Thursday, June 07, 2007

the escape artist

I recently read that Bermudians are afraid of lizards. Is this true? I know some that are adverse to the presence of frogs but the fear of lizards is new to me. Some species of lizards are endemic to Bermuda, whereas others were introduced years ago, but none are harmful. Lizards don't bother me so much (mind you we are talking about the smaller kind). I'm a huge supporter of anything that will eat bugs. Besides lizards are so much more afraid of us that we are of them as evident by their lightning speed escapes when spotted (I got a lucky shot of the one on the right though). While I've never been one to handle a lizard or want to touch one, I've loved them because they're programmed to devour those pesky mosquitoes (such a nuisance when I was growing up in India). Incidentally, Bermuda does not have mosquitoes nor snakes. But ants are aplenty.


J Starling said...

Hi. Yes, there is a degree of 'saurophobia' the fear of lizards, amongst certain segments of the population. Hope you don't mind I've cut and pasted here from an article I wrote a couple of years ago:

Saurophobia is one of the more unusual phobias and is particularly a Bermudian phenomena. There are four lizards found in Bermuda, the endemic Bermuda Skink, and three introduced anoles from the Caribbean. Of these it is the anolis lazards that seem to evoke fear amongst some visitors, perhaps because the Skink is now rarely encountered, and it is they who I will deal with here.

Of the three anoles, only the common or Jamaican anole (Anolis grahami) is recorded as being an official introduction, brought from Jamaica in 1905 (?) to help control fruit flies. It is by far the most common lizard, found throughout the island, immediately recognizable with its brilliant blue body that can change almost instantly to a solid black. The Barbados anole (or Somerset lizard), A. extremus, is restricted in range to Somerset and Ireland Island. It was first recorded in the 1950s, and probably came to Bermuda aboard British Naval vessels (Barbados was the home of another major British naval garrison). Similar in size to the common Jamaican anole, it is a rather pretty lizard having a medley of purple, emerald, gold and copper. The third and most infamous anole is th eANtiguan or Warwick lizard, A. leachii, is now found from at least southern Somerset Island to Bailey’s Bay, though its original range within Warwick Parish still contains the largest specimens and greatest populations. This is the largest of the three anoles, reaching lengths of at least 25cms (14 inches), and, with its aggressive nature, is no doubt the source of most lizard phobias in Bermuda.

While it is true that all lizards will give at least token resistance to being manhandled, the Antiguan will give a violent struggle, and may even bite a finger being pointed towards it from a short distance rather than fleeing. These behaviours however are purely defensive and understandable. As a whole these lizards are great predators of cockroaches, flies and even mosquitoes. Unfortunately they are also partial to ladybugs and birds eggs.

End of pasting. From my investigations saurophobia here is predominantly amongst the Black population, and at that centred within the families that either live in or grew up in, our visit frequently (family, etc) Warwick Parish, the historic stronghold of th eWarwick or Antiguan lizard. These lizards get quite large, which can be intimidating, and are the ones that sort of have a 50% chance of running away or biting you, while the others will only bite when being handled, and sometimes not even then.

It seems from my research that 80% of the phobias developed when the individual was a kid and had a bad experience with them, frequently an older sibling catching an Antiguan lizard and putting them on a childs head, especially a girl, which seems to have caused some trauma that devloped into this phobia. The other 20% seems to come from parents who have a phobia of the lizards and communicate this to the children at an impressionable age. There may be more to it than that, but thats my research so far.

~ Ms. Cute Pants ~ said...

Thank You, JS, for your comment & your insight into the world of lizards in Bermuda & why they produce such fear among some. I hope you were not one of the tormentors, for you just may be resposible for someone's Saurophobia here on the island!