ROBERT STEBBINS’S MEMORIES
Written when he was 95 years old.
There is no logical nor chronological order to the memories.
A Memory from the Chiricahua Mountains, Cochise Co., Arizona
July 27, 1956. Daughter Melinda (age 13) saw a lizard run into a tuft of bunch grass. We were at a quite high elevation and were surprised at its speed, expecially because of its stout appearance. She caught the lizard and it proved to be a Short-Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma douglassii), a species known to be widespread in upland areas of western U.S. and northern Mexico.
Shortly thereafter she found another especially stout individual close to a large ant nest. The lizard remained motionless even when approached within 1½ feet. The animal was caught and transferred to a cage for further observation.
In captivity, when given ants, she remained quiet even when ants crawled all over her. However, when one came near her mouth, she quickly snapped it up. It wasn’t just eating that caused her to be stout. She was pregnant. She gave birth to 26 young over a period of 3½ hours.
Horned Lizards are notable among lizards for their large birth numbers. Some are “Live bearers” and others lay eggs. Short-horns are live bearers. The babies emerged encapsulated in clear fluid-filled sacks from which they wriggled to break free. Upon doing so they quickly scurried about seeking soft soil in which to bury themselves – some even before drying of their birth fluid. It appears that such behavior – scattering and quickly hiding away from the birth site, would contribute to survival of members of the brood. Like many other lizards that seek shelter in loose fine soil, they are adapted to breathing, sometimes for long periods, completely buried.
Editor’s Note: With the exception of minor typographical and editorial corrections, all efforts have been taken to preserve Dr. Stebbins’ text as originally recorded.
For more information on this serial column featuring the life and times of Dr. Robert C. Stebbins, please visit this post.