Do I need a separate grave for each lizard or can I just bury them all in one mass unmarked grave?
September 12, 2005 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Do lizards have a deathwish?

Is there an instictive reason they run toward certain doom? I can't use the sidewalk without ten lizards running under my shoe or crossing in front of my bike tire. Why don't they take a hint from their decaying dead brethren and run the other way or better yet, stay put?
posted by gaelenh to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
 
I don't have an insightful answer but this question made me laugh out loud when i read it on the page. Perhaps because, like snakes, they sense vibrations of you moving and run like hell without really knowing why? (IANAL)
posted by Happydaz at 4:03 PM on September 12, 2005


They're probably not very smart...
posted by SweetJesus at 4:13 PM on September 12, 2005


That's odd - I had a similar thing with prairie dogs (I think they were) while riding along some bike paths by SF bay. The bitumen path was next to a huge lawn which was full of these burrowing things. While riding along the path, there was a 10 metre diagonal line of them stretched out to the side, all charging directly towards the path in a wave so as to get right under the front wheel as I arrived at each. It only happened once in the couple of months I was there, but it was seriously freaky. Much dodging & swearing ensued.
posted by polyglot at 6:02 PM on September 12, 2005


Response by poster: polyglot, that's exactly what happens to me. Don't have many prairie dogs or squirrels in Florida, but sounds like they behave just like lizards. Damn things lay in wait where the grass and sidewalk meet. When a bike approaches, they start darting out on course to collide with its wheel.
posted by gaelenh at 6:29 PM on September 12, 2005


Best page title ever. I've always thought that the noise of approaching cars, bikes or people scares animals on the side of the road and they panic, darting into the street. It seems to be some sort of macho game with the jack rabbits at my parent's house-see how long you can run in front of a car before you chicken out and dart away.
posted by slimslowslider at 6:55 PM on September 12, 2005


A month or so ago, I was in high gear on a bike path when a bird hopped erratically across the path. I slowed and tried to swerve around, but I was already close. It would have worked, except the bird chose to hop backward, landing directly between my wheels. I definitely kicked it with my pedal, and I may have run it over, too.

My suspicion was that it was a mother using some sort of predator-distraction technique, but it was pretty late in the season for that. Perhaps it had been injured already?
posted by dhartung at 7:00 PM on September 12, 2005


I guess I must be weird, I stopped when I saw the question and though, "Hmm, that's interesting. Do I know the answer?"

My guess is no, and that the lizard's self-destructive behavior is instinctual and happens to be maladaptive in the case of bicycles.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:07 PM on September 12, 2005


There are lots of lizards along the sidewalk where I live. They bask in the lawn, perhaps catching insects there too. However, when I come along with the dog, they dash across the walk and into the protective cover of the hedge on the other side. Figure it's just predator avoidance...fight or flight. Might also be that they are responding to the vibrations of your approach, which are more difficult to localize. Perhaps you only notice the ones with a death wish, and never notice the ones that safely stay hidden.
posted by squink at 7:13 PM on September 12, 2005


maybe you're haunted?
posted by mcsweetie at 9:16 PM on September 12, 2005


maybe they have an instinct that causes them to run from shadows ... and avoidence techniques that would work with a bird don't work with us because we're not flying above them
posted by pyramid termite at 9:25 PM on September 12, 2005


Response by poster: I don't think it's a shadow thing. They seemed to start their death run before my shadow reaches them. Squink might have the right idea. They all seem to run from the same direction, but I haven't noticed if they are fleeing toward a taller bush.

It's really a phenomenon that needs to be witnessed to be fully understood. Like March of the Penguins, but with less formal wear and more assisted suicide. I can't believe more people haven't experienced this before.
posted by gaelenh at 10:16 PM on September 12, 2005


I'm not sure if lizards are as aware of the modern world around us as we humans are. Perhaps they don't understand the concept of "bicycle" and "it can run over you and kill you".
posted by madman at 2:26 AM on September 13, 2005


reminds me of a British joke about the young hedgehog who was getting road-crossing lessons from his father: 'Son, if you are in the road and you see two lights coming towards you, make sure you line yourself up between the lights and keep still and you'll be fine'.

Before long, son finds himself in this situation, does as his father instructed him, and ends up flattened. 'Damn, I forgot about those Reliant Robins!' said Dad....

(sorry folks)
posted by altolinguistic at 7:26 AM on September 13, 2005


Do they change directions to run across your path? I always assumed that whatever animal has darted in front of me was going that direction, got startled by my presence and stepped up the pace.
posted by electroboy at 8:01 AM on September 13, 2005


Around here when we're driving up our (long) driveway, these rabbits who were in the middle of the road will zigzag, covering the whole road, for quite a while, until they finally catch on to get out of the way. It's obviously an instinct to confuse predators, but these things seem more mysterious.
posted by abcde at 11:22 AM on September 13, 2005


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