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Florida lizard sets depressing record for constipation in a living animal

So maybe don't read this if you're squeamish.

This unfortunate lizard set a record for constipation in a living animal.
Florida Museum/Edward Stanley

Nature is grand. Nature is metal. And sometimes nature is weird with a side of sad. 

Researchers at the University of Florida and the Florida Museum found a record-setting lizard in Cocoa Beach. The northern curly-tailed lizard had been feeding near a grease bin at a pizza restaurant. 

University of Florida Ph.D. student and herpetologist Natalie Claunch said the lizard was "effectively starving."

Natalie Claunch

"Mouthfuls of insects, an anole and greasy sand congealed into an unpassable glob of poop nearly 80% of the animal's total body mass -- the largest known feces-to-body-mass ratio recorded in a living animal," the Florida Museum said in a sobering release this week

At first, the scientists thought the lizard was pregnant, but the body didn't feel right. A CT scan revealed the awful truth. The lizard was humanely euthanized and the researchers created a 3D model of its body for study.

"I was blown away by how little room there was left for all the other organs ­-- if you look at the 3D model, it has only a tiny space left over in its ribcage for the heart, lungs and liver," said Edward Stanley of the Florida Museum.  

The northern curly-tailed lizard is an invasive species in Florida. It's known for its undiscerning diet. "They're like sparrows or gulls at a fry stand, without the chirping or swooping," said Natalie Claunch, a University of Florida doctoral candidate who studies invasive species.

Claunch is the lead author of a note on the lizard published in the Herpetological Review (PDF). Warning: There are some intense images of animals in this journal excerpt, so proceed with caution. 

The lizard's situation was both unfortunate and fascinating. "It just shows you never know what you'll find when you least expect it," said Claunch.