Once again Burt and I are spellbound by the beauty and wealth of interesting things to do in the Portal area. Two nights ago we kept ourselves up past dark with dinner out at the Rodeo Tavern. Joe and Donna were on duty and they cooked up some swell service and yummy food. Joe brought out Burt’s steak for inspection prior to cooking. It was a lovely slab of meat in his bare naked hand. Afterwards we drove around looking for some spadefooted toads. The recent monsoon rains wake these toads up for a few days a year. They dig out of their underground abodes and sing to find each other, copulate, lay eggs in the new water and rebury themselves. I presume they have a bite to eat, too. More research is in order. If we find some I’ll be inspired to tighten up my knowledge. This night we found one dead frog, two unseen but croaking bullfrogs, and we saw the eye shine of a frog in a drainage ditch. It was dark. The mosquitoes made a fine meal us and the two dogs. More interesting were the colorful and dramatic rain cloud skies. The sky view is tight in the canyon where we are living. Outside the canyon the panorama never lets us down.
Last night I went to a lecture on the Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard. Click HERE for a picture and more info. I learned some pretty interesting but specialized things during last night’s lecture. This lecture is part of a course on animal behavior and it covers some out-there animal research. I didn’t learn much about the lizard in general. I learned some crazy stuff. The spiny lizard has a thing called a nuchal pocket near its armpits. Scientists have wondered about the function of this pocket. Here’s the deal: It’s a home for chiggers. Yes, those same chiggers that love our groins and waist bands and armpits and bra straps. It seems the chiggers are going to dine on the lizard in some not so convenient locations if they don’t provide them a spot. So through the course of evolution the lizards said, “Hey stay out of our eyelids. I’ve got a spot for you that I think will be better for both of us. Check out my nuchal pocket.” This is grossly oversimplified but accurate. I think.
Lizards are covered in scales. Chiggers under the scales lead to water lose (and irritation?). Water loss is life threatening. Chiggers on eyelids sound darned uncomfortable. Chiggers in my nuchal pocket? I guess that’s tolerable. The nuchal pocket is coveres in smaller softer scales and provides a moister environment. To prove this the scientists captured a bunch of lizards, removed and counted and mapped all chiggers, and applied clear nail polish to the nuchal pockets. Then they let the lizards go. After a time the recaptured the lizards and inventoried the chiggers and their locations. The chiggers really wanted the nuchal pockets and some attached themselves to the edge of the nail polish. Most relocated to the eyelids and various leg and arm groins of the lizard. All very interesting but what I really wanted to know was: HOW DO THEY CATCH AND RELEASE AND RECATCH THE SAME LIZARDS???? This question was not addressed.
Next up I learned that lizards must be conscious to drop their tails. What? Did you forget? Lizards can drop their tails if they are grabbed by a hungry predator. I once scared a lizard and it dropped its tail. It turns out lizards drop their tails and enjoy short term survival but their long term viability is severely curtailed. Evolutionary questions remain. It seems they buy enough time to reproduce (maybe) but their tail loss results in other short comings. How does the tail detach? It can detach all along its length. Sphincters (just like the ones we have) close and separate one end of the tail from the other. Weird. This defense mechanism is called autotomy. Anyway, a sleeping lizard will not let loose its tail no matter how hard you pull. The short coming we learned about was impaired mobility. The lizard is not as agile without its tail. Lose of agility may make the animal more susceptible to predation or it might make it more prone to ‘conservative’ choices (lower perches) that make it easier to catch.
Today I already put some of my new lizard knowledge to work at the Cave Creek Visitor’s Information Center. Tonight is a lecture on echolocation in bats. I’ll fill you in tomorrow.
Other animals can loose a limb or tail and regrow it. Do you know what they are?