In Homer's Ilias Achilles has to choose between a mediocre but comfortable life and a life that ends in his premature death but immortal glory. And so it was with a strangely sprawling lizard found in a parking lot behind a pizzeria in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Most curly-tailed lizards are not worthy of an epic poem. They have neither big teeth nor poison. They don't get any bigger than a candy bar.
But this curly-tailed female lizard, whose belly is full of poop, will be remembered forever – not because it brought charges against an impenetrable city, but because it has the greatest droppings. Body to mass ratio that has ever been recorded in a live animal.
"Stupid putty-like mass"
The saga begins on July 21
On this fateful morning, the scientists were in a race against Helios, the sun god. and his sky-crossing fire truck. Lizards are "thermally limited," Claunch says to Mental Floss, which means that most of them disappear underground around noon to wait for the heat of the day. And so every field assistant worked hard to snatch as many lizards as possible with tiny slings on 20-foot poles.
Then it happened at 10:41 a.m. An assistant trotted back from the front, holding a curly-tailed lizard in the shape of one of Aphrodite's beloved pears. Someone suspected the creature was pregnant, but after a few palpations of the Silly Putty-like mass, Claunch knew the animal was not full of jelly candy-sized eggs. In fact, fate had spun a thread for her that was far worse. From her shoulder blades to her pelvis, this particular curly-tailed lizard had an oval two that accounted for a whopping 78.5 percent of her total body weight.
As a reference, it would be like a 150 pound person carrying an intestine full of almost 118 pounds of hard, impassable feces.
Incidentally, the former record holder for poop-to-body mass was a Burmese python in Florida, which was described in 2016 by herpetologist Scott Boback from Dickinson College [PDF]. . "I'm more than happy to give Natalie Claunch the torch to discover the world's biggest crap," says Boback Mental Floss.
The amazing chair took up so much physical space in the lizard's body cavity, its liver and ovaries that it was "visibly atrophied," Claunch wrote in a note published in Herpetological Review .
According to all reports, the condition of the lizard must have been unbearable. So what in the name of the gods could lead to such a monstrous state?
A taste of french fries fat
Claunch believes the lizard sneaked around the pizzeria fat container, which tended to drip into the sand below. Maybe the reptile had developed a taste for old French fries oil, or maybe she had learned to swallow the insects that landed on it, but somehow it had given her a belly full of sand and dirt. And as the food continued, the lizard seemed unable to spray it out.
"There's an anole skull in there too," Claunch says, noting that curly tails sometimes devour brown anoles that are also invasive.
Boback praised both Claunch's and the strength of the lizard. "Obviously, she was looking far and wide, knee-deep in the dirt, for another Squamate [scaled reptile] with a Magnum Rectum that is able to consume enough fatty cheese fritters to develop a feces that is almost as big as itself ", he says. 19659002] The reason why we know so much about the strange poop of a lizard is the state law of Florida, which prohibits anyone from releasing invasive species back into the wild. After humanizing the affected reptile, Claunch drove it to Ed Stanley, an evolutionary biologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, to take a closer look.
Stanley, known as "Sultan of the Scans", uses an X-ray technology called micro-CT to reveal the inside of chameleon eyeballs and hidden parasites to deep-sea creatures. And after looking at the lizard with the curly tail, he too wanted to take a look inside.
While some may think that scanning giant clusters is a shitty way to spend their time, Stanley sees his efforts as a way to democratize science. In fact, it is part of a larger, ambitious effort called oVert to create 3D models of all vertebrate species that are currently kept in American museum collections.
What the Turds Tell Us
Museum collections are full of rare, important specimens. According to Stanley, this simply cannot be given to every high school class that wants to dissect them. With 3D models that help you visualize everything from an animal's circulatory system to bones, skin and organs, "we can put the samples in the hands of people who might otherwise not be able to see them," Stanley says to Mental Dental Floss. He has made everyone from scientists to animators and artists use his scans as a reference.
The best part is that, thanks to this modeling technology, you don't need credentials to rummage around the bowels of the curly lizard at all times. Be warned, it is easy to get lost there. "It's like The Magic School Bus ," says Claunch.
Of course there are many scientific reasons to scan Scat.
Affected poops are commonly viewed as products of a life in which they have been held captive, but the giant warrior queen with an intestine full of skulls and sand proves that this can also happen in the urban wilderness. And according to Claunch, this could offer insights for exotic veterinarians. Stanley also says he would like to go back and scan the reptile again, this time using contrast media, to better compare how the animal's body absorbed such a fantastic amount of fecal matter.
And now that the model is available on the Internet immortalized in pixels, other scientists could use it to find out who knows what?
A curly-tailed lizard has transitioned to the Elysian Fields and the stuff of legend. Because Homer once wrote: “Everyone [bowel movement] could be our last. Everything is nicer because we are doomed to fail. “
Their existence was fleeting, but their excretions are said to be eternal.