Looking For A Love

Reminder:  You can enlarge any of the photos in this blog by clicking on it.  Click again for a full screen image.

I was planning to do something else for tonight’s blog but I find tonight’s subject to be irresistible.  He’s just so damn cute.

This morning I was wandering around Sabino Canyon when I came across this Gila Monster.

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That’s unsurprising.  Gila Monsters spend nearly all of their lives living underground, surfacing only in the spring, to feed, and during the summer monsoon, to mate.  In summer, the males come out of their burrows and walk around on the surface, searching for mates.  Peak mating season for Gila Monsters is right now and Sabino Canyon is a great place for finding these lizards. This photo and the next one really show off a few features that typify Gila Monsters.  Notice the innumerable bumps on this lizard’s body.  His skin looks like the surface of a basketball.  That’s because hundreds of tiny bones, called “osteoderms” are embedded in his skin.  They function a bit like lizard chain mail, making it very difficult for a predator to deliver a damaging bite and also protecting the Gila Monster from environmental factors like cactus spines.

The other noticeable feature is this lizard’s large and deeply forked tongue.  Gila Monsters, like snakes, use their tongues to “taste” their environment.  Our guy may be searching for pheromones that would indicate the presence of a female who is ready to mate.

One more noticeable aspect of our lizard.  Check out the left side of his face, near the tip of his nose.  There’s a small but obvious cut there.  Male Gila Monsters will fight if they encounter each other during mating season.  The fight is highly ritualized, sort of a Gila Monster sumo match, in which each male will attempt to flip the other onto his back, thereby establishing dominance.  Sometimes they administer superficial bites to their rivals during this ritualized combat.  If you go to my main blog page and scroll down to the “gallery” section at the bottom you’ll find a photo entitled “Gila Monster Sumo” that depicts two males in combat.  I made that photo last summer.

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I thought that our friend badly needed a theme song to symbolize his search for love. What better than “Looking for a Love” by the J. Geils Band?

Link here, and you can watch and listen.

Photos taken with a Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens, ISO 200, “M” setting, assisted by 600EX-RT speedlite, f11 @ 1/125.

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