Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lizard lore

I was just going to blog about the basilisk, which was featured in the weird news, but look what I found!
Armadillo lizard Armadillo lizards - also known as armadillo girdled lizards or armadillo spiny-tailed lizards - are native to the deserts of southern Africa. They average 6 1/2" to 8 1/2" in length. They are unusual among lizards because they give birth to live young, rather than laying eggs, and because they show parental care by sometimes feeding their young. They also stand out because of their unique defense posture. When frightened, they grab their tails in their mouths and curl up into balls, exposing their offputting scales, rather than their soft underbellies, to predators. This may have given rise to the ancient Greek symbol of the ouroboros.
Frill-necked lizard Frill-necked lizards - also known as frilled lizards or frilled dragons - are found in southern New Guinea and parts of western and northern Australia. They grow up to a meter in length. They have only a single predator (a python) and protect themselves by opening their mouths and flaring out the large ruff of skin around their necks, which is supported by spines of cartilage. Thwy usually walk on all fours when on the ground, but can flee bipedally. When the temperature of their eggs are extreme, only females hatch. The frill-necked lizard has been featured in cartoons and emblems, and was depicted on the Australian 2-cent coin, which was withdrawn from circulation in 1992 and melted down to make the bronze medals for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney.
Basilisk lizard Basilisks are a genus of lizard that is endemic to the Central and South American rainforest and are usually under 1' in length. Basilisks include 4 species - common, red-headed, plumed, and striped or brown - that have the remarkable ability to "walk on water," thus they are collectively known as the Jesus Christ lizard. They do this by running on their hind legs at almost 5' per second, which allows them to stay above the surface for nearly 15' before they sink and swim. Be sure to watch this slow-motion footage from a new BBC documentary to see how it's done.) In the bestiaries and legends of Europe, the basilisk was the king of serpents and could kill with its gaze.
I am pleased to report that none of these lizards are endangered, although the frill-necked lizard may soon be devastated by invasive and toxic cane toads.

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