Tuesday, July 18, 2017

iguana go home


Some plot lines simply will not go away.

If Mexpatriate is a mini-series (more soap opera than situation comedy), there is a recurring dramatic device that pops up its head occasionally in our little program.  You know the type of thing I mean. Who will it be charged with murder this season -- the saintly Anna or the aloof Bates?

Mexpatriate's recurring plot line may not be filled with that measure of "human emotion and probability" (as Sullivan required of Gilbert in Topsy Turvy), but it is a fact of life in my little home town.

And my "story of more woe?" Iguanas, of course. And the running debate whether black iguanas are actually iguanas. Or if the term applies only to the green iguana.

Less than a month ago, I told you I had changed my position 
(dining out on false news). A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with a friend who told me only the green iguana was an iguana. The black iguana was a completely different genus. And I found articles supporting that position.

When I decided to share that article with you, I could no longer find it. So, I took John Maynard Keynes's apocryphal advice: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" I switched back to my former position. Both are iguanas.

A week after I wrote the essay, I brought the topic up with a Mexican to whom I had just been introduced. His academic specialty is crocodiles, but he is well-versed in lizard lore. I asked him whether the black iguana is an iguana.

His immediate answer warmed my lawyerly heart. "It depends what you mean by iguana."

He explained that for scientific classification the
black iguana is Ctenosaura similis; the green iguana is Iguana iguana. Both are in the subfamily Iguania. But so are chameleons and anoles (what we thought were chameleons when we were kids -- the lizards you could buy at the county fair and pin to shirt with a thread leash).

So, I switched sides again. The black iguana is not an iguana. Scientifically.

I didn't bother writing about my new-found knowledge to avoid sounding too much like a mugwump politician. Until yesterday.

Even though I am supposed to be on constant bed rest, I wandered over to the kitchen to get a glass of water. When I walked by the overflow for my swimming pool, I saw a flash of green dart from one side to the other. At first, I thought it was one of those just-mentioned anoles.

It wasn't. It was a very young "iguana" -- probably out of the egg no more than a few days. I had found a reptile shell in the patio a couple of days earlier.

But it was trapped. The water return is no more than knee-deep. To me. For the lizard, it was as impregnable as that border wall The Donald imagines in his dreams.

I had to try three different options to rescue the little bugger. It, of course, thought I was about to eat it. Once lifted, it was out of the dustpan and into the drive. I haven't seen it since.

While acting as a fireman, I had an opportunity to get a rather detailed look at what it was. I jumped to what I thought was an obvious conclusion. It was a baby green iguana. After all it was green. 

It turns out I was wrong again. A little research let me know I had been confused by color prejudice. The young of both the green and black iguanas are green. The black iguanas turn black and gray as they age.

The easiest distinction is the markings on the tail. The fact that I have only found adult black iguanas in the courtyard should have been another clue.


So, there you have it. My fact-based conversion to a new position.

But you did get a cute photograph out of it. 


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