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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tale of a trailing tail trail

Another interesting track in the dunes.  Sadly, this one was harder to photograph, and I was working at the time, so I only took a few shots which didn't come out great.

I'm not sure whether there's enough here to identify the animal responsible for these tracks.  See what you think.  It looks like there's a tail trailing behind the animal, creating a gentle wave-like pattern through the middle of the track. 

And it appears that there are feet pushing off to either side of the tail drag.

Here's another view from a different angle.  Do you have a guess?

I'm wondering about lizard.  (Claudia, can you help?)  My first guess was Northern Alligator Lizard, because they're the most common lizard in the Bodega Dunes.  But I searched for pictures of alligator lizard tracks on the Internet and found a few images that don't look like this.  

Then I wondered about Western Fence Lizard, since they're uncommon to rare in the Bodega Dunes.  But I couldn't find good pictures of their tracks.  So for now I guess I'll wait to see if anyone has more experience with their track patterns and can confirm or deny that these are a possible match. 

For the record, since I haven't shown this species yet, here's the only Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) that I've photographed on Bodega Head.  This picture is from 24 June 2006.

To truly appreciate the beauty of this lizard, I zoomed in on the scales (this also allows you to see a hint of the "blue belly"): 

1 comment:

Claudia said...

Hi Jackie,

I think you are spot-on about the track being from a lizard. A couple of things tell you it's not a mammal track: the waggle in the tail drag and footprints are splayed outward roughly perpendicular to the trail drag. (Mammals have straight tail drags and footprints are roughly parralel to the trail drag).

As for which species of lizard, I would also lean towards Sceloporus. If you look at toeprints to either side of the tail drag, they are sickle-shaped and fairly long. That shape is probably made by a long fourth toe on the backfoot. The fourth toe of Alligator lizards isn't much longer than the other toes, so wouldn't leave this kind of arcing trace.

It would be good to know that Sceloporus is hanging on at Bodega Head. It's really too cold to be optimal habitat so it's amazing to think of them out there.