Blue-bellied Lizard Doing Pushups: Find a Unique Reptile in Los Angeles
The 2022 City Nature Challenge is a participatory science project where people from all over the world take pictures of wildlife in their area. It is organized by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences. Together, they identify the species in the photographs to better understand the biodiversity of a region.
TO THE, more than 2,500 species were identified by 1,400 observers.
“This year, the most frequently observed species was the west fence lizard … with a blue belly … [and] sometimes they do push-ups,” says Lila Higgins, senior director of community science at the LA County Museum of Natural History.
LA County had more than 600 sightings of rare or endangered species, including the Dudleya of Santa Monica (aka the “live forever” plant), which is a succulent that lives exclusively in the mountains of LA. “This plant is actually poached for the houseplant trade. So if you see one of these forever living plants, these dudleyas, don’t buy it. They should be in the wild, don’t bring them. not in your house or garden.
One of the most surprising species found in Los Angeles, Higgins explains, was a blue thumbtack. The insect is bright blue due to a viral infection.
“It’s a type of virus that turns the woodlouse from its usual kind of grayish color to this kind of purplish blue. And that’s because the virus has a crystalline structure that when light refracts it causes our eye sees a very blue color. So that counts as two species, not just a woodlouse, but also the virus.”
The challenge began in 2016 as a competition between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Through word of mouth, the project has spread to 445 cities around the world. The data collected is available to anyone wishing to use or analyze it.
“[The project] really fills a need that is out there,” says Higgins.