Sunday, February 14, 2016


If you have a hard time getting going on a cold morning, ...consider the fence lizard.
 On any normal warm Florida day, these guys combine excellent camo with ninja-like speed to avoid capture. On an oak tree, they practically vanish due to their superbly adapted coloration.
If that doesn't work, they are experts at squirrelian scrimmaging to whatever side of the tree you are not on.
...BUT, catch them on a cold morning and their supereptilian powers are nullified.

I picked this one up cold and limp from under a bit of plywood that was lying on the ground. With chilled muscles that were below their working temperature, he was helpless.
I'm pretty sure my endothermic mammalian warmth felt delicious to him, because he was perfectly content to hug a finger and bask.

All of his coldoldruminicity gave me a chance to appreciate our similarities and differences.
My nails and his scales are made of the same stuff.

That hand and that arm has the same basic blueprint as mine:
Humerus -- Radius & Ulna -- Carpals -- Metacarpals -- Phalanges -- Nails.
Shared, but not identical DNA makes this handsome male (talking about the lizard) my cousin, but not my brother.
He's way better adapted to catching ants and other insects...while I'm better at say ... remodeling a house.

We're working on DNA in my Biology class and I can't help but think of my Bio students when I look at this lizard.

Not because he just wanted to lie in the sun and bask)

They were working on the basic structure of DNA last week...poor things.
 My biology class is the last class of the day for them and my job is to take their tired brains into the most important chemical on the planet and have them walk away with a working knowledge of it's structure and the whole amazing process of replication, transcription, and translation.
We'll get there, but maybe we should start the class next week with that lizard face above and just try to appreciate that every shape,substance, color, fold, space, pattern, ... everything in that face is the result of DNA code ... 4 little bases arranged in infinite variety... it leaves me a little awestruck.
I hope that comes through in the lessons.

The fence lizard doesn't know about DNA, (
neither did we not so long ago), he just knows my hand is warm and it is better to cling to it than not on this cold morning.
That gives me more time to admire his architecture.
The blue scales say, "I'm a male".
Inside, his body is warming up, both immediately from my 98.6 F, but also seasonally as the Florida Spring is not far away.
Soon it will be time to put those blue scales to use wooing the ladies.
The DNAmour gene will soon fire up and this loner will be chasing tail up and down the oaks here.

A slightly tighter grip in this picture as I could feel him becoming more active ... a signal that it was time to part.
At the rotting oak stump in the blueberry patch, I held my hand to the bark and released my grip.

He stayed.
In fact, he had to be scraped gently from my hand to the stump.
No lizardy affection there, just warmth,... I know this.
Still, it made me smile.


Julie Zickefoose said...

I love this post. The fence lizard: a small miracle of scales, bone, flesh and genes, held in your hand. Finally, a close look at that gorget, and the wonder of how that color could be made in keratin. Feeling the warmth flow from your blood to his poor poikilotherm body. With you all the way.
And it made me think of DNA, and how it can dictate everything from the length of your femur to the way you move your hands when you speak. I remember watching three-year-old Liam holding one hand out, palm up, just the way my father, who he never knew, used to do. Signing off...

Ms. Moon said...

Beautiful, beautiful post.

Gingersnaps said...

What charming neckwear he has! Warm hands all ways mean warm heart, I am sure he is grateful for yours =)

robin andrea said...

A Valentine's Day love post to a lizard. I love this! What a wonderful, warm dna connection you made.

Lisa Greenbow said...

How nice being able to look at a lizard up close and personal.

Marilyn Kircus said...

I took a Coursera class on "What a Plant Knows". I came away awed on what plants can perceive, and how they can communicate, but the most mindblowing thing was that we share several genes with them. One is the breast cancer gene - can't remember its function in plants. Another was the deaf gene, the mutation of which results in deafness in people and the inability to take up enough water in plants, since the genes are responsible for hair growth - in our ears for us and on the roots for plants.

Another mind blowing DNA fact is that now scientists can calculate when a mutation occurred by the number of species that have it.

Sayre said...

Amazing shots! Thank you.

R.Powers said...

Thanks y'all.
Kind of a lizard fan here. PFHQ is loaded with them.

Kim S. said...

Wonderful post! Great lesson -- in science and appreciation -- for all ages. If you teach this way (and I suspect you do), I'm sure those kids will "get it." Thank you for your words and images. Kim in PA

Wally Jones said...

Terrific post! I love lizards! They're a lot like me on a chilly morning - slow to get moving. Oh, wait, I'm that way every morning.

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