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Re: The Lizard of Oz

Christopher Robert Noto wrote:

ah, but if they could find a faster way down from the branch to the
ground...perhaps a little bugger in the past jumped from branches.  just
because it isn't done today doesn't mean that it was never done in the
past. just more fanciful thoughts...take it with a couple grains of >NaCl.

I'll take it salt-free. :-) This is *exactly* the kind of idea I was driving at. True, the Frilled lizard does not get down to the ground by leaping off branches. But, how much more efficient it would be just to drop out of the trees (as some other lizards do - see below). That way, apart from landing close to the prey, the predator could keep its eye on the prey the entire time.

David Marjanovic wrote:

If I have correctly understood, these lizards don't jump down from their
trees (unlike cats...) but run down the trunk, which makes the evolution of
anything involved with aerodynamics rather improbable.

I'm not suggesting that birds evolved from Frilled lizards. But maybe birds evolved from "sit-and-wait" predators that took a short cut to get to the ground. As Chris says, just because it doesn't happen today, doesn't mean it didn't happen in the past.

Frilled lizards are not the only reptiles today that use bipedal locomotion for catching prey (although apparently it is the only species that uses it for foraging). Basilisks (_Basiliscus_) are capable of bipedal locomotion - for catching flying prey (such as butterflies) or for sprinting (such as to escape predation themselves).

Basilisks are primarily arboreal and *do* drop out of trees - not to hunt but as a fright response. And they usually prefer to fall into water (often followed by their famous impersonation of Jesus, though I don't believe Our Savior actually *ran* on water - more of a casual stroll compared to the bat-out-of-hell bolting we see in basilisks).



Timothy J. Williams

USDA/ARS Researcher
Agronomy Hall
Iowa State University
Ames IA 50014

Phone: 515 294 9233
Fax:   515 294 3163

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