A Riveting “Reptale”

“Yes my friend, I have been watching you – do you forget that I can look at two different objects simultaneously?” began the Calotes versicolor in a soft yet mocking voice even as it quickly gobbled a juicy winged termite. I had put in much effort to crawl on all fours through the foliage from behind her and just about managed to focus my camera into a tight close-up and now to be mocked – I felt like an idiot. She was watching me with one eye all the time while the other was focussed on her snack!

“The name is Lady Spike”, she continued, turning around to face me, “and don’t you go by calling me those stupid names like the Changeable Lizard or Bloodsucker – I hate that last one particularly – as if I would go about sucking blood out of you just to change the colour of my head! You humans and your pre-set notions and superstitions. Do you know I am actually doing you a favour by devouring all these crop and household pests for you?” her mellow voice sounded hurt.

“And what have you learnt in school about me besides my changing colour for camouflage? My dear friend, there is much more to learn. You call yourself evolved and an enduring and hardy species? Study me and perhaps you will be humble enough to accept that there is a lot to take away from your fellow creatures.” The words of Lady Spike did make sense and I pleaded, “Do tell me what secrets you hold?” “Well”, she resumed, an edge of eagerness in her voice, “I am running late and have to meet the ladies on the fence for sunbathing. But I will leave you with three facts to ponder over.”

“(1)  We lack sex chromosomes, so as a rule whether the hatchling will be male or female should depend on the temperature at which the eggs hatch. But not us! We are all females till at a certain stage testosterone is produced in some eggs, and they hatch into males; the others stay female!  (2)  Females can store sperm for up to 6 months. So we can fertilise more than one clutch of eggs with the same batch of sperms. We are thus evolved to reproduce in the likelihood of prolonged absence of males!  (3)  You think we reptiles just lay the eggs and leave them at the mercy of predators? Well, surprise-surprise, we have egg retention capability. We can retain eggs for up to 6 months so that the embryonic growth will continue even when the climatic conditions are not favourable to lay them. And furthermore, if the climatic conditions still do not ease, we can still delay laying the eggs by arresting the embryonic development. Beat that!”

And as she sauntered away in the direction of the compound wall, Lady Spike turned around to deliver the punch, “Now tell me, who is evolved?”

– Narendra Nayak © 2017

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