The tunnel systems of the Australian sand screen lizard are real architecture

The tunnel systems of the Australian sand screen lizard are real architecture

Many animals are known to dig holes or burrows; Rabbits, sand martins, badgers, swinging door spiders, moles, caterpillars, and meerkats: they all burrow. Many ants and termites make more complex tunnel systems than the Paris metro network. By the way, there are also a number of marine animals that hide in burrows, from mudflats to snails. In a world filled with competitors, predators and other threats, it is wise to inhabit your body in a cave. Most of the caves are simple tunnels or tubes, but sometimes the real architecture shows.

Archaeological excavations

It is not always easy to determine what tunnel systems look like from the outside. Abandoned ant nests were filled with thin cement that stretched and hardened into many aisles and nest cavities. The nest mold could then be exposed by removing all the surrounding soil, as if it were an archaeological fossil, so that the tunnel system eventually remained as a picket fence. Only then can you fully appreciate the architectural complexity.

A good example of a well nest bore made by an Australian Sand Watcher or Gould Screen, Varanos Goldi. Monitor lizards are large lizards. The largest living species is the infamous Komodo dragon, an animal that can reach a total length of over three meters, and weigh over 150 kilograms including stomach contents (the stomach contents can be a whole goat, deer, pig or sometimes a small animal ). man).

sand screen smaller; Growing to a maximum of 1.40 meters and weighing only five kilograms, it is still much larger and heavier than the lizards we encounter here in Europe. Sand monitor lizards live in Australia and can be found everywhere except in most coastal areas and in Tasmania. They feed on prey such as small mammals, birds, frogs, lizards and eggs. In order to dig, animals are equipped with huge claws with long nails, reminiscent of the claws of an eagle.

key shaped tunnel

An article recently appeared in the American Journal Ecology Around the deep nests sand screens dig into the ground. At a depth of three, and sometimes four meters, there is a brood chamber in which eggs are laid. To reach this depth, a spiral shaped tunnel is excavated which slowly descends into the ground in a clockwise spiral shape. With five turns the tube is deep and the brood chamber is reached. From there, the narrow straight tube rises almost vertically, and returns to the surface. This is the escape tube for the boy. Dozens of these tunnels are often located next to each other in large groups or tunnel fields.

The most surprising thing about spiral tunnels is not only their shape, but also the animals that use them once the lizards leave the monitor. The researchers found snakes, geckos, snakes, and other lizards, frogs, toads, scorpions, centipedes, beetles, and ants. At least 418 frogs were found in a single tunnel field. Then it was concluded that sand-drilling devices create and maintain an entire ecosystem that benefits many other animal species. Environmental Systems Engineers Monitor lizards in English are called beautiful.

Jill Reemer is a paleontologist. Every week he talks about an animal that makes the news for Trouw.

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