Mar 26 2008

Spiny arboreal lizard of the week

Texas Spiny lizard, Sceloporus olivaceus. Male variety, actual size. Photographed March 25, 2008, at the Twisty Institute for Urban Varmint Research, North South Austin.

This ordinarily doleful reptile amused me for half an hour yesterday with an unscheduled performance of an aerobics routine. It would run along the back of a wooden bench, stop suddenly, execute a series of push-ups, run some more, do more push-ups, etc. It’s mating season for the Texas Spiny lizard; I think he was trying to get in shape.

Because I am too lazy to cut it down, the Twisty Bungalow is entirely engulfed in a primordial-looking fig vine which hums and pulsates with hundreds of species of varmints, both vertebrates and otherwise. I think it’s quaint; others opine that it just looks like a crazy person lives here. You probably don’t have to let a fig vine consume your bungalow in order to get cozy with Texas spiny lizards, but it doesn’t hurt.


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  1. Ingrid

    A lizard ran out on a rock and looked up, listening
    no doubt to the sounding of the spheres.
    And what a dandy fellow! the right toss of a chin for you
    and swirl of a tail!

    If men were as much men as lizards are lizards
    they’d be worth looking at.

    -D.H. Lawrence

  2. Gayle

    Lizards are way cool. This one is particularly handsome.

  3. brainiac9

    Is it strange that my first reaction was “Aww! How cute!”?

    Anyways, Twisty, your photos never fail to bring the awesomeness. Thanks for sharing the lovely lizard pic!

  4. Yoohoo

    I’m so jealous of people that live in countries where lizards run around in the garden.

  5. cycles

    Crazy person lives here – you say that like it’s a bad thing.

    Your vine description makes me think of Theodore Roethke:

    Nothing would sleep in that cellar, dank as a ditch,
    Bulbs broke out of boxes hunting for chinks in the dark,
    Shoots dangled and drooped,
    Lolling obscenely from mildewed crates,
    Hung down long yellow evil necks, like tropical snakes.
    And what a congress of stinks!–
    Roots ripe as old bait,
    Pulpy stems, rank, silo-rich,
    Leaf-mold, manure, lime, piled against slippery planks.
    Nothing would give up life:
    Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.

    No blaming here. Just a poem and a thanks and a howdy. Alas, and even the poem is not a limerick.

  6. Ron Sullivan


    Do they have blue bellies, like our fence lizards?
    (Who, inciddentally, cure Lyme disease in baby ticks?)
    (No shit.)

  7. Twisty

    The males have blue patches. They cure ennui in spinster aunts.

  8. Dave

    Much as birds chirp their threats and come-ons and commentaries, sagebrush lizards in the western United States communicate through little flex fests. Both male and female lizards rise off their bellies and bob up and down, quick as a recruit slamming into the ground at the feet of a bellowing marine sergeant.

    More here.

  9. ela

    Twisty, I’m sorry it isn’t about the post, but I wanted to ask your opinion.
    I’ve just read http://hugoschwyzer.net/2008/03/26/chivalry-is-deeply-feminist-butch-femme-culture-and-a-rethink-on-gender-roles/#more-2190
    One person commented that:
    “I enjoy performing femininity (when I have the time and the mood) and if I’m performing it for a specific person, for example a boyfriend, I expect him to show his appreciation by making my life as easy as possible and compensating for the discomfort I’m voluntarily undertaking… my long held conviction that men that don’t perform chivalry when their partners are performing femininity are being assholes and that this has to do with the demands and constraints of femininity and not gender.”
    For some reason, I feel certain uneasiness. If your boyfriend prefers you not to perform femininity, does it mean he is an asshole too, if he doesn’t want to perform chivalry to compensate for discomfort you’re voluntarily undertaking? What is the difference between chivalry and good manners?
    Personally, I prefer to minimize the amount of discomfort in my life, not to undertake more. Hugo says we can learn a great deal from the butch-femme world, but in this case the butch-femme world seems to “learn a great deal” from the sexist attitudes in our society and trying to enforce them even with 2 women. Do I understand something wrong? As a straight person, who has never seen that community, I am completely clueless. Why would people not to wear what they want – once a skirt, once a pair of jeans? Do they always enjoy playing one part all their lives? Is this game that interesting?
    Note: I hope it doesn’t sound I’m criticizing women for their personal choices, thus enjoying in women-blaming.

  10. Jeni

    Actual size on what screen? My iPod touch? Or the 15.4 inch laptop?

  11. Twisty

    ela: “For some reason, I feel certain uneasiness.”

    No shit. Friends don’t let friends humiliate themselves for their amusement.

    Butch-femme culture is a cariacature of straight culture. Because heterosexuality is the dominant paradigm, it is difficult for anybody, gay or straight, to carve out a micro social order that doesn’t involve dominance and submission on one level or another.

    Jeni: “Actual size on what screen? My iPod touch? Or the 15.4 inch laptop?”

    Ha. On a 23″ LCD screen with 1600 x 1024 resolution, of course. Isn’t that exactly what everyone in the world uses?

    The lizard was about 9 inches long, for iPod Touch users.

  12. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Thanks for reviving the Varmint Institute with this magnificent specimen. If I were a lady lizard, he’d turn my head.

  13. slythwolf

    Totally reminds me of the little house geckos that used to hang out all over the walls of the–what would you call it–cabin unit thing we stayed in on Lizard Island. Lizard Island, incidentally, is named not for the house geckos but for the enormous fucking goannas who used to show up at every meal and practically beg for leftovers.

    Damn, reptiles are cool.

  14. Seraphine

    Aren’t lizards like geckos? If so,
    they are considered good luck inside
    the home. I think it’s because they
    eat the bugs you don’t want to eat.

  15. Intransigentia

    Does the fig vine make actual figs that you can eat? If so, can you make something with them and photograph it for our delectation?

    Now I’m off to Hugo’s because my blood pressure isn’t high enough.

  16. lawbitch

    I’m going to pass on Hugo because I’m having a great day. Why hash my mellow after the charming lizard?

  17. lawbitch

    That should be “harsh my mellow.” Maybe it’s a Freudian slip. Not really, I’m just tired. LOL!

  18. slythwolf

    I was going to say, lawbitch, wouldn’t “hashing your mellow” actually make you more mellow?

  19. sharon

    Is that what we used to call a horny toad when I was a kid?

  20. Calabama

    I’d heard it was a compensatory technique for their lack of stereoscopic vision. But when I looked around, I found more about lizard pushups than anyone may want to know.

  21. Jezebella

    Let me be the first in this thread to offer my hearty congratulations on your new masthead and new mission! I look forward to finding out what Jeezus Christ Our Lard and Heavenly Concierge has had to say to you each and every day.

    Nice lizard.

  22. butterflywings

    ela: “What is the difference between chivalry and good manners?
    Personally, I prefer to minimize the amount of discomfort in my life…”
    I think you answered your question with the second sentence.
    Good manners is about consideration for the other person and wish to minimise their discomfort.
    Chivalry is adhering to some outdated code that actually makes women feel uncomfortable and inferior.
    Since woman are not generally less capable of opening doors or standing etc. than men.
    In fact I am more so than some elderly man, or even a guy who just tore a ligament in his knee playing football, if that isn’t macho enough to mention that men get old, too.

  23. invisible

    My love:


  24. invisible


  25. Betsy

    Calabama — Wow. That was one fascinating link on documenting animal behavior with scientific objectivity! However, I believe I have found a MISTAKE in the presentation module, on page 10, as follows:

    “It can’t be mating behavior because all the lizards in your backyard are female.”

  26. Rugosa

    Delightful picture of the lizard, Twisty.

    Please do tell us more about the fig vine. Is it a species of Ficus? I have the tiny-leaved creeping fig* as a houseplant. It once took over a large terrarium, so I can imagine it engulfing a bungalow in a suitable climate. It is now confined to one small terrarium.

    *Could be Ficus pumila but I’m not sure. Plant-sellers and botanists often have violent disagreements about nomenclature. Plant-sellers like to keep the same names over a long time; botanists like to keep us on our toes by changing names every now and then.

  27. Twisty

    Rugosa: Here’s a close-up of the fig vine. It is indeed F. pumila. I look forward to the day when the house crumbles under the weight of it, leaving me with a bungalow-shaped fig-vine bower in which to hibernate.

  28. Jodie

    Every once in a while, one of those lizards turns up here in Oklahoma. They are intensely cool.

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