A few weeks back, I had gone with a buddy to one of my favorite places in the world, the American Museum of Natural History. Weeee. Here, they had a had a presentation from herpetologist Chris Raxworthy on his travels to Madagascar to study chameleons and various other lizards. The museum apparently has speeches like this every so often, though (alas) this was the last one of the year. Fear not, however, for they shall continue where they left off the year following. I'll make further updates should I go to later events.
So there we are seated in the room with a large dinosaur model in it, with free chips and overpriced booze, and I am upfront sketching me some lizards.
Its a bit dark and hard to see, but I make do. Eventually they show everyone to their seats, and Dr. Raxworthy begins.
He starts off by talking about taxonomy, and how tough it can be for scientists to determine whether something is a new species or not. It's true! Not many people view it as such, but the margin between species can be very vague sometimes. For instance, one might say that if two organisms cannot produce fertile young, then they are different species. Like lions and tigers for instance! A lion/tiger hybrid is sterile, and cannot produce more ligers. Except sometimes, it can. ...Wait. The point here being that species is more of a sliding scale then most people acknowledge, with one steadily transitioning to the next.
Speaking of transitions...
He then moved on to a bit about how he captured the reptiles. With something of a demonstration. "FWAP!" He releases a large rubberband, and flings it off into the crowd. (A guy caught it, which was impressive, I suppose, though I still think it would be more funny if someone got in in the head though.) But yes. One of their methods for lizard catching is to knock them out by dramatically whacking them in the head with a rubberband. Ouch.
Ah, but you mustn't fret! There were other methods as well. A bucket can be buried in the dirt, so it forms a pit. A lizard might walk along the edge, then fall in. Alternatively:
Yes, sticks. They're maybe a bit more high-tech then the rubber bands, but not really much more so. The lower one was constructed out of a golf club. But basically, these are uses to handle lizards from a distance that might be a bit too wriggly otherwise.
After this came the part that I'm sure much of the audience was looking forward to. They came and brought the lizards around, for people and such. And...none of them were of the sorts he actually studied in Madagascar. A bit disappointing, but hey. they're still pretty cute.
In addition to the Crested Geckos (native to New Caledonia, a collective of France just east of Australia, and thought to be extinct up until just 1994) pictured above, we also saw:
Overall, a really neat experience. I'll definitely keep up on when they have another event like this. Here's a few links on Dr. Raxworthy if you are interested: http://www.amnh.org/news/2010/10/after-darwin-scientist-slide-shows-bring-the-field-to-the-web/