September 28, 2020
On Saturday, VMNH Associate Curator of Invertebrate Zoology Dr. Kal Ivanov, Curator of Mammalogy Dr. Nancy Moncrief, and Research Technician Liberty Hightower came up to my place to take part in the Virginia BioBlitz 2020. We found more than 100 cool species, and this week, I'm going to count down my top five favorite critters that we found, starting with today's update: the eastern fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus)!
Eastern fence lizards are not particularly rare; alongside five-lined skinks, they're one of the most commonly encountered lizards in Virginia. However, they have been eluding me for months and running away before I could snap a photo, so I was thrilled to finally photograph this tiny juvenile!
These lizards average about four to seven inches in length, with a record of 7.5 inches. They seem to require a lot of sunlight, and you can often find them on wooden buildings or among woodpiles or rock piles. In nature, they tend to prefer open pine woods and woodland edges. They eat a wide variety of insects, which they usually catch by lying in wait and then striking once an insect wanders into view.
Male eastern fence lizards have some interesting behaviors. During breeding season, they develop bright blue patches on their throats and undersides. When they see an attractive female lizard or a rival male, they will often bob their head and do "push-ups" to either attract a mate or intimidate a rival. I knew a guy in college who did the same thing... #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends.
NATURE PHOTO IDENTIFICATIONS
If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!