Off With the Old, On With the New

Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) in the process of shedding its skin

Fallen needles from longleaf pines and fresh, recently unfurled ferns were the order of the day: a pleasing palette of brown and green. When the unexpected flash of white caught my attention, I wondered if I were seeing trash: an odd experience in a place where signs of human presence usually are limited to stretches of repaired boardwalk or botanical research markers.

In fact, I had spotted trash, but of a very natural sort. A green anole, one of our most common lizards, was in the process of shedding its skin. The process, known as ‘ecdysis,’ differs from reptile to reptile. Snakes leave their skin in one piece; turtles shed the scutes that comprise their shell individually; alligators lose their large scales one at a time; but lizards, including the green anole, peel away old skin in sections.

Prior to shedding, anoles become less active and change their color to a dull brown, making the pattern along their spines easier to see.

As the shedding process progresses, anoles need moisture to keep the dead skin from drying too quickly and adhering to their bodies. Areas like the tips of the toes can be especially problematic. If that skin fails to shed along with that on the rest of the foot, the remaining skin may shrink, causing constricted blood flow and toe loss. For this anole, the same humidity that I found annoying was a real benefit.

Most anoles stop eating while they shed, or cut back on their diet substantially. But the process takes energy, and a little snack never hurts; for the anole, the snack closest at hand is its own skin.

Filled with vitamins and minerals, the shed skin helps to reactivate the digestive system, provides nutrients, and also reduces the possibility that bits of leftover skin might alert a predator to the anole’s presence.

I thought at first that this one was using its mouth solely as a handy tool for skin removal, but I soon realized that those bits of skin weren’t being allowed to fall into the ferns or onto the ground.

While I watched, the creature tugged, nibbled, and gnawed its way through nearly all the skin on its body, leaving only its tail and toes to be tended to.

By the time it had finished consuming the last large bits of skin, it was ready to move deeper into the ferns: presumably to finish cleaning its tail and toes before the Saturday night social began.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Turtle, Times Two

 

Late on Christmas afternoon, two turtles had trundled up this tiny snag to enjoy the sunshine and the gift of an especially warm day.

Cold-blooded, turtles control their body temperature by basking in the sun to absorb warmth and UV rays. Heat is radiated to their bodies from their shells, but they often will stretch out their legs to collect additional heat. In the photo below, you can see how far their legs are extended, and how they’ve widened their feet to increase the surface area even more.

I usually see turtles lying prone on logs, but these seemed comfortable at about a 60 degree angle. It’s clearly a favored spot. I’ve seen this pair of what I presume to be red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) on the same snag three different times, but this is the first time I’ve caught their reflection in the water.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Lookin’ Out My Back Door

 

No, I wasn’t at a wildlife refuge. I wasn’t exploring a bayou, or slogging through a swamp. I was sitting at my desk when I happened to glance toward  the marina, and saw the unmistakable profile.

A quick run down the stairs took me to the water’s edge, where light from the setting sun flickered and faded. You never know, I thought. You just never know what you’re going to see — even if you’re only looking out your back door.

 

Creedence Clearwater Revival ~ lyrics, J.C. Fogerty

 

Just got home from Illinois, lock the front door, oh boy!
Got to sit down, take a rest on the porch.
Imagination sets in, pretty soon I’m singin’
Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door.
Giant doin’ cartwheels, statue wearin’ high heels,
Look at all the happy creatures dancin’ on the lawn.
Dinosaur Victrola list’nin’ to Buck Owens
Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door.
Tambourines and elephants are playin’ in the band
Won’t you take a ride on the flyin’ spoon? Doo, doo, doo
Wond’rous apparition provided by magician
Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door.
Tambourines and elephants are playin’ in the band
Won’t you take a ride on the flyin’ spoon? Doo, doo, doo
Bother me tomorrow, today, I’ll buy no sorrow
Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door.
Forward troubles Illinois, lock the front door, oh boy!
Look at all the happy creatures dancin’ on the lawn
Bother me tomorrow, today, I’ll buy no sorrow
Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door.

Comments always are welcome.