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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/179

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167
THE PINE-TREE LIZARD.

The most superficial examination of the external ear of the pine-tree lizard will at once lead one to infer that the animal's hearing is acute; and this is true. When watching the lizards on the trestle over Babcock's Creek, at May's Landing, I was forcibly struck with this fact. Such of them as were basking on the timbers of the bridge were not disturbed when I approached them with moderate care, stepping only on the cross-ties, or between them; but if I struck the rails with my cane they instantly took notice of it and assumed a listening attitude. I subsequently experimented upon this point, and found that when my companion struck the rails a smart blow, even at a distance of fifty yards, the lizards were aware of the peculiar sound, and acted accordingly, even darting out of sight with that swiftness that characterizes their first few steps. I have recently learned from Rev. John E. Peters, Sc. D., of May's Landing, that his observations lead him to conclude that the sense of hearing is not very acute, and that they depend principally upon that of sight for safety and the finding of their food; but his experiments were not so extended as my own, and limited too largely to specimens in confinement.

It is a most interesting fact, although so very wild when first met with, that, once captured, they instantly become tame. Indeed, I have had them lie quietly upon my hand, while walking in the woods, and make no effort to escape. There is a bare possibility that the efforts on their part to escape, and fear, when finally captured, may produce a hypnotic condition, or something like it, but this would pass by and leave them wild. This, I think, never occurs. Once in my hand, I have never known a pine-tree lizard to be otherwise than perfectly tame. But, in a large series in confinement, I found that the sense of hearing was constantly brought into play, as shown by their ludicrous actions when flies, shut in a thin paper box, were placed near them. They not only heard but recognized the noise—a very important matter, bearing as it does upon their intelligence. Indeed, in the woods about May's Landing I found that the lizards were perfectly familiar with many sudden sounds and paid no attention whatever to them. Some of these were the sonorous croak of the bull-frog, the quick scream of the blue-jay, the rattle of the golden-winged woodpecker, and the coarse cry of the great-crested fly-catcher. These were all unheeded, while my own coughing, the whistling of a single note, or the loud utterance of a word, caused them either to assume a make-ready attitude or to dart away. On the other hand, have these lizards any voice? Their actions inter se are strongly suggestive of the affirmative, but, so far as I am able to determine, their utterances are confined to hissing, and this I only heard when I provoked the creatures