Sunday, May 11, 2008

Crotaphytus - East meets West

This is a male Crotaphytus collaris collaris -- or more commonly called the Eastern Collared Lizard -- a subspecies of the C. collaris that is found in Oklahoma. I encountered this particular guy on a hike last week in southwestern Oklahoma at the Wichita Wildlife Refuge. The refuge being one of my favorite places to hike in Oklahoma (ok - its one of the only places to really hike in Oklahoma -- anything else is a Thoreau-like, non heart-rate inducing, walk in the woods).

This is one of the most beautifully-colored lizards in lizardom and also happens to be the official State Reptile of Oklahoma. Good choice, I say. For a double-delight, this C. c. collaris happens to be resting on Quanah Granite -- a type of pink-orange granite that is only found in this part of Oklahoma. Quanah Granite is identified by its "blocky salmon-pink feldspars and distinctive riebeckitic amphibole and/or annitic biotite". If you say so. All I can tell you is this vibrant yellow and blue-green lizard lying on a slab of blazing yellow lichen encrusted combination of salmon feldspars and distintive riebeckitic amphibole is as about as visually breathtaking as nature gets and getting to witness even two seconds of it makes the three hour round-trip drive to get to the Wichitas absolutely timeless and priceless. Now on to his cousin:

This little gal cousin should be a Crotophytus collaris baileyi or Western Collared Lizard. We Met on a hike in northwestern New Mexico at Ghost Ranch - my favorite place to hike in New Mexico - and one of the most breathtaking little spots in the world.

Small little red bands on her neck separate the girls from the boys. Looks like she's hanging on to a piece of late Triassic petrified mud -- commonly called mudstone -- and very common in Ghost Ranch as the area is part of the Late Triassic Painted Desert Member of the Petrified Forest Formation.

Ghost Ranch has long been in the good company of herps. Phytosaurs, a common fossil found at Ghost Ranch, were crocodile-like, scale-covered, reptiles up to 20 feet long that lived in rivers and lakes. Phytosaurs had a long, narrow head with nostrils just in front of the eyes. Aetosaurs, another common Ghost Ranch fossil, were 10-foot-long, armored reptiles with a crocodile-like body and a pig-like snout that also liked to live near water. I'm rather thrilled that they are no longer common in vivo on the hiking trails of Ghost Ranch.

Another famous resident of Ghost Ranch was Georgia O'Keeffe and had she stopped looking up at the sky long enough to notice these beautifully colored reptiles - they too might have been perfectly immortalized in one of her paintings.

If you happen to find yourself in either one of these locations -- you'll be among some of the most stunning, unique and geologically tantalizing terrain anywhere.
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