Celestus occiduus (Shaw, 1802)

Jamaica giant galliwasp, Sinking galliwasp, Jamaican giant forest lizard



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Lacerta Occidua Shaw, 1802; Diploglossus Shawii Dumeril & Bibron, 1839; Celestus impressus Cope, 1868; Diploglossus occiduus Boulenger, 1885; Macrogongylus brauni Werner, 1901; Celestus impressus Barbour, 1910; Celestus occiduus Schwartz & Henderson, 1991


Conservation Status


Last record: 1840; 1840's (Ineich & Böhme, 2024); 1851 (Wilson & Hedges, 2020; Martin et al., 2023)

IUCN RedList status: Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)





Biology & Ecology




Holotype: BMNH XV.1 18a.


Other specimens:

BMNH 1970.1816 (same as holotype?)
GLAHM 117505 ("single large specimen F[emale]", see here)


Specimens in English museums

Please note that there is some overlap between the specimens listed below and those listed above. This list was obtained by Melanie Nayyal in correspondence (email) with the NHM, London.

BMNH 1961.1851

BMNH 1863.2.21.17

BMNH XV.115.a

BMNH 1970.1816

BMNH 1946.8.3.82



Above: BMNH 1970.1816. ©1984 Simon Tonge. Reproduced with permission.


Above: BMNH 1970.1816. ©1984 Simon Tonge. Reproduced with permission.


Above: BMNH 1970.1816. ©1984 Simon Tonge. Reproduced with permission.



Barbour, T. (1910). Notes on the herpetology of Jamaica. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 52: 273-301.

Böhme, W. and Fischer, E. (1998). Verification of species identity and geographic origin of a specimen of an extinct giant lizard (Reptilia: Anguidae: Celestus occiduus) based on stomach contents, with comments on other undiscovered large lizards. Cryptozoology 13: 23-37.

Boulenger, G. A. (1885). Catalogue of the lizards in the British Museum (Natural History). Vol. 2, Second edition. London, xiii+497 pp.

Cousens, P. N. (1956). Notes on the Jamaican and Cayman island lizards of the genus Celestus. Breviora 56: 1-6.

Day, David. (1981). The Doomsday Book of Animals: A Natural History of Vanished Species. New York, N.Y.: The Viking Press.

Grant, Chapman. (1951). The Specific Characters of the Celesti, with the Description of a New Species of Celestus (Sauria, Anguidae). Copeia 1951: 67-69. [considers C. impressus a synonym of C. occiduus]

Grant, Chapman and Lynn, W. Gardner. (1940). The Herpetology of Jamaica. Institute of Jamaica.

Henderson, R.W. and Powell, R. 2009. Natural History of West Indian Reptiles and Amphibians. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.

Ineich, Ivan and Böhme, Wolfgang. (2024). Was it premature to declare the giant Tongan Ground Skink Tachygyia microlepis extinct? Salamandra 60(1): 82-93.

Langner, Ch. (2019). Ich komme Dir auf die Schliche! Verkanntes Schleichenvolk – die interessanten Echsen der Familie Anguidae. Reptilia (Münster) 24(136): 16-27.

Powell, R. and Henderson, R.W. 2012. Island lists of West Indian amphibians and reptiles. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 51(2): 85-166.

Martin, Thomas E., Bennett, Gareth C., Fairbairn, Andrew J. and Mooers, A. Ø. (2023). ‘Lost’ taxa and their conservation implications. Animal Conservation 26(1): 14-24. [Appendix S2 (1617 taxa not seen >10 years); Appendix S3 (562 taxa not seen >50 years)]

Meiri, Shai et al. (2018). Extinct, obscure or imaginary: the lizard species with the smallest ranges. Diversity and Distributions 24(2): 262-273.

Mittermeier, Russell A. (1972). Jamaica’s Endangered Species. Oryx 11(4): 258-262.

Powell, Robert and Henderson, Robert W. (2012). Island lists of West Indian amphibians and reptiles. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 51(2): 85-166. [considers this taxon as possibly extinct]

Regalado, Pedro Galán. (2015). Los Anfibios y Reptiles Extinguidos: Herpetofauna Desaparecida Desde el Año 1500. Monografías de la Universidade da Coruña 155: 1-509.

Ruthven, Alexander G. (1920). Large Specimens of Two Jamaican Reptiles. Copeia 80: 21-22.

Schools, Molly and Hedges, S. Blair. (2021). Phylogenetics, classification, and biogeography of the Neotropical forest lizards (Squamata, Diploglossidae). Zootaxa 4974(2): 201-257.

Schwartz, Albert. (1970). A new species of large Diploglossus (Sauria: Anguidae) from Hispaniola. Proc. Biol. Soc. Washington 82: 777-787.

Uetz, P. et. al., The Reptile Database, , accessed December 11, 2010.

Wilson, B. S. (2011). Conservation of Jamaican amphibians and reptiles, pp. 273-310. In: A. Hailey, B. Wilson and J. Horrocks (eds), Conservation of Caribbean Island Herpetofaunas. Volume 2: Regional Accounts of the West Indies. Leiden: Brill.

Wilson, B. S. and Hedges, B. (2020). Celestus occiduus (amended version of 2017 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T4097A181348221. Downloaded on 01 March 2021.

World Conservation Monitoring Centre. (1996). Celestus occiduus. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. ( Downloaded on 17 April 2012.


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