The Lizard Log

The Langkilde Lab in Action

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Everybody Likes Pretty Pictures

Since our research trips to the South consist of only one short excursion this summer (we need to publish all the data we have rather than running every awesome experiment we can think of!), I took a quick one week jaunt through Alabama and Georgia for some R&R. Whether walking the banks of the Chattahoochee or exploring trails along Mobile Bay, sampling homemade cheese at an out-of-the-way farm or eating some of the best fried chicken and corn nuggets I’ve ever had, I always found some time to catch and grab a few pics of some herps! I’ve posted a selection below to tide you over until the real research starts in a month or so:


This male fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) was not happy with me for intruding on his territory along a trail and puffed himself up in the hopes of intimidating me into leaving the area.


We often find fence lizards with ectoparasites like mites and ticks. How many can you spot on this lizard? (Answer at the bottom of this post).


Rounding a bend in the road at 55 mph, I spotted this corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) in the middle of my lane and quickly straddled him with my car before pulling over on the shoulder. After running back down the road on my own two feet, I snatched him for a quick pic before releasing him into the forest safely off to the side.


I found this ground skink (Scincella lateralis) out foraging in the middle of the day at Kolomoki Mounds State Park in Georgia.


Kolomoki Mounds was also awash in southeastern slimy salamanders (Plethodon grobmani), one of the prettiest slimy salamanders due to their extensive patterning.


This rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus) appeared rather happy (well, they always look like they’re smiling) to meet me on a trail in Bon Secour NWR.


I chanced upon this kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) basking quietly in a half log and getting ready to shed.


Six-lined racerunners (Aspidocelis sexlineata) don’t often sit still take have their pictures taken, but this one was a little more tractable than most so I snapped a quick portrait.


For the sharp-eyed among you, there are >3 ectoparasites on this lizard. Mites and ticks tend to concentrate on places where they can get underneath or between a lizard’s scales to attach and feed; these place include areas around the eyes, ears, and pockets of skin on the neck (not very visible here). On just one side, this lizard has a swollen tick in his ear, a new tick on the front of his eye orbit, and a cluster of bright red mites on his upper eyelid. Life ain’t always easy when you’re a fence lizard.


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So You Have a Vet School Interview…Now What?

We have many motivated undergraduates in our lab. They often go on to do great things–but not always in ecology!  In this post, Courtney Norjen provides advice for interviewing for Veterinary School. Good luck at OSU, Courtney!


The road to veterinary school is a long, challenging one that involves hundreds or even thousands of hours of veterinary, animal, and research experience, high academic achievement, and additional extracurricular and leadership activities.  After years of preparation and spending hours completing the application, you have an interview!  But how do make yourself stand out in your interview?

Interviews tend to be very nerve-racking, so to make it as comfortable as possible, it is important to prepare.  The best thing you can do to prepare for your interview is to reread your entire application and your personal statement.  Anything that you wrote in your application is fair game for an interview question, so be sure you can talk about everything in there.   For example, I mentioned in my application that while working with a large animal veterinarian, I rode along to a swine farm that had a leptospirosis outbreak.  In one of my interviews, I was asked what kind of disease leptospirosis is, what organ systems it affects, and why it is an important disease.  They want to know that you really did what you listed on your application, that you learned from it, and that you are not going to try to make up an answer to a question you do not know.  Another good way to prepare is to search for lists of veterinary school interview questions on-line.  Be ready to answer the standard “tell me about yourself,”  “why do you want to be a veterinarian,” and “how do you deal with stress” questions, because they are asked in just about every interview.

In addition to answering questions about your experiences, you will likely be asked some ethical or “situational” questions.  A very common one is “what would you do if an owner brings you a perfectly healthy animal and wants you to euthanize it?”  These questions tend to be the hardest for interviewees because they are no longer about you, and many people are afraid to give the wrong answer.  The most important thing to remember about these questions is that there is no right or wrong answer.  You just need to be able to support the answer you give (especially when the interviewers challenge your position, which they undoubtedly will).  Some veterinary schools even use a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) series where you will be asked nothing but these types of questions, so it is imperative that you are ready to answer them.

Lastly, the best advice I can give you is to be confident and be yourself!  They are interviewing you because they want to get to know YOU.  So before you walk in, take a deep breath, relax, and let your personality speak for itself!

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Lizard in PA

So, here’s a song about being a lizard in the cold, cold, northeast US.

And for those who may not notice, it is specifically

about a male Sceloporus undulatus in Pennsylvania.



Lizard in PA  (click here if the link above is not functional)

It’s cold outside

and I can’t move my muscles

cause my physiology won’t bring the heat,

but I’ll be fine.


My parietal eye will tell my future

by and by

and by the sun

I will move on,

when the winter’s gone.


I’m a lizard in PA

and I’m coming out today

to heat my bones

and eat a bug.


Heat my bones

Heat my bones


I’m a lizard in PA

and I’m coming out today

to heat my bones

and eat a bug.


I hope I find my mates

and set my territory straight

before I see a flash of blue

that comes to call,

I’ll fight um all.


Their push ups

don’t scare me

I’m sure they’re all one hemipene

shy of a clutch,

I’d bet my lunch.


Heat my bones

Heat my bones


I’m a lizard in PA

and I’m coming out today

to heat my bones

and eat a bug.


Heat my bones

Heat my bones




and eat bug.


(c) 2014

Music, lyrics, vocals, and harmonica by Travis R. Robbins

Music, vocals, and guitar by Kristan Robbins

Produced at Gwendolyn’s Sleeping Studio (TM)


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Are male wood frogs good midwives?

This one looks like he might be. Not bad for a deadbeat dad who fertilizes-and-flees.

This spring, I captured wood frog “sex” on video. Since frog eggs are fertilized as they’re being laid, the male wood frog in this video is simultaneously having (his version of) sex and helping to deliver the babies. Wrap your head around that.

Female wood frogs (in this video—the frog that’s underneath) are essentially balloons full of unfertilized eggs when they come to the breeding ponds. When a male finds a female frog, he amplexes her—essentially, he wraps his arms around her from behind, digs in his thumbs, and holds on for dear life. She’ll carry him around for a while like this until she finds the perfect spot in the pond to lay her eggs. At that point, maybe following some trigger that we don’t yet understand, she begins laying eggs.

You’d think that males would just squeeze the eggs out of the females. They’ve got their arms around the female’s balloon-belly, after all. But they also use their shovel-like feet to slowly pull the eggs out of her. Bit by bit, you can see the female’s belly begin to deflate with each male “pull” in this video clip.

In these breeding ponds, there’s fierce competition among males to get a lady. And male wood frogs aren’t too clear on what’s a female, and what isn’t. At 1:50, check out how a lonely male mistakes our busy father for an available lady. It takes the interloper a few moments to realize his mistake… after which he wanders off like nothing out of the ordinary happened.

If you’re in the mood for bad film noir, here’s an alternate version of this video for you to enjoy: