Mystery Lizard of Wales.
Etymology: From Welsh genau (“mouth”) +
pryf (“insect”) + gwirion (“silly”) = “silly insecteater”
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 Sôch, Lleyn Peninsula,
Present status: Now rare but said to be common
(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.
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
The Welsh tuatara seems to have originated in this letter printed in BHS Bulletin 21/22, in 1987. The cryptozoology community apparently picked up on it relatively recently. "A friend of mine, who has recently bought a cottage near Abersoch, North Wales, informed me of a large lizard inhabiting a bank in his garden. When I questioned him as to the appearance of this lizard the following description was given; the lizard was about 30cm. long with a head the size of an orange. It was a mud brown colour and usually only poked its head out of its burrow. It had a large tongue which it, supposedly, used to attract flies which it then ate. Its eyes were continually rolling in their sockets. This strange lizard also possessed a large dew-lap. As well as this lizard, another of the same description but only half the size inhabited the burrow. I questioned one of the locals who immediately seemed to know what I was talking about. He replied, 'Oh I thought they had all died out now. There used to be hundreds about when I was a boy'. This lizard is locally called cenaprugwirion or genaprugwirion. The name means Daft Fly Catcher. I personally, cannot imagine what this lizard can be; it certainly does not fit the description of any of our native species. Does anyone know what the animal is and how it could have got there?