Leapin’ Lizards   Leave a comment

Collared Lizard USFWS

“A free day to to anything I want! Like eat bugs, and sit in the sun, and take a nap, and....”

Our calendar, and the way we tell time, is largely based on the Sun, and the position of the Earth in space, and other astronomical events and cycles. Thousands of years ago the Romans determined that it takes about 365 days for the cycles to repeat, and that’s why our calendar today has 365 days. However there was a problem – it’s not exactly 365 days, but approximately 365 days. So, why not just add in an extra day to make up for the difference? And that’s why we have Leap Year – once every four years there’s an extra day in February, so all our years can have an full number of days and we won’t have to try and think about a year with 365 and ¼ days. That extra ¼ day would make it really hard to schedule lunch.

As far as we know, plants and animals don’t use our calendar (though our calendars do use photos of plants and animals, probably without their permission). But some species do have behaviors that allow them to live as if almost outside of regular time; by hibernation and other forms of dormancy, some animals can sleep through times when food is scarce, or it’s too hot or cold, or other living conditions aren’t best. Usually these times are only for a few months, but a very few animals can remain dormant for longer periods – a type of Desert Snail (Sphincterochila boissieri) will stay sitting patiently for over a year until enough rains come for it to resume its normal life. Alligators, turtles, frogs and and other reptiles and amphibians are more sensitive to changes than other animals, and can become dormant for days or weeks, whenever the environment becomes too difficult.

It’s not unusual for plants to ‘sleep’ through the winter, but the record for dormancy goes to seeds. It’s been found some seeds can appear lifeless for years, or decades, or even centuries before they take root and grow.

We have to confess, no one’s actually found any lizards that are dormant for long periods. But who would read a post titled ‘Leapin’ Snails’?

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