Animal instinct is amazing

This is the first summer together for Geyri and I. He came to live with me in September last year, and there was some effort  needed to learn to keep the temp in his viv just right with the heat in the house.  Different wattage of lights at the two ends of his vivarium make a heat gradient of about 82 at the cool end to about 100 at the hot end. (They need the high heat to be able to digest their food, since being cold blooded, they don’t make any of their own body heat. If they don’t have enough heat to bask and walk around in in their vivs, the digested food can literally rot in their little bellies and they will die.) But they also need to be able to get away from the heat if they feel the need by going to the cool end for a while, so having that temp gradient is critical to their healthy lives.  

Vivarium, that’s a word some people don’t know.  A terrarium is an artificially controlled environment where plants have their correct temps and humidity. A vivarium is basically the same thing, except that…..somebody lives in there.  

So in the winter, in his controlled environment, instinct still told him that the other lizards in the big desert go into a semi sleep called brumation during the winter.  They might come out and have a look around sometimes, might eat a small amount, and then go back to sleep. Some don’t come out at all and their keepers sometimes look down in their burrows now and then to make sure they haven’t….died. Brumation can go on for as much as 3 months. Uro keepers are bored during brumation. We put a little food out each day just in case they come out, but many days they just keep sleeping.  Geyri mostly slept for about 2 months, then started coming out about once a week till it was time for his brumation to be over. Amazingly, their metabolism slows down to the point that most of them don’t lose any weight during the time they’re sleeping.

Instinct is an amazing thing. Wrens come back to the same yard to nest, salmon know where to go to spawn, and little Geyri knows how lizards are supposed to live in the hot, arid mountainous scrub desert of the Sahara. 

Once he was done with brumation this spring, he would come wandering out about 10 or 11, once the heat got up in his viv. (Lights with heat are on from 8-8.) Just like the uros do in the big desert. But now, it’s the beginning of our summer heat here, and although Geyri is still in his controlled environment, he knows that lizards in a hot desert should go in their underground burrow in the heat of the afternoons.  

So most mornings lately, he’s been coming out early, about 9.  Basks and warms up a while, and then is ready to eat and bask some more. That’s what they do in their natural habitat.  Then about 2, he goes down into his burrow.   

Then about 6 or 6:30, he has been coming back out. The first day he really surprised me!  He wandered out of his well-dug burrow and went to the piece of slate where he finds a lot of his food.  He put his front feet up on the slate and gave me “a look,” like: Hey hooman, there’s supposed to be food here! Where’s the good food?

There was still some dried dandelion there and some half dried endive I hadn’t picked up yet. So he ate some dandelion and started on a piece of the endive while I quickly went to the fridge to get him some good fresh stuff with moisture. He munched on some of all of that and looked around a bit and went right back down in his burrow.   Now I know I need to put out a second small amount of fresh food in the late afternoon, in case he decides he’s hungry again before he goes down in his burrow for the night.

They don’t  drink water, since they live in an area where there is about 1” average of rain a year.  They get all their moisture from the vegetation they eat, and in the wild that isn’t much. But they have evolved to hold moisture in their bodies and don’t  need as much as a lizard of their size from another part of the world.  

So Geyri’s never been to the Sahara, tho both his parents came from there. But built into his brain is the instinct to know exactly how a big desert lizard should live.  Fascinating. Nature is always fascinating, and sometimes we get an up close look at it and get to understand how and why it works. Geyri has taught me a lot about lizard instinct.

If you’ve ever thought lizards don’t have personalities, I can say for sure that they do.

37 responses to “Animal instinct is amazing

  1. You are so right, nature and all the living creatures are so fascinating. Thank goodness we can spend time and live together with our pets.

    • Our animals add so much enjoyment to our lives Herman. While we do everything we can to make sure their lives are just right, since they depend on us. Say Hi to Jimi for me. 🙂

      • Oh heck! It is just because he was half asleep and looks so docile. He does not seem like someone who would eat Tokyo.

      • He likes his cactus so well that I ordered some more, cos the pads are small and I’ll soon have to cut into one that I have planted in a pot to root. I am going to plant 2 outside right in the ground for the rest of the summer to see what happens with them planted in a sunny spot, and then what happens in the winter…..and spring. You’ve given me encouragement. 😊

      • If there was more here, I could send some. Those that I planted early last winter had been sitting around for more than a year. I just put them out by the road because I did not know what else to do with them. They got weed whacked, but will be right back.

      • Hey cactus buddy, I’m excited. The first ones I got were small and I just had to pull one up for him to eat. It had one teeny 1/4″ root forming! I got 3 big ones today. Planted one in a pot and 2 out in a full sun place in the garden, to let them grow and see what they do over the summer and then the winter. Mixed some sand into the soil there for good drainage. I didn’t cut any off to make a callous, cos it had the callous on where it was attached to the bigger plant. Nobody makes a new cut out in the desert. Fingers are crossed.

      • They do not need to callous. They do not even need to be planted. They will root if they are just laying on the ground. There is no need to bother with sand, as long as they do not stay wet all the time. They are so extremely easy to grow that the only concern should be frost next winter. By that time, you might want to cut and store many of the new pads. Mature pads will last a long time, like root vegetables. The remaining stump can be buried in raked leaves or something like that for the winter. I think I would just leave them out on their own to see what they do. If they freeze to the ground, they will likely regenerate from the roots.

      • Maybe the ones in the ground will have done well and I’ll dig one up in the fall to plant in a pot for in the house. And let one on its own to see what happens. Thanks for more of your expertise!

      • Well, that is pretty harsh, and two climate zones from 8B that Opuntia laevis is rated for. I do not doubt that it can survive two climate zones from what it is rated for. I would just be careful with it. . . . or not, just to see how tough it is there. I would be more comfortable planting a lot of it out in the open if there were plenty of potted specimens that were protected too.

      • I’ll figure out how to give some enough light in the house. The native ones are found more to the north and north west, and as we go north here, it gets really ugly in the winters. I’ll leave one out in the ground and tell it it’s an experiment.

      • There are a few plants that I brought back to Los Gatos from Beverly Hills that I knew were marginal. One of the gingers was quite happy for most of the time, but after a few years, was killed by an unusually cold frost. It was worth the effort for a few years. If I wanted to, I could have planted more from a protected specimen that survived. I wanted to grow it in the ground, but needed to assume a certain degree of risk.

      • It’ll be a risk to leave any out in the ground, and another risk trying to give enough light in the house. Since I know one was rooting, I’ll try the smallest potted one right in his viv shortly. I’m curious to see what happens with that. 102 degrees, low humidity, I’ll bring it out and give it a little drink once a week……and see if he eats at it. This is fun stuff. 😊

      • If it is the species that I think it is, it is not as resilient to frost as the species that is native there, but nonetheless, is tougher than people think it is.

  2. It’s all so amazing. What a gorgeous little face in there. It’s always good to see people care so much about the animals we need to see, hear and hold.

    • Thanks for visiting and for your comments. I see you have a blog that includes a lot about beardies. My son and DIL have 4 beardies, a big savannah monitor and a tegu. I wanted a nice little vegan cos I’m too old to fool with bugs. 😉

      • It was my pleasure. Beardies are such lovely beings. All lizards are, as you know. I am happy to know of a bunch of lizard appreciators! Do the Tegu & Monitor have calm personalities? Many like to cuddle, same as Beardies. I get it with the bugs. My problem is guilt. I use to say, “I’m sorry wormy.” As I’d feed 1 to my Beardies. Luckily for the wormies & me, they both became vegetarians after a few years.

      • They have only had the tegu for a few months and she’s still a little skitterish. They’ve had the monitor maybe a year and a half and my son has worked very hard to get him tame and trusting, knowing what a large animal he’s going to get to be. So yea he’s actually cuddly. My son has watched videos and joined monitor FB groups to learn all he can about making them both happy and healthy. They’re working the same way with the tegu, cos she’ll get huge too. As you know, they’re very different animals from beardies. They definitely have a house full!

      • That is wonderful to know. Thank you for filling me in. Your son is a wonderful lizard parent! I’m glad he & the monitor can be so close. I’ve watched videos as well & admit I want to cuddle them, but havn’t had the opportunity. Yep, they need more space than I could adequately give. My Green Iguana deserved her own kingdom : ). Best wishes to your son & family with the Tegu, but it seems he will be successful in calming her.

      • They have given up a lot of their own living space to have big lizard enclosures for the 2 big ones. They are good lizard parents. He follows YouTube university to learn lots of things!

      • We sacrifice things for our children : ) I will be seeing about this YouTube university. I didn’t know of it. Thank you, we can always learn something more.

      • They do sacrifice for their children. I didn’t mean to mislead you about YouTube; didn’t mean YouTube University is an organized thing. He just searches subjects and finds videos about anything he wants to know, and he and others I’ve heard jokingly refer to the service as YouTube University cos there is so much info available about…..anything you want to learn about. Maybe that reference is a local thing.

      • Ah, gotcha. Well I’m not up to speed because I am not in front of a t.v. or other screen as often as most. Thought it a new trendy learning thing : ) on that note, I too frequent the university : )

  3. When I looked at the 2nd photo, I thought it was a turtle poking his head out of a shell. It’s not a shell at all, but a piece of wood. Not a turtle, but a lizard. My eyes deceived me! Maybe I need new glasses.

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