Jonathan Losos, whom I saw at the Evolution 2011 meetings, submitted his cats Leo and Jake (Leo has since gone to Ceiling Cat). Losos, as some of you know, is a evolutionary ecologist, a professor at Harvard University, and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology. He’s also author of the definitive book on the lizard genus Anolis, Lizards in an Evolutionary Tree: Ecology and Adaptive Radiation of Anoles. (Anolis contains the little green chameleon, A. carolinensis, that many of us had as kids.) It’s not surprising, then, that both of Jon’s photos contain reptiles as well as kittehs.
What more could a reptile enthusiast want? Both Leo (the Abyssinian) and Curaca (the Missouri Alley) were rescue cats. Curaca was saved from poisoning by a mean restauranteur in St. Louis’s Central West End, whereas Leo was obtained from the clutches of a veterinarian who had lost interest in the runt-of-the-litter once he had sold Leo’s normal-sized littermates. Both grew into fine, worldly and affectionate cats (and we miss Leo dearly). One attribute we never expected is that the pair were first rate herpetol-o-cats. When we lived in the St. Louis suburb of University City, the cats started bringing in Line Snakes (Tropidoclonion lineatum), which we had not known lived in the area. Often, Leo would bring in a snake and drop it on the hardwood floor. Usually, the snake would wrap itself in circular coils, and then Leo would proceed to bat it around “air hockey” style as the snake would glide easily and quickly across the smooth floor surface, Leo hot in pursuit. At other times, the snakes would show up-alive and unharmed-throughout the house. Once, my wife let out a scream of surprise when, while making the bed in the morning, one fell out of the sheets. Alerted to the presence of these serpents in our local environs, I endeavored to return them to their homes, but never could figure out where the cats were finding them.
And here’s Leo with a very large snake:
It’s a boa constrictor. Owned by my brother-in-law, who raised it from a baby. Jake was 8.5 feet long. So, not really a risk, because Jake’s business end was 8.5 feet away, and I was standing by if Jake so much as turned in that direction (which he didn’t); but, for the record, I’m sure he could have made a meal of Leo if he had the inclination and give a chance. We thought it would be interesting to see what Jake would do if we put him in the lawn, given that he’d never been outside of a house, except on my brother-in-law’s shoulder. He acted like he was born to it, and just went slithering along. This was in our front yard, and passing cars came to a screeching halt when they saw a large snake in the yard. I should say, we were snake-sitting when my sister and bro-in-law went on a long trip, perhaps their honeymoon (don’t quite recall the details).