Michael's Rediscovery of Nature

Ramblings and observations of a former biologist and a lifelong naturalist, who has recently returned to his roots in east Texas. After a many years of working from coast to coast in an industry far removed from biology, it has been a pleasant change of geography, activity, and attitude. No stressful job decked out in a three piece suit. No city living. Instead there is a rediscovery of the woods, of something scurrying through the leaves, of the clear notes of a bird call, and of reliving the joy that I had when nature was a playground and a classroom.

How About a Lizard

Along with the missing turtles, I have seen very few lizards this year.  

anolisWhen I was doing an estate sale in Harleton, I regularly saw a 5 Lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) and a 6 Lined Racerunner Whiptail lizard (Aspidoscelis sexlineata).  At the RV park I have seen one Anolis lizard (Anolis carolinensis) and a couple of times I have seen 5 Lined Skinks - including one on my site when I was moving big rocks to make an outdoor fire ring.

On my several trips across the highway where I walk in the woods, I have seen 2 Anolis lizards.  Two.

Today, as I walked from the office to my RV, I saw a small Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus olivaceous).  

So in six months of suitable weather, in all my time outdoors (which is considerable), I have seen 8 lizards of 4 different species.  I don't understand that.  I used to spend a few minutes in the woods and would see more than that.  

Where are the lizards? 

I did a quick Google search and found nothing.  Unlike with turtles which had lots of hits.  But I do know the difference is extreme.  

From the time I was a kid through my years as a biologist, I could always find dozens of lizards anywhere I went in Texas.  In west Texas there were Whiptails (Cnemidophorus then - Aspidoscelis now) everywhere; Uta were common in the right areas; lots of Urosaurus; and, of course, the long missing Horned Lizards (Phrynosoma cornutum).  In east Texas there were large numbers of Sceloporus, Aspidoscelis, Phrynosoma and Anolis lizards.  By large numbers, I mean I could see a dozen or more in a 15 minute walk.  

I do know what happened to the Texas Horned Lizards.  Their food source was wiped out and they went away - well, not completely, but they are missing in most areas now and rare in the few places they are still found.  When I was a kid, they were everywhere you looked, as were their food source, Red Harvester Ants (Pogomyramex).  A combination of pesticides and then competition from fire ants have devastated the Red Harvester Ant populations.  Since they made up at least 65% of Horned Lizards diet, their populations were devastated, too.

But that doesn't explain what happened to the Spiny Lizards, the Anolis, and all the other formerly common species.  

I am going to have to do some research and see what I can find. 


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Tuesday, 22 October 2019
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