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  • Sometimes you don't realize how special something is until you try to find something else like it.

    During the course of a research class in Kenya, I decided it would be cool to study lizards. Driving out of camp, we usually drove by a large pile of boulders where you could easily spot male Agama agamas, a distinct lizard of eastern Kenya. Agamas are sexually dimorphic, with males sporting a bright orange head and a blue body, while females are much more drab and camouflage nicely into the rock. They are also extremely territorial, and so we would often see the males lounging on top of their rocks, heads erect, waiting to fight off invaders. If we were lucky, we might even get to see them do an aggressive head-bobbing display.

    So a group of us decided to find out exactly which traits the females preferred in males. We designed an experiment, gathered our cameras and notebooks and measuring equipment and drove out the rocks. we sat for three hours, watching the lizards, silent except for the occasional click of a camera shutter or exclamation of "damn it, I lost my lizard again!"

    The next day, we wanted to repeat the experiment with a different group of lizards. So we piled into the land rover and drove everywhere we could remember seeing large rocks. We trekked through brush, climbed hills, and found many interesting things, such as a giraffe bones. But male lizards were not to be found. Eventually, we found what we thought was perfect lizard habitat, and came back the next day for observation. But only two males came out, and ultimately, we gathered too little data.

    It took our group's study to realize how unique our first site had been. When we see something everyday, we tend to assume it is the norm. But maybe its just that we happen to be lucky enough to live near that one perfect pile of rocks.
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