The lizards are in the books!

It was a breakneck two weeks of sampling, but we’ve caught, measured, and released all the lizards in the island experiment! The 2018 census is in the books. Or at least, on a huge stack of data sheets waiting to be typed into my computer.

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The lizards are doing great! All of the populations are hanging in there, we found lizards in new places on some of the islands that we hadn’t seen before. We found a couple of real monsters – weighing in at over 10 grams and biting with 50+ newtons of force (alright, alright, that may not seem like a lot, but for context their great-great-grandparents weighed about 5 grams and bit around 15 N).

But, I know the question that’s been on all of your minds is how many lizards were there this year, and – more importantly – who won the bet?


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We had 29 guesses for the 2018 lizard populations from experts and non-experts alike. They spanned quite a range from a utopian 1055 to a more pessimistic 287. Here are the guesses, with blue font indicating guesses from people with advanced degrees in lizardry:

287, 294, 390, 418, 421, 500, 526, 530, 550, 570, 572, 580, 596, 597, 597, 600, 602, 622, 632, 643, 666, 700, 716, 733, 767, 918, 919, 927, 1055

And the answer is:

531*

*I think… I still need to enter the data to make completely sure.untitled-002.jpeg

My dad, with a guess of 530, was just about perfect. I guess decades of practice predicting the future from fuzzy trends (“macroeconomic forecasting“) put him right on the money. Honorable mention goes to a friend, Beth, with a guess of 526. You both can claim your prize in Greece – the sooner you visit, the better!

I can’t help but notice a few other things in the guesstimates:

Notice how clustered the experts’ guesses were? The range from biggest to smallest estimate was “only” 217** whereas the non-expert range spanned 768 lizards.

** Upon further consideration, this is a surprisingly wide range.

Despite the bigger range, the non-experts guessed on average that there’d be 611 lizards this year, whereas the “experts” predicted 627. So, hats off to the non-experts! It looks like this might inadvertently be a case study of the wisdom of crowds. Maybe next year instead of slaving away in the hot sun, diving on rocks, and getting slashed by thorns to catch lizards, I should just put up a Twitter poll!

Then again, I’d miss scenes like this at the end of the day:

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and memorable adventures in the field with friends.

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Photo: Kinsey Brock

2 thoughts on “The lizards are in the books!

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