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Com156 Final Assignment

1617 words - 7 pages

Friend or Foe, The Lizards of the Mohave Desert.
Ronald R. Espenschied
November 3, 2013
Bobbie Sepulveda

Friend or Foe, The Lizards of the Mohave Desert.
If you ever find yourself in Southern Arizona or Southern California it would be well worth your time to take a hike through the beautiful Mojave Desert. For what some consider to be a harsh dry climate the abundance of different types of animal life is truly amazing. Of the different types of animal life the lizard population is one the most diverse with over fifty different lizards from eight different species (Brennan, 2008). Unlike other inhabitants of this area, most of the different lizards that you could come ...view middle of the document...

The first thing to look at is the length and shape of the tail. While most lizards have tails equal to the length of their main body there are some varieties where the tail is only half the length. The next thing to look at when looking at the tail is weather it is slender or fat. Those with slender tails have the ability to “throw” their tails as part of a defensive mechanism and thus fall under one of two species. The first one of the species is the most common known as the Iguanidaet (Brennan, 2008). The second is the Teiidae or whiptail lizards (Brennan, 2008). The easiest way to tell the difference between these two species is to look at their stripes. The stripes on the Iguanidaet species are made up by spots that go around the lizards body. The stripes on the Teiidae species run from the back of the head to the end of their tails. The second thing to consider is the time of day that they are active, are they nocturnal, meaning that they are active at night, or diurnal, meaning that they are active during the day. The nocturnal lizards fall into a species known as Xantusiidae and contain three different subspecies (Brennan, 2008). The final thing to look at is the shape of the head, is it round, oval, or arrow shaped. The head shape of the lizard is directly related to where they make their home and what they eat. The shape of the head of a lizard is unlike other animals where the shape of their head helps to determine if they are of a venomous species. The lizards with a rounded head make their home above ground in and around foliage and are normally herbivores meaning that they do not eat other animals or insects. If a lizard has an oval head shape they also live in and around foliage but live mainly underground and will eat the foliage or small insects. Finally those with arrow or diamond shaped heads can be found anywhere and live underground only coming out to hunt and eat. These lizards are strictly carnivorous meaning that they eat other animals or insects.
Living in what is considered such a harsh environment a person would think that a large percentage of the lizards would be venomous, but the truth is there are only two venomous lizards in the world (Beck, 2004). Of those two species there is only one, the Gila Monster, which calls the United States, and more specifically the Mojave Desert its home. “This lizard is a member of Helodermatidae, the only family of venomous lizard in the world” (Brennan, 2008, p1). Unlike the other lizards that you may run across, it is easily distinguishable mainly because of its size. The Gila Monster is the largest lizard to inhabit the Mojave Desert reaching up to eighteen inches in length with a short fat tail, which is where they store fat (Beck, 2004). They are the slowest moving of any of lizard, they are non-aggressive, and mainly live underground spending only three to four weeks a year above ground to do their hunting (Brennan, 2008). Another visual key...

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