In summer 2022, I started work with the Kamath Lab and assisted the study on Southern Prairie Lizard (Sceloporus consobrinus) in Colorado. That was one of my best life experiences: for someone who grew up loving reptiles, there is no cooler job than catching lizards in the wild and observing them in a lab. In my time with these palm-size reptiles, I noticed that they often vibrate or whip their tails like rattlesnakes prior to attacking prey. Curious about this behavior, I tried to look for papers that discuss the relationship between reptilian tail movement and foraging success. Surprisingly, despite quite a few sightings and video recordings, I found no studies exploring the mechanism and evolutionary significance behind this behavior. After a period of wondering, a bold idea came to my mind: can I do an experiment to explore the motivation behind this behavior?
With the help of Dr. Ambika Kamath and the other lab members, the idea actually came true. When I realized it could become a real paper, I couldn't wait to start working on it. By observing and recording the Sceloporus’ reaction to five types of prey with different sizes and morphology, I found that their tail movements were related to the type of prey. They tend to vibrate their tails when facing prey with higher mobility, but not when facing slower prey. This proves that Sceloporus have the ability to vary their foraging strategies and behaviors somewhat depending on the type of prey they face. Studying this behavior may help us learn more about ecological and evolutionary significance of reptilian foraging behavior, as well as reptilian behavior in captivity. When I finished the experiment, I realized that this was the first time I was able to combine my interests and passion about animals with academics. I look forward to continuing my exploration of natural science and exploring my further interests in future careers.