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Nearby Nature: What About Those Lizards?

Nature isn’t something found only on trails and in reserves. We constantly share space with wild plants and animals. The palm tree growing from that crack in the sidewalk, the butterfly in the yard, the lizards mating in the driveway…wait, what? Mating lizards!?   

Yes indeed, these are all examples of nearby nature—wild plants and animals that are part of our daily lives. This April, as part of Citizen Science Month, we are asking you to explore your nearby nature and share what you find with us, especially photos and videos of mating Southern Alligator Lizards.  

So why are we interested in your photos of lizard love? For the same reason we study natural history: because it helps us better understand our world. 

What have we learned? 

Collecting this information about what may seem like salacious behavior has enabled three important discoveries over the last five years about Southern Alligator Lizard breeding that are new to science: 

  1. Weather has a huge impact on the timing of the breeding season.  
  2. Wet years are the big breeding years.  
  3. Lizards can stay paired up for over two days. 

Scientists have been studying these lizards for many years before the initiation of the Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California (RASCals) iNaturalist project, yet there were only three recorded dates of mating behavior in the literature. Three examples are not data enough to begin to understand a pattern of behavior.  

This is where you come in. 

Where citizen science comes in.

Researchers needed more data, and luckily, folks answered the call. Thanks to people sharing their images on iNaturalist, 360 observations of mating behavior led to these three discoveries in just five years! With your help, there is no telling what new information awaits.  

Here's what you can do: 

  • Add your observations of reptiles and amphibians to The Nat’s Herp Atlas.  
  • Join the RASCals project on iNaturalist for photos taken in southern California.
  • Join Herpetofauna of Baja California, for photos taken in Baja California. 
  • Learn more about the Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California on the Museum’s Herp Atlas.  

Posted by The Nat.

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