Urban Hibernacula

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Urban environments often create a diversity of novel habitats that differ from natural areas in thermal variance and spatial organization. Sometimes this results in a broader range of usable microhabitats for species able to thrive in human-disturbed areas. A few days ago I discovered such a microhabitat in an unlikely place. Last October, after getting mucked up seining for turtles in a slow moving Alabama stream, I quickly rinsed my muddy boots with a water hose and tossed them absentmindedly into a sunny spot to dry. There they remained until I went out a few days ago (January 30) with my daughter to look for green anoles coming out to enjoy a brief break in winter weather. Temperatures for the day were expected to reach the upper 60’s° F. Even in midwinter, green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) will sometimes emerge from their hibernacula to sun if the weather is right. As we walked outside, I noticed such an individual emerging from one of my steel-toe boots; he was covered in a dry layer of mud that most likely still lined the insole from my turtle trip last fall. He was quite sluggish so my daughter (3 ½) was able to inspect him for a moment before he got spooked and scurried off to a sunny brick wall some distance away. This was the only anole we found for several hours, so we called it quits and went looking for salamanders. Later that evening, once the sun was long down and temperatures had returned to a squamate-chilling 52° F, my skepticism got the best of me, and I returned to the boot for another look. After probing around a bit I found what I was looking for: a little green lizard had returned to bed down for the rest of the mild Alabama winter.

About Joshua Hall

I am a PhD student in Dan Warner's lab at Auburn University. More about me and my research interests can be found on my website: www.jmhall.weebly.com

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