Wednesday 16 November 2011

Red Eyed Crocodile Skink

Image: Henk Wallays
I remember mornings when I felt like how the Red Eyed Crocodile Skink looks.

Dragging myself out of bed, joints cracking with every move, my back so stiff it felt like it was made of a single plank of wood.

Lumbering to the mirror I peel open my eyes. I'm confronted with peepers as red as all those snakebites I had last night. I can't quite remember how I got home. And there's a car door in the bath.

But enough about me!

The Red Eyed Crocodile Skink is a small lizard from the tropical forests of New Guinea. They crawl about in the leaf litter searching for insects to eat, enjoying the stifling humidity and never straying too far from water.

Image: Ugly Overload
They look remarkable, with that flash of red surrounding each eye and the rows of spikes running along the back. Utterly prehistoric! I find it makes them kinda cute. It's like they're trying to be big, mean crocodiles, but I just want to hug 'em and kiss 'em for trying so hard!

The response to my affections is likely to be freezing or playing dead, which is their usual response to bad situations. They are also one of the few lizards who vocalise when in distress.

They can get quite frightening when they're really angry. All noise and open mouthed lunging. This is no doubt the kind of thing the female does when she protects her eggs against intruders. I suspect that at that point the red around her eyes cease to be so endearing.

I feel similar about the babies. They don't have the red at all, and there's some yellow patches on the head. The spikes along the little head crest are also much more prominent and their expression seems more angry, making them appear that little bit more like a young Godzilla still learning the ways of systematic destruction.

Still, human babies all look like Winston Churchill, so I'm sure I can forgive them that.