Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Leapin' Lizards -- Today's Lesson in Herpetology

Moogie's Mansion is overrun with lizards from early spring until frost (which, sometimes, doesn't arrive until well into winter).  Most of the common lizards we see are either brown anoles or green anoles -- the browns tend to stay closer to ground level while the greens typically prefer higher terrain, but both varieties can be found on fences, in bushes, and even up in trees. There's one stretch of sidewalk down the street that I call "Lizard Central" because any time you walk through it, dozens of lizards scurry back and forth from the groundcover near the street to the foliage near the fence.

Both of the guys pictured above are males -- they have this "distensible dewlap" that they use to attract females and  challenge other males.  It's quite impressive to see them all puffed up and macho, sending signals all around the yard -- they do two or three lizard push-ups and then poof out their dewlap like a balloon.

For several years -- especially after Katrina which pretty much wiped out the lizard and songbird population for awhile -- the brown anoles were winning the lizard territorial war from the green anoles around here and I was afraid we wouldn't see the colorful shows that they produce anymore.  The browns are apparently fairly aggressive.  But, both varieties seem to be thriving these days and I am very happy about that.  Except, they don't eat enough bugs to suit me.  And sometimes they jump out at me when I open the mailbox.  That's a little disturbing.

Several days ago, two males were doing this "anything you can do I can do better" number on parallel poles on the gate while I was sitting outside waiting for Rosie to do her thing.  They leapt and crawled the length on the poles, eyeing each other all the way, then they'd flip around and climb back up.  Quite the gymnasts.  I really wished I could've recorded that little episode.

I finally had my phone with me yesterday on my way to the car when I spied a green on the fence.  I thought he might do some acrobatics for me to record, but he did something even better -- he got a drink of water.  He got a drink of water by licking a holly leaf with his tiny pink tongue!  I'm not sure how I thought lizards get hydration before seeing this -- maybe I assumed they just absorb it from the atmosphere? -- but I never suspected I'd see a lizard lapping up water like a dog!  Look closely at this little guy's tongue -- it's amazing!  And he let me get right up next to him!

(I was so excited to watch the video in the car that I left the house keys in the gate lock and didn't realize it until I got to the grocery store.  I had to come all the way back home to get them before I did my shopping!  I don't think my vicious attack lizards would've done much to discourage a key-thieving thug.).

Today I spotted one slinking across the birdbath to get a drink!

Someday, I'll get a video of two males stalking each other and puffing up and chasing one another.  It's quite the B-movie horror film scene when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, in miniature.

What's really unusual about my fascination with lizards is that I can watch them and get close to them without being afraid.  Except when they leap out of the mailbox, and that's mostly a startle reaction rather than the full-blown panic attack I suffer when I get anywhere near a snake.  I think it's probably because lizards have elbows and shoulders.  Joints seem to make a difference.  Don't ask me to explain it -- I'm just grateful for those shoulders and elbows, or I don't think I could go outside down here except during the winter!

There are days when Moogie is so very easily entertained.


  1. You have water on your holly? It is way dry here. Lizards would be thirsty critters in OK.

  2. I used to have a bunch as pets. I took them from South Louisiana up to Michigan, then when I went back to Louisiana I brought them back and let them go again. Must be the most well-traveled anoles ever. I liked them, even if they and their cricket meals did always get out of their aquarium and run/hop around my apartment.

  3. It was just after we'd had a rain, Lou. There wasn't much of it. We're in drought down here, too, but not as bad as y'all! Our more typical semi-tropical weather pattern seems to be coming back in which we have spotty afternoon thundershowers.

    I saw where the anoles eat crickets, Murph, but these guys aren't very big for the most part. I'd be in real trouble if crickets got loose in my house because my Mama told me it's bad luck to kill a cricket in the house. I was grounded once for squishing a cricket indoors -- never did that again! I'm glad you brought the little guys back and turned them loose. I'm sure their tales of travel increased the sophistication level of the local population!

  4. If they do, they don't eat nearly enough!

  5. Still, "it's interesting to look at what happens when closely related species come in contact," Thomas said. "This is why you have research."

    Well, that and grants.

    I like the fact you're easily amused, Moogie. It's always nice to find a kindred spirit.

  6. Great video, Moogie. Might win an award or something.

    Aaaaaahhhhh...we are overrun with lizards, as usual. And, lizards only eat certain species of mosquitoes. Sorry, girl, I don't think they like coonass skeeters.

  7. Well, that and grants -- and screaming deficits, Buck! (Let's see if I did the bold correctly)

    Well, coonass skeeters certainly like Moogie, Andy!! Seriously.