The ‘Hidden’ Intelligence of Reptiles

Anadia rhombifera, on James's wrist.

Anadia rhombifera, on James’s wrist.

A little Facebook blurb I thought I’d add here: This New York Times  piece is an older article (2013), but re-reading it reminded me of the fascinating Anadia rhombifera lizards we find in Mindo. I’d only seen them this last trip and was amazed by them. They seem like little people lizards. Very different from the anoles in their way of navigating and such. I would love to do studies on their intelligence! They seem to be incredibly quick thinkers (and movers), reminding me of rodents in many ways. Anoles are definitely smart, at times they can be really ‘quick’ smart too but the Anadia lizards seem almost hyperactive smart!

Anadia rhombifera portrait

Anadia rhombifera portrait

Reptiles are definitely much more intelligent than I could have ever imagined some years ago – it requires a lot of patience and an understanding of their way of life to have that spectrum revealed to you. It is one thing that makes me a bit sad about captive reptiles in really simple, unnatural enclosures or even wild reptiles in hand – so many animals are deprived of opportunities to be their most natural selves and ‘keepers’, captors never get to see those really cool behaviors. I guess I prefer a slower appreciation of nature.

Stressed Anolis proboscis. Like many reptiles, turning dark when upset. 😦

Happy Anolis proboscis, the same individual as in the first photo – they are living mood rings, but their faces and especially eyes convey a lot as well!

I’ve had reptiles as pets in the past, but I’ve grown out of that fairly quickly, probably because I am lucky enough to go to places where reptiles really flourish. I just don’t feel a need to keep them around me indoors when I can see them where they exist naturally. Sometimes I wish I did, I really like just looking at them, but it really seems unfair. Again, I’m lucky to see them in nature and I try to relish those moments! It always bothers me to see stressed animals pinned between fingers, their mouths agape and eyes narrowed in discomfort or wide open in terror. I think it is kind of weird that people don’t register that, the way it matters with say…cats and dogs. I mean, how often do you manhandle an animal like that, in that way for say…a photo? I definitely feel there is a respectful way to handle them, that respects their intelligence and emotional states. I think we humans are smart enough these days to be sensitive to that, especially in light of studies like these.

Given all the challenges they face in their daily lives, it just makes sense to me that they should be capable of coming up with new strategies for survival. I mean, they are so naturally observant and aware of their surroundings! I am always amazed and excited to see what else we discover over time about our scaly companions on this planet.

A clip of James releasing Chironious grandisquamis – an extremely alert snake with lots of personality!



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