— -- A New Jersey mother found quite the surprise among organic tatsoi leaves she recently bought: a lizard!
Although the lizard appeared "cold and lifeless" when it was originally found, the little reptile nicknamed "Green Fruit Loop" is now thriving as a class mascot in a science lab at Riverside Elementary School in Princeton, New Jersey.
Green Fruit Loop was originally discovered last Tuesday by Sally Mabon, the 37-year-old mother of Riverside kindergartener Faye Steingart.
Mabon told ABC News today she had been plucking leaves from the stems of tatsoi, a Chinese spinach, when she found the critter.
"All of a sudden, there it was!" she said. "But I was worried because it seemed cold and lifeless."
Mabon put the lizard in a Tupperware container with holes on the lid, hoping that it would come back to life, she said.
Amazingly, Mabon found the reptile alive after she and her daughter returned from a swimming class later that day.
Faye decided to take the lizard to her science teacher, Mark Eastburn.
The lizard, named "Green Fruit Loop" by students, is now a class mascot in Eastburn's lab. Students and Eastburn have given the lizard a loving and warm home, where the little lizard is recovering nicely.
Eastburn told ABC News today the lizard is a green anole, though it can change its color from green to brown. The science teacher said that the "lizard makes a great mascot for our science lab, since we are conducting a genetics project on turtles, and the green anole is the only reptile to have all of its DNA sequenced."
He added that this species of lizard is usually found in the southeastern U.S., where coincidentally, Mabon's tatsoi leaves were grown.
Mabon told ABC that she bought the tatsoi leaves from Whole Earth Center, an organic natural food store in Princeton. She added that she "wasn't concerned" about the lizard being in the leaves because she understands bugs and critters "come with the territory" of organic produce.
Whole Earth Center spokeswoman Fran McManus told ABC News today that this is the first time a lizard has ever been reported in their produce after 45 years in business. She explained that the tatsoi leaves came from a farm in Florida, which is actually part of the anole lizards' native range.
"One possible scenario is that the lizard had been hibernating since it was a little cold and when the plant was harvested, it somehow got shook or crawled into the box," McManus said. "We're glad that the family thought finding the lizard was actually a cool discovery and that the Princeton elementary schools are excited about the new lab mascot."
McManus added that a representative from the Florida Organic Grower's Association also told Whole Earth Center that news of the lizard is actually a "good sign" because the species has been decreasing in numbers for the last few years.