Friday, June 4, 2010

Blue-bellied lizard

I see and hear so many lizards as I walk that you'd think I'd know more about these sun-loving creatures. Alas, I've mostly ignored them. I'll see them lounging on warm rocks and hear them as they furtively skitter off the rocks to take cover when I walk by. Lately, I've been sitting on those rocks and waiting for birds or squirrels to appear, and while waiting I've been visited by a few lizards. Since birds have been pretty scarce I've turned my attention to these prehistoric looking creatures. If I keep a distance and use my binoculars, I've found that some are rather bold and, perhaps, as curious about me as I am about them.

My first surprise was that most of the lizards I've been seeing have blue bellies. Beautiful, iridescent blue bellies. Wow! My husband, a veterinarian, knew right away what they were. Not surprisingly, one of their common names is Blue belly. They're also known as Western Fence Lizards and the official latin name is Sceloporus occidentalis.The blue belly tells me that this lizard is an adult male.

Greg told me that they are slightly toxic to cats. Which reminded me of a cat that lived with me long ago, Henry, who became extremely gaunt one summer and lost his appetite. Worried that something terrible was wrong with him, I took him to a different veterinarian, as I hadn't yet met Greg. She told me that he was probably eating lizards. Sure enough, David, my next door neighbor, told me that he'd been finding lizard carcasses in his driveway lately and wondered what was going on.

Apparently, these lizards are more than pretty blue bellies. In areas where they're found there is a decreased chance of contracting Lyme disease. According to a California Academy of Science article a protein in the blood of these lizards kills the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. When a western black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) bites the lizard it's blood is cleansed of the Borrelia burgdorferi. Then, if it bites you or me, it's just a tick bite, not the beginning of an unpleasant disease.

You can read more about Blue bellies at:
California Academy of Science
Kaweah Oaks

1 comment:

  1. What a facinating post .... I must remember to be kind to any lizard I come across. I love the idea they help to control Lymne's disease. ... Nice drawing!