The name is Ken Schuyler. And, for me, it all began at the University of Saint Augustine in St. John's County, Florida, in the spring of 1980. I was a post-graduate student, there, working towards my Master of Science degree in zoology. And, while having a late lunch at the Student Union, between classes, I was approached by my zoology professor; Noah Stewart.
"Ken! Oh, I'm so glad I finally found you."
"What's the matter, professor?"
His face was flushed red, and he was breathing pretty hard. As if he had just been caught outside the undergrad girls' dorm, peeking at some topless sunbathers!
"I need you to double-check something for me," he whispered: "You know how I was doing some field work, in the Lake George area of Volusia County, last week? Well, I think I found a previously unknown subspecies of...Gerrhonotus infernalis!"
"Texas alligator lizards? This far eastward?!"
"I've got half a dozen specimens up in my lab, right this second. I just need independent corroboration that they aren't simply someone's escaped pets!"
So, I wolfed down the remainder of my lunch and off we went. Sure enough; all six were up there. Every single one of them having been anesthetized, and placed in a white-painted metal tray, flat on their backs. So, I picked up a magnifying glass sitting next to the first such tray and began my examination.
By the time I reached the sixth specimen, I was muttering to myself.
"This can't be possible. This can't be possible!"
So, I double-checked...and triple-checked.
Finally, I turned to Professor Stewart and said:
"I don't how to tell you this, sir. But, these aren't alligator lizards. They're true gators. And, not newly-hatched offspring, either! Because, despite each of them being five inches long,...THEY ALL HAVE THE REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS OF FULL-GROWN ADULTS!!"
The professor immediately sat down, heavily, and sighed.
"Then, there's no longer any doubt of it. They were right!"
Naturally, I did not fail to notice his use of the plural.
" 'They?' " I repeated.
He nodded: "I took these reptiles to three different veterinarians, randomly selected from the phone book. None of them knowing about the other two. Same identical findings, each time. Yet, I asked for your input, just to be a hundred percent sure!"
I looked back at the specimens and spread my arms wide.
"But, how on Earth is this possible?!" I exclaimed: "Even an insular subspecies of dwarf caiman wouldn't get this small as adults!"
"No, definitely not. That's why I think we should adjourn to my office and try to see if we can find out the how-and-why."
Five minutes later, we were doing a Boolean search on his new TRS-80 computer with color TV monitor. Using the terms "hypothyroid" and "reptile" as our parameters, as we had both agreed, right from the start, that using the word "shrinkage" would only result in multiple references to laundry problems! And even then, it took us an additional, eye-straining two hours to catch our first break.
"Professor? I think I have something!"
"What is it?"
"An abstract referring to an old NATIONAL LINNAEAN article about the Scott-Davis Expedition of 1900."
He quickly grabbed up a nearby notepad and pencil.
"What's the exact citation?"
"April issue; 1901 (pp.247-309)."
"Excellent!" he exclaimed (scribbling it all down like it was the private telephone number of our football team's hottest cheerleader): "That means we're bound to have a copy on microfilm."
The professor was right. The campus library had multiple microfilmed copies, of the National Linnaean Society's monthly journal, extending all the way back to the debut issue cover-dated "January, 1885!" So, it was comparatively easy for the assistant reference librarian on duty to find us the one particular reel we were looking for. And, once she had put it on the viewer for us, it took us only ten minutes of alternating fast-forward with normal speed to find it.
NATIONAL LINNAEAN JOURNAL (v. 16; issue #4) from April of 1901. With a cover story entitled "Unusual Fauna of the South Seas" by Professors Homer Davis and James Winthrop Scott of the American Museum of Natural History.