Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Skink! (Not a Prequel to The Exorcist)

When I first saw this magnificent photograph of a skink at Pharyngula, I knew I had to post on it, but I thought I would end up explaining that it's a CGI rendering from a forthcoming Hollywood piece of crap featuring a talking skink who is also, as with roughly 7 in 10 characters from current Hollywood features, a vampire, a demon, a teenage vampire, a teenage demon, or a woman screaming about one of the above.

But no! This little darling is real and interesting:
Evolution has been caught in the act, according to scientists who are decoding how a species of Australian lizard is abandoning egg-laying in favor of live birth.

Along the warm coastal lowlands of New South Wales (map), the yellow-bellied three-toed skink lays eggs to reproduce. But individuals of the same species living in the state's higher, colder mountains are almost all giving birth to live young.

Only two other modern reptiles — another skink species and a European lizard—use both types of reproduction.
In principle, every creature is as much an evolutionary transitional form as any other, but skinks seems more transitional than others: snake, lizard; oviparous, viviparous.

A little closer to home -- depending on where you live -- take note of this feature of the southern prairie skink:
If approached, this species is quick to hide under some kind of cover, such as a rock or log. If capture is attempted, care must be taken since the tail is easily detached. The detached pieces will wiggle, providing a distraction to any would-be predator. Although a new tail will be regenerated, a lot of energy is required for this process and a regrown tail will always be suboptimal to the original.
It is distracting! Distractingly macabre. They're also bitey, but not, as far as I know, vampire or demon.

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