Six-Lined Racerunner

These pretty little lizards were the fastest-moving thing on the ground in the Florida sandhills. I saw them every day, but I never managed to get a photo of one in situ. I caught this one in a snake trap and snapped this shot just before letting it go. Look at those crazy long toes!

The six-lined racerunner is a type of whiptail lizard, the only one found in the east. There are more in the southwest. You might have heard of those; they’re known for a very interesting trait. Some populations of whiptail lizards are all female. They reproduce by parthenogenesis. No males required!

This is not the same thing as the asexual reproduction you see in plants, where a part of an organism is broken off and an entirely new one grows from it. That’s cloning, in which the offspring and the parent have the same set of chromosomes. In parthenogenesis, no new DNA is introduced, but the existing chromosomes still go through meiosis, so the offspring are not genetically identical to the parent. And, honestly, my several attempts at a paragraph explaining how that works only reminded me that it’s been a long time since I took a genetics class, so I’ll do us all a favor and just point you to Wikipedia’s entry on parthenogenesis.

We tend to think of only plants and some invertebrates as reproducing asexually, but it’s more common in vertebrates than you might have thought. Some of the other species it’s been documented in include hammerhead sharks, boa constrictorsKomodo dragons, and domestic turkeys. While looking for examples, I discovered that I’m already familiar with some local snakes capable of parthenogenesis: the cottonmouth and copperhead — a 2012 study found genetic evidence in both species! No matter how you feel about venomous snakes, that is pretty damned cool.

Arachnophobes, avert your eyes

I recently lost a large chunk of the contents of my hard drive, including many of the photos I intended to use for this blog.  Most of them still exist, scattered over an old hard drive, several thumb drives, and at least three camera cards. My files were backed up, but not organized.

I’ve been slowly going through them all, occasionally finding something I forgot I had. Like this video version of the Spider vs. Anole photo!



Green Anole

Many southerners will recognize the green anole, aka Carolina anole, aka American chameleon. The scientific name is Anolis carolinensis.

Green anole, not green at the moment
Green anole, not so green at the moment

Though sold in pet shops as “chameleons” because of their color-changing ability, they’re not the same as the true chameleons of Africa and Asia.

Green anoles are small, slender lizards that live mostly in trees, but can also be found clinging to window and porch screens. Usually bright green, they can change their color to brown or tan. They have a pink throat fan, or dewlap, which they expand to communicate with other anoles. They are territorial, so what they’re communicating is probably “MY tree! Go away!”

Continue reading Green Anole