Universidad de Concepción in Concepción in Chile, the Natural History Museum of the Universidad of San Antonio Abad del Cusco in Peru, the Museum of Biodiversity of Peru and the International University of Florida. It also had the support of park rangers from the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, according to SERNANP.
Machu Picchu is one of the most important tourist attractions in South America. It was built by the Inca civilization in the 15th century before the European conquest, and is made up of approximately 200 polished dry stone buildings that are still being restored.
Every day, around 3,000 tourists visit the high-rise ruins that are considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Built by the Inca ruler Pachacutec, Machu Picchu was discovered for science in July 1911 by the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham. Machu Picchu became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
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