When an anolologist goes mouse trapping…

from Michele Johnson:

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to join one of my colleagues, mammalogist David Ribble, in the data collection for a vertebrate biodiversity survey he’s working on at Bamberger Ranch in Johnson City, Texas.  (Incidentally, David is a grad school pal of Jonathan Losos – it’s always a small world.)  We trapped rodents, checked pitfall traps, lifted cover boards, and jumped out of the truck when we saw snakes in the road.  This was my first experience trapping mammals, and I was impressed by the many similarities, and the important differences, between field studies of rodents and anoles.

This is not an anole. It’s a Peromyscus pectoralis from Bamberger Ranch, with a fresh ear tag.

The similarities:

1.  When you grab an animal, it pees on you.

2. If you don’t hold on tight, the animal gets away.  (The perils of working with students…)

3. If you don’t hold on right, you get bitten.

4. When you catch males, you confirm the sex by everting the penes.

5. Tails can come off – oops!

6. We all pose our specimens in unnatural positions.  (Mice get a “Superman flying” pose; anoles a “mid-jumping jack” pose.)

7. Field work is better with beer.

The differences:

1. You can lure mice into little traps using food.  It would be awfully convenient if anoles fell for such a trick.

2. If an anole bites your finger, you can blow on its face until it lets go.  If a mouse bites your finger, you bleed all over everything.

3. Male mice only have one penis, poor guys.

4. If takes way more work to make a mouse specimen than an anole specimen – you have to skin it, stuff it, and pin it.  I prefer fixation with nasty chemicals.

Assuming my lists are exhaustive, it’s clear that the study of anoles has more similarities than differences with the study of their amniotic brethren.  Still, I think I’ll stick with anoles.

PS – For those of you wondering, the rodents we trapped were Sigmodon hispidus (cotton rat) and Peromyscus pectoralis (white-ankled mouse), and the herps we caught were Sceloporus undulatus, Acris crepitans blanchardi, and Thamnophis proximus.  It was very cold that weekend.

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3 Responses to When an anolologist goes mouse trapping…

  1. marthamunoz says:

    If anole and mouse biologists are united in the use of beer in field work, will someone stick a thermocouple in it and see how temperature changes by time of day. I’m curious to know how accurate it is for measuring anole operative temperature. See here: gratuitous self reference

  2. Joshua says:

    For that matter, is beer a better model for rodents or anoles? Nobel prizes have been won for less! (IGnobels, anyway…)

  3. Audrey says:

    A note on difference #1: You actually can somewhat lure anoles with food. If you’re working with trunk anoles and you see tree trunks with termite trails, flick off a bit of the termite trail. Come back in a few minutes, and you might get anoles that have shown up to chow down on the termites who are repairing the break in the trail. Doesn’t work all the time, but it’s a handy trick I learned from Rich this summer!

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