Fishing for Lizards

Neil Losin is a National Geographic Young Explorer pursuing his Ph.D. in UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Cuban Brown Anole
Cuban Brown Anole. Photo by Neil Losin

Losin received a grant from National Geographic in 2009 to study territorial behavior between species. The work focuses on why some animals defend their territories not only against members of their own species, but against members of other species as well.

Losin is focused on the territorial interactions between two anole lizard species that are not native to Florida, but have taken up residence there, the Cuban Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei), in the photo to the right, and Puerto Rican Crested Anole (Anolis cristatellus), below.

Territorial border disputes between male anoles are often settled with “dewlap displays,” the showing of a brightly colored flap of skin on the throat, and ritualized “push-ups.”

Puerto Rican Crested Anole
Puerto Rican Crested Anole. Photo by Neil Losin

But, if these signals don’t ward off intruders, male anoles will fight violently to defend their space.

In order to study interactions between the lizards, Losin instigates confrontations between species by capturing and temporarily relocating anoles. But catching anoles by hand is difficult. So, instead he has perfected a technique he calls fishing, saying “I tie a little noose on the end of a retractable fishing pole and go fishing for lizards.” You can see an example of Losin fishing in the forest in the video at the top of this post.

Losin is also an accomplished photographer and filmmaker. Believing academic scientists need to do a better job of teaching the public about their ongoing work, Losin and fellow biologist and photographer Nate Dappen created Day’s Edge Productions. The company showcases scientific research and the natural world through video projects, such as the one above.

Listen to an interview with Neil Losin on National Geographic Weekend with Boyd Matson.
[audio:|titles=Neil Losin]

Changing Planet

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Benjamin Shaw produces the weekly radio program National Geographic Weekend with host Boyd Matson. Hear it on on XM/Sirius satellite radio (XM channel 133 Sundays at noon), subscribe to the iTunes podcast, or get the show streamed to your iPhone, Blackberry, Palm, or Android OS phone with Stitcher Radio.