Ngo Van Tri, a Vietnamese zoologist traveling in the southern Vietnamese province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, came upon a remarkable discovery: a strange lizard species in which all the members are female, and thus reproduce by parthenogenesis. Not only was his find amazing — since the species itself proved to be previously unknown to zoologists — but the place he found the lizard was similarly incredible: on the menu in a local café.
He emailed an American colleague from La Sierra University in California, Dr. Lee Grismer, who immediately flew to Vietnam to identify and analyze the lizard, which came to be named Leiolepis ngovantrii. Its habitat is the Mekong River Delta.
As CNN reports it, the café owner had promised to save specimens for the scientists to examine, but when the researchers arrived after traveling two days on motorbikes (which shows just how obscure the region is), they found the guy drunk. What’s worse is that he’d just finished grilling the 50 lizards he’d saved for some restaurant patrons.
Not to be defeated, Grismer then hired local kids to hunt down more of the reptiles, and they readily caught 60, more than enough to study.
The restaurateur offered a taste of the local delicacy to Grismer, who felt he had to try it. His response? “It feels like something old and dead in your mouth.”
Thanks to Fork in the Road San Francisco correspondent Tracy Van Dyk for the link.