Brooks without Birds: God’s rejected reptiles roam badlands

by Tyler Brooks, staff writer

That’s right, an article NOT about birds. Let’s get to it. Deserts seem inhospitable for creatures whose body temperature alter with their environment, such as a lizard. But, to the surprise of all, deserts are home to some of the most unique lizards on this planet. From lesbian lizards to salt-sneezers, the desert is where their uniqueness shows.

The Thorny Devil is a foot long mass of rocky bumps. The Australian lizard roams the desert eating veggies and insects. Over the night, it lets dew collect on its body. The water, through capillary action (look it up, I teach birds not physics), all flows towards the lizard’s mouth. Even when it finds water, it simply dips a foot in and allows the water to flow mouthward and quench its thirst.

The New Mexico whiptail is a lizard native to, you guessed it, New Mexico. The lizard is unique in its breeding habits, despite looking commonplace. The whiptails are all females. They reproduce asexually, producing identical clones of themselves. The lizards do, despite their uniform gender, still mimic the copulation (baby-making) process with one another. Why? Maybe it just feels. . .right.

The Horned Toad is yet another weird lizard in the desert, which was apparently the trash bin for messed up lizards. Horned Toads (lizards, despite the name) have the ability to spew forth blood from their eye sockets. The blood is shot up to three feet, from a 3 inch reptile. The blood comes directly from the circulatory system, and is capable of scaring off mammals, like coyotes and cats.

The chuckwalla is a small, unassuming lizard. When threatened, it scurries off with all its speed, like any other lizard. But the chuckwalla knows what he’s about, so he runs between rocks. If the predator tries to extract him, he puffs up like a balloon and is nearly impossible to extract. Chuckwallas, due to living in the desert, have to drink water when they find it, no matter the salinity. When salt levels build up in chuckwallas, the lizard will sneeze pure salt crystals to remove it. A pet chuckwalla is the perfect replacement for any salt shaker.

As we comb through the deserts for more rejectiles, we come to the Gila Monster and its cousin, the Mexican Beaded Lizard. Both of these lizards have “beads” in place of conventional scales. Alongside the Komodo Dragon, beaded lizards are the only poisonous lizards. Not particularly huge, beaded lizards are still between one and two feet, have forked tongues, and that nasty bite for killing prey.

That’s not all, let me tell ya what. Frilled lizards, toadhead agamas, desert geckos, and armadillo lizards are all exceptional creatures you’ll only find in nature’s reptilian wastebasket. Maybe they live in these environments because they’re neat little guys. They’re daring you to come find them. Nature’s daring you to find its coolest inhabitants in its hottest habitats. Or maybe the desert does some trippy things to reptiles because why not, man?

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