Virgin Mary among Lizards


Maneka Gandhi

(Bihar Times) What fun animals are! The more you read about them , the more fascinating their lives become. Look at lizards. I am not going to tell you about their adhesive feet and changing colours because you know all that. But people like my son who can face bullets but run from a room if it has a lizard in it , need to know how amazing these animals are:
Take the male side-blotched lizards. There are three types blue, orange, and yellow throated. They live together but each one has a unique mating strategy. In the game rock-paper-scissors, rock beats scissors, scissors beat paper, and paper beats rock. Among the lizards, orange beats blue, blue beats yellow, and yellow beats orange. The result is a stable population in which no single colored lizard can dominate. The orange males are aggressive "usurpers" that take over the mates of blues. The yellow males are "sneakers" because they mimic females and sneak behind the back of orange males to cuckold them, or steal their mate. The blue males are "guarders" that watch over their mates and chase off yellow sneakers, but lose out against the usurpers.
Did you know:
That a chameleon's color change is caused by its emotion, as well as light and temperature, and not by its background.

That  chameleons are capable of moving and focusing their eyes separately. This gives the ability to look in two different directions at the same time and focus on two separate objects.
That a chameleon's tongue is at least as long as its body and capable of stretching to a length more than three times its body length to capture food. When it sees its prey, the chameleon's tongue is catapulted out of its mouth at super speed and caught with the sticky tip of its tongue.

That some species of lizards do not have males. Females give “virgin births “ so , at the risk of being irreverent , each lizard is a mini female Mary. If nothing else , she deserves respect and not fear ! An even more bizarre fact is that fertility in these lizards increase when they engage in what is called pseudocopulation when one female takes the role of a male and mounts another female. This act produces a larger clutch of eggs compared to al female that does not receive this.
That geckos ( the ones most of you run from ) have  the ability to produce sounds. Some make high pitched calls, some sound like ducks, and others like barking dogs.

That the Horned Lizard can shoot high pressure steams of blood out of its eyes for upto 5 feet if threatened.

That the Thorny Devil of Australia becomes pale when it is warm and darker when it's cold. But most bizarrely , it has a "false head" located on the back of its neck. In fact , when it comes to amazing animals the thorny devil is among the top choices. This little lizard only grows to about seven inches, and his menu consists of ants but he can catch only one at a time and stabs each ant by throwing his tongue out at amazing speed eating hundreds at a time. The thorny devil is covered on every part of their body with thorns. The thorns take rainwater and channel it into grooves in the skin that then take the water to the lizards mouth so he never needs to drink from ponds as he carries his own rainwater harvesting tank !!

That the male sand lizard who is usually brown or grey develops vivid green thighs in the breeding season to make it easier for females to find him.  Other lizards whose colour ranges from brownish-buff to greyish, advertise their availability by turning their throats red and black during the season.

That the Satanic leaf-tailed gecko has a body that superbly mimics a dead leaf. Its twisted body, veined skin, and tail which looks remarkably like it has been nibbled at by insects or rotted by decay, all help this reptile blend into the foliage of its habitat..

That the sail-fin lizard has an erect ‘sail’ of skin at the base of  its tail, up to 8 cm high, which provides propulsion for this swimmer to move through the water. It also has large, flattened toes that enable it to run across the water’s surface like Jesus walking on water.

That the Burton’s Snake Lizard looks like a snake. It wiggles its tail to lure prey, and then swiftly strikes from the other direction and crushes it.

There are hundreds of varieties of lizards and what they all have in common for me , is that I find them devastatingly good looking . They reinforce my faith in a heaven inhabited by artists. Sadly, most of the stranger looking ones are in rapid decline and your children will never see them. Try to enjoy them while you can.

Not one in our country or even continent  is poisonous or even aggressive


To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in


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