card
137

Chris Raxworthy

OLogy Series
ologist
card
137

Chris Raxworthy

OLogy Series
ologist

Chris Raxworthy has been fascinated by all things scaly and slimy since he was a kid. Chris is a herpetologist at the American Museum of Natural History. He travels to remote areas of the world to study the amazing diversity of reptiles and amphibians. His fieldwork has taken him from Madagascar to Cuba, and from southeast Asia to west Africa. One of the most exciting parts of Chris's fieldwork is rediscovering species that were thought to be extinct.

Story: The Case of the Screaming Gecko

Chris has been face-to-face with many species of strange and unusual reptiles—even with a gecko that screams!

As Chris was walking through the forests of Madagascar, he noticed a little bump on the trunk of a tree. That little bump turned out to be a gecko that was completely camouflaged into the tree bark.

Chris picked up the gecko and examined it. It turned out to be a leaf-tailed gecko, a species that Chris had dreamed of finding ever since he saw a picture of one a few years before.

As Chris passed this strange-looking reptile to an interested volunteer, the gecko turned towards Chris and began to scream! Chris screamed back at the gecko to try to duplicate the noise. The screaming gecko is one reptile that he'll never forget!

As a herpetologist, Chris studies amphibians and reptiles. What do these animals have in common?

they can breathe through their skin

they have backbones

they have scales

Are you right?

Correct!

Amphibians like frogs, toads, and salamanders breathe through gills in their soft, wet skin. Reptiles like lizards, snakes, and turtles are covered with scales. Chris has been drawing, catching, and learning about these animals since he was a little kid!

One of Chris’ favorite reptiles in Cuba is the crown knight anole, a lizard that lives:

along riverbanks

in caves

in treetops

Are you right?

Correct!

It’s called a “crown” anole because it lives in the crown, or tops, of trees. Cuba is home to many kinds of anoles. Each one has adapted to live in a very specific habitat, like caves, riverbanks, and grasslands. Some have adapted to live in different parts of trees—from the treetops to tree trunks.

Chris likes to travel to Madagascar to study reptiles and amphibians because:

he enjoys the warm tropical weather

the island is a fantastic place to discover new species

all of the animals on the island are friendly and easy to catch

Are you right?

Correct!

Madagascar is a great place to search for new species of animals. Chris believes that the more you know about the animals that live in a particular place, the easier it is to conserve them.

Chris Raxworthy ,herpetologist

What I like most about being a scientist is that every day is a fun adventure—exploring things, asking questions. If you’re interested in something, you can chase it down. It’s a dream job.

In Cuba, Chris found a frog that was not much larger than a pencil tip.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

The tiny Monte Iberia eleuth, one of the smallest frogs in the world, is found only in Cuba. The first time Chris spotted one in a tropical forest, he thought it looked like a little insect!

Chris studies snakes in Cuba that are so deadly they could kill him with one bite.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

There are no deadly snakes in Cuba. The snakes in Cuba are mostly small—and mostly gentle—and they are not dangerous to humans.

Chris has a pet Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise that he has cared for since he was 15 years old.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Persephone, the tortoise, has been Chris's pet since he was a kid. He named it after the Greek goddess of the underworld because it hibernates underground for six months.

Hometown: St. Albans, England
Job: Curator-in-Charge, Department of Herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History
Education: B.Sc. Hon., University of London; Ph.D., The Open University
Known for: amphibian and reptile research on the island of Madagascar and many other tropical regions
Fun Fact: Chris has been a skateboarder since he was a kid—sometimes he skateboards down the long corridors at the Museum!

Image credits: courtesy of AMNH.