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All about the herpetological world.

Archive for January, 2008

Web-calendar over Herpetological events worldwide!

Posted by Miqe on January 30, 2008

I have started a web-calendar for Herpetological events worldwide.

I hope that you all will help me to fill it with Expo´s and shows all over the world, and that you find it usable.

Posted in Amphibians, European focus, Herpetology, International articles and news., Lizards, Reptiles, Seminars, Shows/Expos/Fairs, Snakes, Venomous herptiles | Leave a Comment »

Free Radicals Run In Lizard Families

Posted by Miqe on January 24, 2008

In lizards, the level of free radicals – molecules that cause damage to cells, tissues and DNA – runs in families, says research published yesterday in the Royal Society journal, Biology Letters.

Researchers from the University of Wollongong found that the production of free radicals was higher in adults than children and varied between different families of lizard species. Currently, very little is known about the genetic properties of free radicals and this new research could help us understand the process of ageing.

Free radicals are released during chemical reactions and speed up the aging process. In humans, they are linked to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes. As we get older, so do the cells in our body which begin producing more free oxygen radicals.

From MedicalNewsToday

Posted in Herpetology, Herps in the news, International articles and news., Lizards, Reptiles, Science/Scientific papers | Leave a Comment »

Return of the native

Posted by Miqe on January 24, 2008

Green gecko on Sanctuary fence by Daniel Coe
Click to enlarge
Let me in! A mountain biker snapped this rare Wellington green gecko on the outside of the Karori Sanctuary fence. Green geckos haven’t been recorded in the area since the late 70s. Photo by Daniel Coe

Wellington Green Gecko by Tom Lynch_sm
Click to enlarge
Wellington Green Gecko by Tom Lynch

An elusive Wellingtonian has made a surprise re-appearance after an absence of nearly 30 years.

Once widespread throughout the Region, the Wellington green gecko has been in gradual decline for many years due to habitat loss and predation. Although reports from the capital are not unheard of, most sightings come from outside of the city. The last reliable sighting in Karori was nearly 30 years ago. Surveys by herpetologists since 2003 have recorded six lizard species in the Sanctuary but the green gecko was notably absent.

‘When I saw the photo of a green gecko on the Sanctuary fence, it really made my day’ said Sanctuary conservation scientist Raewyn Empson.

‘If they have survived outside the fence, then there is every chance there is still a population living inside the Sanctuary too. We have never ruled out the possibility, but searches to date have been unsuccessful. Now at least we know where to start looking.’

Despite their showy colouring, green geckos are notoriously hard to ’spot. To help visitors know what to look out for, Karori Sanctuary recently got funding from the New Zealand Community Trust to create a green gecko enclosure as part of their display on native lizards.

‘It’s great to give our visitors the opportunity to see these animals close up’ says Ms Empson

‘You’re doing well if you see all six – it really makes you appreciate how well-camouflaged they are. We hope that once visitors know what they’re looking for, people will start finding them out in the valley.’

All New Zealand lizards are legally protected, but under threat from habitat destruction and predators. The good news is it’s not hard to help them out by making your backyard more lizard-friendly. Here are a few pointers:

1. Make hiding places out of rock heaps, or make a lizard shelter.

2. Plant native grasses to attract delicious insects or dense native shrubs like Coprosma spp, whose berries lizards also like to eat.

3. Control mice and rats in your backyard by trapping them.

4. Cats are significant predators of lizards. Look at the Department of Conservation’s website for their responsible cat ownership recommendations.

5. Report all gecko sightings to the nearest DOC office.

6. Check out the new lizard display at Karori Sanctuary or contact your local DOC office for more ideas!

More information on native geckos:

o There are at least 39 species of gecko in New Zealand

o The Wellington green gecko (Naultinus elegans punctatus) is endemic to New Zealand

o It is found only in the southern half of the North Island

o It is larger and greener than the closely-related Auckland green gecko (Naultinus elegans elegans) which lives in the north of the North Island

o Geckos are the only lizards that are able to vocalise. New Zealand geckos produce a chirping sound.

o Geckos have ‘sticky’ feet: their toes are covered with microscopic hairs that allow them to climb sheer surfaces and even walk upside down across the ceiling. They are one of the few land animals that could make it over the Sanctuary’s fence!

o New Zealand geckos are unusual in that they give birth to live young rather than laying eggs; the only other geckos that do this live in New Caledonia.

From Scoop

Posted in Fieldherping, Herpetology, Herps in the news, International articles and news., Lizards, Reptiles | 2 Comments »

Snake-eat-snake: endangered pythons wipeout

Posted by Miqe on January 23, 2008

Endangered snakes reintroduced to a conservation zone near Roxby Downs in outback South Australia have been virtually wiped out in a short time.

Adelaide Zoo and the Arid Recovery Group introduced nine woma pythons into the area late last year.

John Read from Arid Recovery says only one of the womas is still alive – the others have been hunted and eaten by king brown snakes.

From ABC News

He says it was wrongly thought the woma pythons would prey on other snakes.

“So I guess in hindsight given that the king browns we get here are 1.5 getting on towards 2.5 metres in length, I guess it’s not surprising that they would take the occasional woma that is smaller than them,” he said.

woma python (file photo)

Only one endangered woma python remains in a conservation area in outback SA.

Mr Read says the outcome is disappointing but not a total loss.

“This is one of the first times ever that captive bred snakes have been released in the wild and we weren’t sure whether snakes that had spent five years feeding on frozen white mice would know how to recognise how to hunt and eat wild food,” he said.

“Well at least four of our pythons definitely have done that.”

Posted in Fieldherping, Herpetology, Herps in the news, International articles and news., Reptiles, Snakes | 1 Comment »

Strange Salamanders, Frogs Cited as Near Extinction

Posted by Miqe on January 23, 2008

Blind salamanders, legless amphibians with tentacles on their heads and ghost frogs whose favorite haunt is a human burial ground are just a few of the world’s weirdest and most endangered creatures.

The Zoological Society of London announced this week these are among the 10 most unusual and threatened amphibian species, as part of the EDGE Amphibians conservation and fundraising initiative.

Amphibians that made the list are deemed by the society to be the most evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered, aka “EDGE,” species.

The Gardiner’s Seychelles frog grows to 11 millimeters, smaller than your thumbnail.

 The purple frog is a burrowing species that spends most of the year up to 13 feet (four meters) underground feeding on termites.

 The Malagasy rainbow frog lives underground for up to 10 months in a limestone canyon system in southern Madagascar.

Ghost frogs, such as Hewitt’s ghost frog, live in South Africa.

 

They have few close relatives in the tree of life and are genetically unique, along with being on the verge of extinction.

“These animals may not be cute and cuddly, but hopefully their weird looks and bizarre behaviors will inspire people to support their conservation,” said Helen Meredith, EDGE Amphibians conservationist in England.

Species that are evolutionarily distinct are one of a kind, said Arne Mooers of Simon Fraser University in Canada.

“We can’t afford to lose these ones, because they are so different from everything else,” said Mooers, who works with scientists as part of the EDGE of Existence program.

“If we lose these, then we lose a big chunk of the total variation,” he said, referring to overall biodiversity.

Peculiar pin-ups

The alien-looking amphibians come in all sizes, from the Chinese giant salamander to the Gardiner’s Seychelles frog that’s smaller than a thumb nail, and in all colors, including the Malagasy rainbow frog and the pale Olm salamander that dwells in limestone caves.

The Chinese giant salamander, with a nose-to-rump length of up to nearly six feet (1.8 meters), tops the list as the highest conservation priority, Meredith said.

One threat has been hunting. Locals and others use hooks to capture the burrowing salamanders for their skin, considered a delicacy by some.

Another chart-topper is the purple frog, Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis.

The purple-pigmented frog wasn’t discovered until 2003, because it stays hidden beneath about 13 feet (four meters) of earth for most of the year, feeding on termites.

Some peculiar parents on the top-10 list include the Betic midwife toad and the Chile Darwin’s frog, both of which rely on the male as caretaker.

For instance, the male Darwin’s frog keeps the babies safe by swallowing them.

“When the tadpoles are developing enough and wriggling in the egg, the male gulps them down into his vocal sac,” Meredith told LiveScience.

Amphibian alarms

Not only do these odd amphibians need protection, but they could shed light on the broader extent of environmental degradation. Some scientists refer to amphibians as canaries in the coal mine for the state of the environment.

“There are lots of things that make amphibians brilliant indicator species,” Meredith said. “They are often found in quite small ranges and they don’t have the ability to migrate long distances, most of them.”

If their patch of land becomes degraded in some way, the amphibians can’t really go anywhere else, Meredith explained, so they just stay put and die.

“If the amphibian communities are dying, it’s basically saying that place right there is no longer a healthy environment,” she said.

Amphibians also have very sensitive skin, so toxins in the environment readily take a toll on them.

“A lot of them breathe through their skin, sometimes to the exclusion of even using their lungs,” Meredith said.

A group of salamander species living in southern Mexico, which took the No. 6 spot on the list, isn’t even equipped with lungs.

Instead, these salamanders breathe through their skins and mouth linings.

From FOXNews.

 

Posted in Amphibians, Herpetology, Herps in the news, International articles and news. | 5 Comments »

Jacky or Jill: sex code cracked

Posted by Miqe on January 22, 2008

Australian researchers have solved an evolutionary mystery of hot reptile sex and survival that’s baffled the world’s scientists for more than 30 years.
Studying more than 200 Jacky dragons, a common and relatively short-lived lizard found in eastern Australia, University of Sydney biologists Professor Rick Shine and Dan Warner have proved nest temperatures not only determine the sex of reptile hatch-lings but survival of the fittest and most fertile.

In short, there’s an optimal incubation temperature for a successful reptile sire that’s totally different to the temperature required to produce a fit and fertile female lizard. For mammals and birds, sex is determined by genes, but many reptiles determined the sex of a hatchling during incubation, some time after the egg is laid. Several species, including turtles and crocodiles, have temperature-dependent sex determination, with hotter nests producing females and cooler temperatures producing males.

“We knew nest temperatures affected the likelihood of some reptile species being born male or female, but we didn’t know why this occurred,” Professor Shine said.

“What we’ve demonstrated is there’s a distinct evolutionary advantage given to males or females incubated at certain temperatures.”

The research findings are published this week in the global science journal Nature, and provide “the first unequivocal demonstration” of this complex evolutionary process.
“It’s been a big one to crack. It’s been a problematic area of research and the holy grail of evolutionary biology for over 30 years.”

The secret of success for Professor Shine’s research team was the Jacky dragon, a 60g lizard which has a lifespan of between two and five years.

“Most research in this field has focused on extremely long-lived reptiles like turtles or crocodiles, so you’d have to be around for 100 years to get conclusive results. We were able to test four different fitness hypotheses with the Jacky dragons and see the results.”

Eggs from wild-caught females were incubated at a range of temperatures, and the hatchlings raised in outdoor enclosures.

The researchers also added hormone treatments to nests at different temperatures to override the natural process of sex determination. They compared lizards born in these hormone-enhanced nests to those from nests which hadn’t been treated.

“Both the males and females born in the hormone-affected nests in other words, at temperatures their sex are not supposed to be born at were much less fit, and much less likely to have babies, than those born naturally.”

The research had benefited from the security of long-term funding provided by the Australian Research Council.

From The Canberra Times

Posted in Fieldherping, Herpetology, Herps in the news, International articles and news., Lizards, Reptiles | 3 Comments »

Urban critters: European wall lizard

Posted by Miqe on January 20, 2008

What it’s called: The European wall lizard, or in Latin, Podarcis muralis.

What it looks like: It’s small. The longest males are only 23 cm from the points of their noses to the tips of their tails, so if the word “lizard” makes you nervous, get over it. And given that their tails are more than twice as long as the rest of their bodies, they’re very streamlined too, like scaly whips with legs — four of them all bent at right angles. Their backs are green or brown with black blotches, while their tummies are a light creamy colour. Males also have bright blue spots that run down their sides.

Where to find it: As its name suggests, it’s native to much of Europe, but back in 1970 a roadside zoo east of Victoria closed and stupidly let their lizards go. That means the European wall lizard is an invasive species in B.C. and therefore a potential threat to the native northwest alligator lizard which is similar and occupies similar habitats. These include rock faces, open woodlands and even man-made structures such as walls, railways and roadsides. So far it’s confined to Greater Victoria, but given how comfortably it’s made itself at home there, that could change.

What it eats: Flying and ground insects such as flies and beetles along with many types of spiders. Wall lizards are tenacious predators and have been seen jumping off the ground to catch insects that fly. When they catch a large one, they bite into it firmly and then thrash their heads back and forth ’till the hapless bug stops moving.

What eats it: Raccoons and various birds of prey are known to eat small lizards, but given that the wall lizard is not native to B.C., there’s no predator that’s evolved specifically to include it in its diet.

How it breeds: They hibernate between November and March, so don’t expect to see any now unless it’s warm. Mating occurs in March, and eggs are laid a month later. If it’s a good year with lots of sun and food, a female may produce two more clutches of eggs before the summer is over.

What to do if you see one: Because the European wall lizard is an invasive species, scientists are trying to keep an eye on how and where it spreads. So if you see one, contact your local environment ministry office.

From The Vancouver Sun

Posted in European focus, Fieldherping, Herpetology, Herps in the news, International articles and news., Lacertids, Lizards, Reptiles | 7 Comments »

Vietnam seizes ratsnakes from Bangkok flight

Posted by Miqe on January 19, 2008

Vietnam has seized more than a tonne of ratsnakes found aboard a Vietnam Airlines flight from Bangkok, the second time in about a month such snakes were found in air cargo to Vietnam, state media said on Friday.The snakes — scientific name Ptyas mucosus and a protected species — were found in more than 60 boxes that arrived in Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport on Thursday, the Vietnam News Agency quoted officials as saying.

“There is a great possibility that Vietnam is only a transit point of the cargo,” it said, adding that the snakes were transferred to an animal caring station nearby.

Last month, the airport authorities also seized 700 kg of snakes aboard a Thai Airways flight to Hanoi, it said.

From Reuters

Posted in Herpetology, Herps in the news, International articles and news., Reptiles, Snakes | 2 Comments »

Lizards alive! Another little giant rediscovered

Posted by Miqe on January 17, 2008

Naturalists in Tenerife were delighted to reveal the existence of yet another branch of the growing family of Canary giant lizards, this time on the island of La Palma.

In the same week that saw the much publicized discovery of a new species of giant rat in tropical rain forests in the Far East, came news of a humbler, but no less exciting kind for these islands.
It concerned the sighting – and capture, on film, at least – of a giant lizard in La Palma which, like its cousins in La Gomera, El Hierro and Tenerife, had been thought to be long extinct until relatively recent rediscovery.
The chance find of Gallotia auaritae to give it its Latin name, was in fact made on July 13, but was only made public last week. On that day Luis Enrique Mínguez, out hiking in the mountains of the island’s north-east happened upon an extraordinarily large lizard basking by the side of the track at some 12 metres distance.
He had the presence of mind to take several photos of the reptile which, he said, showed no concern and eventually ambled off into the undergrowth.
Observations based on a careful study of the photographs, a visit to the location and comparisons with giant lizards elsewhere in the archipelago have led biologists to estimate the lizard to be a male of about four or five years, measuring between 300 and 312 millimetres in length, head to tail, and weighing around 170 grammes.
A lengthy search of the area in October by giant lizard experts proved unsuccessful, but neither the time of year nor the weather were on their side. It is now planned to organize an intensive programme to track down examples of the lizard which could eventually result in the establishment of a recovery centre like those in La Gomera and El Hierro.

From Tenerife News

Posted in European focus, Fieldherping, Herpetology, Herps in the news, International articles and news., Lacertids, Lizards, Reptiles | 1 Comment »

World’s longest captive snake on display in U.S.

Posted by Miqe on January 14, 2008

Fluffy, a gigantic python thought to be the world’s longest captive snake, will be on permanent display at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. (File Photo)

    BEIJING, Jan. 14 (Xinhuanet) — Fluffy, a gigantic python thought to be the world’s longest captive snake, will be on permanent display at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, U.S., media reported Monday.

    The 7.3-meter reticulated python is about as long as a moving van and thick as a telephone pole.

    The zoo bought Fluffy for 35,000 U.S. dollars from its breeder in Oklahoma, which raised the python from a hatchling.

    While on loan last year, the snake wowed zoo visitors and helped make last year’s 1.53 million attendance the second highest on record, said Pete Fingerhut, the zoo’s associate director. The biggest year was 2006, with 1.56 million visitors.

    Fluffy is on display in a some 8-meter enclosure with a pool and a few plants, where he eats two huge rabbits a week. In the wild, pythons native to Asia eat whatever they can catch, starting with mice and lizards when they’re small and graduating to pigs and goats. There are a few reports of human victims.

    The largest known reticulated python was 10 meters when killed in 1912 in Indonesia.

From China view

Posted in Herpetology, Herps in the news, International articles and news., Reptiles, Snake | 4 Comments »

 
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