Starting our next miniseries, this time focusing on LIZARDS! That's meant to be in all caps and full of excitement. Not only because we share a lot of the same DNA, and not only because we share the planet with them, but also because they shed light on some amazing phenomena. Besides being another fantastic creation of Nature.
Part 2 in "Lizards!". Isn't she lovely?? I'm 100% sure this baby whiptail lizard is a she because this species has done away with the males. They basically clone themselves by doubling up on their chromosomes not once, like we do, but twice before their eggs are created, so no need for fertilization! Usually this technique doesn't work well in Nature because everyone ends up being the same, and we all know monocultures aren't the best at long term survival. But so far so good for these gals, judging by the number I see scurrying through the juniper duff. P.S. Lots of the species in the genus are like this, so it may be going on in your own backyard!
Part 3, "Lizards!"..." Hey, what happened to my tail? I'll be a little off-balance for awhile (60 days at least!) as my tail regrows back to it's former glory. In the meantime? I'm just thankful it came off in the raven's beak as I skittered away, leaving a surprised raven and me a few grams lighter. Know what else I'm thankful for? The 326 plus genes that turned back on to grow scales, cartilage, muscle, all the stuff a lizard is made of. I've heard you have most of those genes too, but haven't figured out how to turn them back on yet. Watch and learn, neophytes, you're looking at millions of years of evolution here." So spoke the western fence lizard in my garden today.
Part 4 in the LIZARDS! miniseries: how can a cold-blooded creature scoot so fast? With bursts of over ten miles per hour, the Plateau striped whiptail here can grab a grasshopper and elude a frustrated photographer. Things would be different on a cold day. Their cold-bloodedness means they can only run as fast as their chemical reactions will let them, and things are moving slowly inside their little cells when it's cold outside. The upside? they don't waste energy keeping their bodies warm so they don't need near as much food as a bird or mammal. That's why in Nature's food deserts, about the only thing you'll see running around is lizards!
Part 5 in "LIZARDS!" This horned toad is not technically a toad, it is of course a lizard. But in the grand scheme of things and to the bugs it eats, what's the difference? Learn about food webs and more in our custom Nature interpretations. We create books that train you up on new ways of looking at Nature. www.landexplained.com.
Here is the 6th post in the miniseries "Lizards". It's the blog post where everything gets summed up nicely.
Not tiny dinosaurs...
There is an actual town in Colorado named Dinosaur, which comes as a welcome relief after passing through miles of buff colored sandstone. All dry and brush covered, the country around it makes for excellent lizard habitat. But not much else inhabits it, at least the way the lizards do. The town's name comes from what lies underneath— a plethora of fossils, created back when this was a coastal plain. Horned, frilled, taloned, fanged, lumbering, or agile, warm or cold blooded. Scaled or feathered. They had a hundred different forms and a thousand ways to survive. Now, shift focus to today's humble lizard. Who would blame you if you wondered what happened, how the little guy ended up on top.
Though superficially similar, lizards pre and post-date dinosaurs, having succeeded with their evolutionary commitment to embracing the earth in prostrate four-leggedness and cold-bloodedness. And then there's the tinkering with basic cellular processes they've engaged in--like egg cell chromosome replication and gene reactivation. Maybe that plasticity, and ability to evolve in small ways, has led some lizards in barren habitats to become speedier and more skittish than their relatives in habitats where there are lots of hiding places. Or maybe it's just that they specialize in eating bugs, which are a pretty reliable food source.
It all adds up to a lot of little things, as opposed to the big and glitzy approach the dinosaurs embraced. But, at the end of the day, it was the one that didn't get all the attention, the one that kept his head down, the one who kept plodding along, that succeeded. And the winner is...The HUMBLE LIZARD!