Another search for Greenwich Lizards

I just returned from another trip down to Greenwich looking for Italian Wall Lizards. They’re still there and going strong! Right now we’re trying to find new populations and figure out just how far up the coast they’ve made it. As near as we can tell, so far, their northernmost extent seems to be right around the Cos Cob train station. If you’ve seen any lizards north or east of Cos Cob harbor definitely let me know!

Here are a few pictures of lizards from these last trips:


I like this picture – can you see the male hiding behind the female, further up the wall?


This fellow is trying to get into the basement!


Here’s Max, chasing a lizard into the vegetable garden.


More leads on lizards in CT

This weekend a great article about the Italian Wall Lizards in Greenwich was published in the Greenwich Time. Give it a look here. Thanks to Peregrine Frissell for the interview.

I’m excited because new tips are starting to roll in about lizards in Southern CT and New York. It turns out lizard diversity in the area is higher than expected – we’re getting reports of some other species too:

Here’s a cute little Sceloporus:


(Photo credit: K. Ladd)

And here’s Anolis sagrei, the “festive anole” a long way from home!


(Photo credit: K. Eisley)

Very cool lizards but we’re on the lookout for this guy, Podarcis siculus:


Here are a bunch more pictures. Email me to let me know if you think you’ve seen one in your backyard!

Decor decisions

Some friends gave us an EU flag to wrap a wedding present (anticipating our time in Europe) and I decided to hang it at work for inspiration. (And no, it’s not an anachronism now – the 12 stars are staying regardless of Britain’s leaving. Did you know there are 28, soon to be 27, member states?)


Looks great in the office, doesn’t it?! Well, everything seemed perfect until I sat down for a Skype call… Here’s what I saw:


Oops. But actually I think I’m gonna keep it just the way it is🙂

Honeymoon Herps


Claire and I got married! For long term followers of the blog that might not come as such a surprise. We had a blast at Mass Audubon’s Habitat Nature Sanctuary for the ceremony and after, we left for Amelia Island in Florida.

Alright, so Amelia Island was nice, dolphins off the porch every morning, biking through live oak forests, kayaking through salt marshes, and sitting on miles of powdery white sand beaches. Really nice. But there were lizards!! PERFECT!

We found four species including this Anolis carolinensis above and below.


One of his cousins looked somewhat smug after being caught, don’t you think?


Alright, enough of the extraneous ring cameos. We found lots of Festive anoles too (Anolis sagrei). How appropriate.


Among all of the Anoles we found a couple of other species too. Here’s a picture of a cool skink, Scincella lateralis.


And I never managed to get a grip of the couple of whiptails dashing around the B&B but Aspidoscelis sexlineatus was also streaking through the dunes. Another really cool lizard!

All in all it was a terrific week of relaxing and recharging. If you’re ever looking for a great spot for outdoor adventure, quiet beach time, or good food, try Amelia Island!


Last Monday (the 23rd) was Yale Graduation and time for me to walk! It was a bit of a crazy blitz getting back from Greece late Friday and heading to New Haven on Sunday morning, but I was excited to finally see the pomp of Yale graduation ceremonies (I’ve been in the field every other year). They didn’t disappoint. Amidst the numerous ceremonial (I think) maces, the president’s massive gold “collar”, an army’s worth of banners and flags marching every which way, and invocations from Deans in English and Latin, the Forestry school has a somewhat more personable tradition: we like to decorate our mortar boards according to our research interest. I, of course, needed a lizard on a wall.


Having at it with the glue gun and some painted styrofoam “field stones.”


Modeling the finished product.


The eagle-eyed among you will recognize this as Phelsuma, not Podarcis, but I did my best with the stuffed beasts at my disposal. If anyone knows of any stuffed Podarcis I’ll pay!

IMG_2378The Forestry school is a big hit at Graduation ceremonies on the jumbotron. You can even see me!! (Photo credit: Claire).


Finally, here I am with my advisor, Os, after the ceremony. It’s the end of a very good era at the School of Forestry.

And the start of an exciting new era which I’ll tell you all about next!

And some high-speed videos

Yesterday’s post was a bit of teaser for the setup of the high-speed video. Now let’s see a couple of examples! (For full effect, I’d recommend playing this on full volume in the background. Rest assured, once we have a highlight reel of lizard runs we’ll definitely be creating a montage of our own)

There’s all sorts of cool stuff going on in this video I had never seen before. For example, notice as the fellow is running into the frame at full tilt he does a little hop and lands with all four feet planted and comes to an almost immediate halt. He then looks left to right to survey his surroundings, and as my big scary hand approaches, turns, pushes off with forelimbs and then generates speed with some big back-leg strides that cause his back to twist with the momentum. He navigates the corners cleanly, but slowly, pausing to look around the corner. Remember though, all of this happens within the span of about a second and a half in real-time.

Now look at this enthusiastic fellow:

He comes barreling in and can’t stop to notice the impending wall. His first crash just turns his head but he sure doesn’t look like he’s attempting to negotiate the turn. At the second crash he crumples and decides a different tact might be best; perhaps climbing the wall and getting out (though it looks more like he’s tap dancing). Again, all of this is happening faster than the eye can really register but at 500 frames per second we’re given a new perspective on these two very different runs.

So now comes the analysis, and this is going to be tricky. Menelia recorded 885 videos and each averages about 2.5 seconds in length. At 500 frames per second that works out to some 1.1 million frames of video to process… Know any good books on tape?

High-speed Sprint Speed

I’ve posted in the past about the lizard sprint speed studies I’ve tried over the years on erhardii. Each of those experiments have come with the caveat that without a high-speed camera (shooting around 500 frames per second and costing the down-payment for a house) we can’t detect more subtle differences between lizard populations. Well, this year Menelia brought a beautiful high-speed camera from her home institution in Antwerp and we had fun finally getting a good look at these lizards on the run.

IMG_3501First steps, warm up the lizards. We used individual socks this year – a major innovation that made it a lot easier to be sure each lizard did their trial run before the next, and sped the process up without having to chase the lizard around the bin.

IMG_3512Then the white dots. These dots show up nice and clear in the video camera and help track the back of the head, the midpoint between shoulders and hips, and the middle of the back. Hopefully these will make processing the video a lot easier.

IMG_3515Here’s our setup. Note the two rainbow kiddie pools (hard not to notice them). This was a major improvement! The lizards would come rocketing out of the sprint speed track and land on the nice inflated pool floor, ready for us to scoop them up back into their sock.

Notice too that the sprint speed track has a couple of right-angle turns in it. One of Menelia’s questions deals with maneuverability and so we were anxious to see how well the lizards negotiated both the first, and second turns in the course.


Here’s the camera’s eye view. Beautiful! Time to run the lizards.