Some lizards swim through sand as though it were water. Why?
Oct 3rd 2019AFICIONADOS OF “Dune”, Frank Herbert’s novel about a planet covered by Sahara-like desert, will be familiar with the idea of animals that swim through sand. Giant worms which do just that are a feature of the book. Back on Earth, though, there are sand-swimmers, too. And these ones are real. At least eight groups of lizards have a habit of diving headfirst into sand, if it is available, and making paddling motions with their limbs to carry them below, as if they were submerging themselves in a body of water. The question is, why?Obvious hypotheses include evading predators and controlling body temperature. However, Ken Toyama of the University of Toronto has a third: that the animals are ridding themselves of skin parasites. And he has data to back his theory up.Choose us for news analysis that respects your time and intelligenceSubscribe to The EconomistWe filter out the noise of the daily news cycle and analyse the trends that matterWe give you rigorous, deeply researched and fact-checked journalism. That’s why Americans named us their most trusted news source in 2017Available wherever you are—in print, digital and, uniquely, in audio, fully narrated by professional broadcastersThis website adheres to all nine of NewsGuard‘s standards of credibility and transparency.ORContinue reading this articleRegister with an email address