Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lizard Boot Camp

Human behavior is an interesting thing. Spending an afternoon watching people in a local shopping mall will give a sociologist/psychologist a wealth of behavior to observe and interpret. The behavior of other animals can be just as fascinating, if not more so if you know what to look and listen for. For those of you that hike in natural areas such as the Puente Hills, there are great opportunities for you to be the amateur animal sociologist.

Just as with humans, the behavior of other animals is used to attract mates, threaten or warn potential adversaries, or just to be social. Individual bird species possess a range of calls for these purposes, from a warbling melodious song, to a harsh rasp. Lizards, on the other hand, use their bodies.

Have you ever seen a lizard doing “pushups” and wondered what that was about? If you have ever come across a lizard, then either you have seen this, or the lizard was doing this but you missed the signal. No, they are not getting exercise like you are, or training for the next “Survivor – Puente Hills”. If you come across a lizard doing pushups (such as the western fence lizard in the above photo), then likely it is doing this in response to you. For various reasons, lizards will do what appear to be pushups, a series of jerky up and down movements with their head and forelimbs. However, depending on the slightest nuance in the way they move, a lizard could be saying anything from “Get off my rock now!” to “Will you be my valentine!?!” In your case, the lizard is probably not trying to select you for a mate, but instead it is warning that you are trespassing on its territory.

So, the next time you want to tell a friend or family member to get out of your favorite chair, try it with body language!

No comments: