While I was digging in the garden over the weekend, I made lots of new friends. Whether they liked it or not.
Was digging around in the garden today, much to the surprise of the local earthworms, rolie polies, ants, and spiders. They were pissed.
— Beatrice Biologist (@beatricebiology) March 9, 2015
And then I can upon a vertebrate backyard friend. An alligator lizard!
I used to catch lizards all the time as a kid growing up in Nevada. We called our local species "blue bellies," but I had never come across one in my current home of Los Angeles. This one was sluggish, as it was early and still chilly outside. (Well, California "chilly," meaning about 65 degrees Fahrenheit). Since lizards, like all of their reptile brethren (and sistren), are ectotherms--often referred to as "cold-blooded"--they don't control their body temperature, but rely on the environment to dictate their internal temperature and therefore metabolic rate and resulting energy level, which is why there is nothing a lizard loves more than a rock baking in the sun. I can relate.
Since ectotherms don't waste any of their energy on silly things like heating their bodies like we do, they can get by on surprisingly little food. The skinks I had as pets growing up only needed a cricket every few days. Even big reptiles like crocodiles eat once every week or two, which leads me to my favorite reptile factoid: crocodiles, if they need to, can go without a meal for over a year. A YEAR. Even for an ectotherm with low energetic needs, that is rather impressive, don't you think?
I know it's a bit of a false equivalency to even suggest a diet comparison between myself and a crocodile. But come on. A year?! A year is such a long time to go without a meal!