Constipated lizard breaks unfortunate record

poo filled lizard
Curly-tailed lizard - Edward Stanley/Florida Museum

A diet of greasy pizza and sand left one curly-tailed lizard’s body almost completely full of faeces.

The reptile was understood to have resided next to a pizzeria in Cocoa Beach, Florida (USA). 

Daily snacking on leftover pizza is believed to be the cause of this lizard’s extreme constipation.

A team of scientists from the University of Florida examined the lizard, who was initially thought to have been pregnant.

Finding no evidence of eggs present in the body, the team did discover 22g of faeces instead, accounting for 80% of this unfortunate lizard’s total body weight.

The tremendous turd that was lodged in the lizard’s gastrointestinal tract now holds the record for the largest mass of digested food matter ever discovered in a living animal.

Northern Curly-tailed lizards (Leiocephalus carinatus) are native to the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and Cuba, but were intentionally introduced to Florida in the early 1940s to combat sugar cane pests. These invasive omnivores that usually live on a diet of insects and other smaller lizards, will eat almost anything including human food waste. 

“They’re like sparrows or gulls at a fry stand, without the chirping or swooping,” Natalie Claunch, one of the team of herpetologists from the University of Florida said in a statement.

By the time Claunch and her team found the female lizard, it was unable to excrete the mass of excrement in its belly, and was almost out of room to eat any more. All the nutrients from the dense ball of faeces had been used, so it appeared she was slowly starving to death.

As curly-tailed lizards are not native to Florida, those captured for research cannot be released back into the wild. To gain a clearer idea of what happened to this lizard, the researchers humanely euthanized her, then took more precise measurements of the faecal lump.

lizard filled with poo
Curly-tailed lizard filled with faeces - Natalie Claunch

The dissection showed that the lizard's internal organs were so tightly squeezed that they had started to fail, particularly its ovaries and liver. The mass was so dense that it was even visible in computed X-ray tomography (CT) scans, said Edward Stanley, an associate scientist in the Florida Museum of Natural History's Department of Herpetology.

Though this curly-tailed lizard is no longer with us, she will live on in scientific literature. 

This is believed to be the worst case of constipation recorded to date, according to a note published in the 2020 issue of the Herpetological Review. The previous unfortunate top-spot was held by a Burmese python that had a mass of faeces lodged that made up 13% of its body mass. 

 

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