This column is about a special lizard I call Martha. Usually, I write columns about reptile species, but I believe this lizard deserves her own personal column.
It was a nice morning in early November and I was hanging out on our property in El Sargento. Our cats started batting a tarp on the ground and I quickly realized this was probably a reptile in need. So, I flipped the tarp and saw a Baja California Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus zosteromus) sitting on the ground. It seemed cold, and I was able to catch it quickly. At first, I noticed nothing out of the ordinary. But then, as I looked closer, I discovered that this lizard had two tails!
This discovery led to a shocked silence and dropped jaw. After a moment, I rushed to find a camera and started taking tons of pictures. Martha seemed very calm, and she behaved perfectly for the photos. She would look up at me with an intelligent and somewhat bossy manner and then return to her pose; this was probably because she was cold, as spiny lizards are usually hard to photo shoot.
It turns out that this two-tailed phenomenon isn’t actually all that rare. It’s a bit complicated to explain but, basically, this is how it works: if a lizard loses its tail completely, it will regrow a new tail. However, if a lizard’s tail breaks but does not fall off, the original tail may heal and, at the same time, a new tail may grow at the point of breaking. Since I first found Martha, I have seen her a few times hanging around our trailers and, last time we met, she still had two tails!