Fecal Findings

Researchers find one big surprise in this pizza-munching lizard

Hold your nose.

Fernando Trabanco Fotografía

Humans love pizza. This is a universally acknowledged truth (if you disagree... I'm sorry for you).

And just as universal is our love for bread, sauce, and cheese, so to is our shared understanding of what happens when you eat too many slices of pizza in a sitting. After the food coma comes the "G.I. distress," and trips to the bathroom can feel like an agonizing life-or-death struggle.

In 2020, one sad Florida lizard learned this lesson the hard way.

INVERSE IS COUNTING DOWN THE 20 STORIES THAT MADE US SAY 'WTF' IN 2020. THIS IS NUMBER 15. SEE THE FULL LIST HERE.

Research published earlier this year found a mind-bogglingly massive bolus of feces — laden with pizza grease — in a female lizard, setting a new, poopy record.

The observations appeared in a March 2020 note published in the Herpetological Review.

The adult female curly-tailed lizard with a distended belly.Natalie Claunch

While conducting research on beaches in eastern Florida, a group of herpetologists stumbled upon a startling discovery: a very chunky female curly-tailed lizard.

The scientists assumed the female lizard was carrying eggs, but when they conducted a CT-scan, they found something far more alarming: a ball of undigested food and saliva so large it took up a whopping 80 percent of the lizard's body mass.

The poop broke all prior records — it is the largest-ever bolus discovered in an animal relative to its size by a long shot. It's unlikely the lizard was pleased about this record-setting blockage, however, as it was unfortunately unable to expel from its body.

This figure from the paper shows the fecal bolus colored in brown.Herpetological Review, 51(1), 2020

Strangely, this lizard was not the first to catch researchers' attention for its surprising form. In 2019, scientists had discovered another lizard in the same area with a similar poop ball comprising 40 percent of its body mass.

As it turns out, these curly-tailed lizards live are an invasive species in Florida which "eat just about anything that moves," according to Natalie Claunch, a postgraduate student and a member of the research team.

The record-breaking curly-tailed lizard lived near a beachside pizzeria. It appears the bolus became so large due to the sheer amount of sand laden with pizza grease inside the lizard, suggesting the reptile chowed down with gusto on this tasty treat.

The finding may be amusing, but it also illuminates a massive problem — species like the curly-tailed lizard are coming into greater contact with humans, and, by extension, have greater access to human food.

Researchers hope to study the curly-tailed lizard to better understand invasive species in the area, but local regulations make this difficult, since scientists cannot release the creatures back into the wild.

As a result, the scientists sadly had to euthanize the constipated critter, but the memory of her record-breaking bolus lives on.

INVERSE IS COUNTING DOWN THE 20 STORIES THAT MADE US SAY 'WTF' IN 2020. THIS IS NUMBER 15. READ THE ORIGINAL STORY HERE.

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