Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Six-Lined Racerunner

While relaxing on the front porch of our camp house my ears pick up on a rustling sound. I walk over to one end of the porch and see a six-lined racerunner (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus) foraging in some leaves for spiders.
Some people confuse these with skinks, but skinks give off a glossy, shiny appearance whereas racerunners do not. Skinks are smooth to the touch and racerunners have more of a rough texture to them. These lizards can reach lengths of up to 10 inches, most of this being tail. This sandy area provides the necessary substrate for burrows that females dig to lay their thin shelled eggs for which there is no brooding, meaning the eggs are covered with sand and left to be incubated by the warmth of the sun. I back up and then get down on my hands and knees and slowly creep back in its direction. As I approach it again our eyes lock. Its forked tongue flicks as it samples the air for my scent. I know from experience that these little dudes are lightning fast almost to the point that they seem to know what you’re going to do even before you do it. If I’m going to catch it I need to be really quick about it. It continued to stare me down as if to say “it’s your move”. So I do and even before I reach out…..it’s escapes under the house. Cursing I get up and return to the confines of my chair and before I sit down I hear the rustling again. Arrogant little fellow isn't he.
Crouching down again I go for a second chance only to find that it’s expecting me as I see its beady little eyes again gazing at me. It then begins to jump from side to side as if to say “catch me if you can!”. I try several more times and each time it dodges my attempts skillfully racing underneath the house and then back out as if to mock me. In Roger Conant’s book “A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians” he says “Racerunners are well named, usually winning the race with the would-be collector”. Truer words have never been spoken, but don’t worry I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve the next time we encounter one another.

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