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More Than 1000 New Species Discovered in Rivers, Jungles…and Restaurants of the Greater Mekong in Past Decade, WWF Reports

Posted by Miqe on December 16, 2008

Fish, Plants, Amphibians and Mammals — Including an “Extinct” Rock Rat — Are Under Threat from Dams, Roads and Development

WASHINGTON, Dec 15, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — A rat thought extinct for 11 million years and a hot-pink, cyanide-producing dragon millipede are among a thousand new species discovered in the Greater Mekong Region of Southeast Asia in the last decade, according to a new report launched by World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
First Contact in the Greater Mekong reports that 1068 species were discovered or newly identified by science between 1997 and 2007 – which averages two new species a week. This includes the world’s largest huntsman spider, with a foot-long leg span and the Annamite Striped Rabbit, one of several new mammal species found here. New mammal discoveries are a rarity in modern science.
While most species were discovered in the largely unexplored jungles and wetlands, some were first found in the most surprising places. The Laotian rock rat, for example, thought to be extinct 11 million years ago, was first encountered by scientists in a local food market, while the Siamese Peninsula pit viper was found slithering through the rafters of a restaurant in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand.
“This report cements the Greater Mekong’s reputation as a biological treasure trove — one of the world’s most important storehouses of rare and exotic species,” said Dekila Chungyalpa, Director of the WWF-US Greater Mekong Program. “Scientists keep peeling back the layers and uncovering more and more wildlife wonders.”
The findings, highlighted in this report, include 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, 4 birds, 4 turtles, 2 salamanders and a toad. The region comprises the six countries through which the Mekong River flows including Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. It is estimated thousands of new invertebrate species were also discovered during this period, further highlighting the region’s immense biodiversity.
“This region is like what I read about as a child in the stories of Charles Darwin,” said Dr Thomas Ziegler, Curator at the Cologne Zoo. “It is a great feeling being in an unexplored area and to document its biodiversity for the first time… both enigmatic and beautiful,” he said.
The report stresses that economic development and environmental protection must go hand-in-hand to provide for livelihoods and alleviate poverty, but also to ensure the survival of the Greater Mekong’s astonishing array of species and natural habitats.
“This poorly understood biodiversity is facing unprecedented pressure….for scientists, this means that almost every field survey yields new diversity, but documenting it is a race against time,” said Raoul Bain, Biodiversity Specialist from the American Museum of Natural History.
The report’s authors recommend a formal, cross-border agreement between the governments of the Greater Mekong to address the threats to biodiversity in the region.
The WWF network is working throughout the Greater Mekong region to promote this agreement and address the threats to biodiversity from its base in Vientiane, Laos. Stuart Chapman, who heads the WWF network’s Greater Mekong Programme, says that protecting habitat while partnering with governments, businesses and local communities to address threats from development and agriculture is essential. “Who knows what else is out there waiting to be discovered, but what is clear is that there is plenty more where this came from,” he said. “The scientific world is only just realizing what people here have known for centuries.”
Notes to the Editor
– Information related to this press release, including high resolution photographs, audio interviews, species footage, and First Contact in the Greater Mekong report, can be downloaded from http://www.divshare.com/folder/443367-922
– WWF is collaborating with many research institutions in the region to discover new species. One WWF scientist, Dr. Chavalit Vidthayanon, discovered eight new fish species which are included in this report.
– WWF is working with governments and industry of the six Greater Mekong nations to conserve and sustainably manage 232,000 square miles of transboundary forest and freshwater habitats in this unique and rapidly changing land.
– The Greater Mekong countries, with the help of the Asian Development Bank, are increasingly cooperating to accelerate economic development. Economic activity and associated investments in infrastructure development are concentrated along three “economic corridors” that crisscross the region and have the potential to lift the region’s rural populations out of poverty but also to increase existing threats to natural resources. WWF believes that these natural resources are essential to the region’s long-term development and that the Greater Mekong nations can achieve economic development while ensuring the integrity of wildlife and habitats.
– Sixteen of WWF’s Global 200 ecoregions, critical landscapes of international biological importance, are found in the Greater Mekong. These landscapes are home to an estimated 20,000 plant species, 1,200 bird species, 800 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 430 mammal species, including Asian elephants, tigers and one of only two populations of the critically endangered Javan rhino in the world. In addition to rare Irrawaddy dolphins, the Mekong River basin is estimated to house at least 1,300 species of fish, including the Mekong giant catfish, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish. By length, the Mekong is the richest waterway for biodiversity on the planet, fostering more species per unit area than the Amazon. Many of the species occur nowhere else on Earth.
ABOUT WORLD WILDLIFE FUND
WWF is the world’s largest conservation organization, working in 100 countries for nearly half a century. With the support of almost 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, stop the degradation of the environment and combat climate change. Visit www.worldwildlife.org to learn more.
Video/Photos Available
SOURCE: World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
Lee Poston, 202-299-6442
lee.poston@wwfus.org

From Marketwatch

Posted in Amphibians, Fieldherping, Herpetology, Herps in the news, International articles and news., Lizards, Reptiles, Snakes, Venomous herptiles | Leave a Comment »

Breeders Expo Europe (BEE) allowing venomous snakes on next fair.

Posted by Miqe on October 13, 2008

http://www.breeders-expo.de/home-E/banners-E_files/page28_2.gif

At last!! The Breeders Expo Europe (BEE) -show have worked out a system to have venomous snakes at the fair / show in march 15, 2009. This is really good news for the ones of us keeping and breeding venomous snakes, especially as the Terraristika in Hamm have closed the door for venomous snakes.

The saftey system is quite easy. Safe (taped) boxes inside a large displaybox or similar, witch ensure that every animal is in a separate box which can’t be opened and that these boxes are displayed in a display system that does not allow access from the visitors’ side so no visitor can put up a box, shake it, steal or or else. This means a double advantage for the vendor and the animals.

BEE is currently working on a perfect, light-weight and practical display box in collaboration with a leading manufacturer. The displays will be made out of light-weight thermostabile plastic and have an acrylic top lid to be opened only by the vendor. You can see the material at www.lanzo-herp.de. Dimension will be 80x60x20+ cm, so you can put two on common tables, transport your animals within etc. They will fit ideally for BraPlast boxes.

Another way could be to use a larger terrarium sliding doors facing to the vendor so nobody will be forced to buy such a display box. Actually, any display system that provides a double lock will do the trick…

More information on the official website: http://www.breeders-expo.de/

See you all on the next BEE-fair!!!

Posted in Herpetology, International articles and news., Reptiles, Snakes, Venomous herptiles | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

New species of lizard and pit viper discovered

Posted by Miqe on August 11, 2008

Two species of lizard and one species of pit viper were recently discovered on mountains in the provinces of Binh Thuan, Dong Nai and Kien Giang.

A Ta Kou lizard.

A Ta Kou lizard.

 

 

 

 

The two new species of lizard belong to gekkonidae family. The first species, called Ta Kou lizard (Cyrtodactylus takouensis sp. nov. Ngô & Bauer, 2008), is 171.4mm long. Its back has 5 lines in light chocolate and five lines in yellow. Its tail has 3 lines. This lizard was found in a cave in the Ta Kou Nature Reserve in Binh Thuan province.

The other species of lizard, named Huynh lizard (Cyrtodactylus huynhi sp. nov Ngô & Bauer, 2008 ) was discovered in a cave on Chua Chan mountain in Dong Nai province. It is 147.5mm long, with 5-6 lines in dark brown on its back and 10 lines in light and dark brown on its tail.

This lizard species is named after Professor Dang Huy Huynh, the first Rector of the Ecological and Fauna Resources Institute.

The Hon Son pit viper (Cryptelytrops honsonensis sp. nov. Grismer, Ngô & Grismer, 2008 ) belongs to Viperidae family and it was discovered on Hon Son Island, Kien Giang province. It is around 626-648mm long.

These discoveries are the result of cooperation between researcher Ngo Van Tri from the HCM City Tropical Biology Institute and Professor Aaron M. Bauer, Jesse .L. Grismer from Villanova University (US) and Professor L. Lee Grismer from La Sierra University (US).

From vietnamnet.vn

 

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

Snake Mystique

Posted by Miqe on May 27, 2008

Since the beginning of recorded time, snakes have been labeled with bad reputations. Some of these ridiculous misconceptions stem from superstitions, others from religious dogmas, but the majority of these opinions are formed out of fear and ignorance of the unknown.

The only way to gain a deeper insight into the truth is to study the facts. Snakes play a very important role in our delicate ecological system, and we owe it to ourselves as dedicated sportsmen to learn more about them.

 

This coiled rattler is shaking its tail as a defense mechanism. Be forewarned that snakes can strike almost half their body length. A 4-foot snake can reach you from 2 feet away. Rattlers account for the majority of bites in the Western States.

The annual statistics in the United States for reported snake bites fluctuates between 7,000-10,000 people. The majority of victims are men, and most bites occur below the knee. Approximately 10-15 deaths are attributed to these venomous snake encounters.

Because of warmer climates, snakes in Southern states pose the greatest risk for deer hunters. Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Texas are among the leaders in snake reported incidents.

Large snakes are the only God-given predators with the keen ability to slither down rat-holes and other hard to reach places, and effectively control vermin such as rats and mice. It takes a snake approximately seven years of growth to reach a suitable size to be able to swallow some of the larger rodents such as these. Unfortunately, many are killed before reaching maturity by people who are oblivious to their environmental value.

 

This is a coral snake. They are easily identified by the three rings of color located on their body. The easy way to remember the color scheme is to memorize the old saying: Red touch yellow, kill a fellow. The harmless milk snake is often confused with this serpent

Snakes are cold-blooded reptiles and when the weather turns cool they seek shelter. When it freezes they go into hibernation. Most snake bites occur between the months of April and October when temperatures are relatively warm. Snakes like to lie up and hide in woodpiles, blow-downs, tall grass, rock crevices and underneath things that provide shelter.

All pit vipers can be identified by their vertical pupils, and the heat sensing pits located between their eyes and nostrils. These unique serpents are capable of detecting variances in heat from as far away as 30 feet.

When you’re walking through the forest, watch where you step, and be mindful of where you sit. If in doubt, use a solid stick to probe where you’re exploring, and pay attention at all times. Always carry a flashlight, and use it at night, because snakes like to hunt after dark.

The ability to recognize venomous snakes from harmless ones isn’t as complicated as many would think. I’ve included some detailed photos with this article, and by studying them, the average person shouldn’t have any trouble distinguishing the difference. All it takes is a little effort. I avoided using the term “poisonous snake” because this is a misnomer. There’s a distinct difference between venom and poison.

In the regions of North America where you and I pursue whitetails, there are basically four types of indigenous species to contend with: The rattlesnake family, copperheads, cottonmouths (nicknamed water moccasins) and coral snakes.

The first three serpents are classified as pit vipers and are easily identified by their vertical pupils, and the heat sensing pits located between their eyes and nostrils. These reptiles have the unique ability to sense variances in heat from as far away as 30 feet.

 

The copperhead is probably responsible for more snake bites in the southeastern U.S. than any other species. Observe the natural camouflage, how it blends in nicely with this rock. These snakes can be very hard to see when they’re mixed in with brown leaves and darker foliage.

The rattler’s territory spans the largest, and various species can be found in almost every state in the union except Alaska, Hawaii and Maine. Some of the southern provinces of Canada are also home to these snakes.

Coral snakes have round pupils. They inhabit the costal regions of the southern United States, and favor semi-tropical climates. These reptiles can be identified by the three rings of color located on their body: red, yellow, and black. The old saying, red touch yellow, kill a fellow, is an easy way to remember the color sequence. Sometimes the harmless milk snake is confused with this deadly reptile because of a similar color scheme.

There are two types of venoms and both of these pose different threats. Pit vipers have retractable fangs similar to hinges and their bites are hemotoxic, affecting the circulatory systems of their victims. Their venom has digestive enzymes, which immediately begin breaking down tissue and blood, in and around the effected areas. Because of these necrotic effects, the wounded areas often turn black after a few days.

 

This harmless black snake is one of the most effective rodent predators on earth. Observe the round pupils. It’s a shame to see one these beneficial serpents mistaken for a venomous snake and killed by a misguided person who doesn’t recognize its environmental value.

The coral snake’s venom is neurotoxic, and can affect breathing and other central nervous system functions. These serpents have small mouths with fixed fangs, making it harder for one of these reptiles to inflict its bite. They have to chew on their prey to envenom them.

Something I’d like to bring to everyone’s attention that might stir some controversy among experts like herpetologists, is information pertaining to the Mojave rattler. Recent snake bite cases in the western United States have indicated that some of these snakes are developing both hemotoxins and neurotoxins, making their bites extremely dangerous. This anomaly has baffled some of the researchers, and I thought it necessary to mention this in this article.

First aid recommendations have drastically changed over the course of time, because of good medical research. Some of the old survival manuals and hunting guides, which recommended cutting yourself and applying tourniquets, are now obsolete. These methods have been proven to cause more tissue damage and can make matters worse.

 

All pit vipers have retractable hinged fangs, which can grow up to 2 inches in length. Be aware, that approximately 20 percent of bites are dry, meaning that the snake failed to inject its venom.

Statistically, you stand a greater chance of being struck by lightning while on a hunting trip, than you do of being bitten by a venomous snake.

If you’re one of the unfortunate ones who happen to be envenomed, the authorities on the subject advise staying calm and seeking medical attention immediately. If you have a snakebite kit, the venom extractor should be applied within the first few minutes to be beneficial. Be aware that dry bites do occur in approximately 20 percent of snake strikes. A dry bite is categorized as failure to inject venom. When this happens, it’s still wise to go to the hospital and let someone qualified examine your wound.

Another word of advice, when you reach your hunting vehicle or deer camp, avoid placing ice directly on your bite. Doing this can cause more localized damage, because it impedes the venom from dissipating. A small loose constricting band placed above the bite is the final thing recommended while en-route to the hospital. Make sure that you can easily slip your fingers through whatever you use, and do not tighten it.

I know five men who have been bitten by pit vipers and all of them are still alive to tell their tales. One of these gentlemen is in his 80s, and after recovering, he’s back to work in his garden. I’ve never met anyone who’s been struck by lightning.

 

This is a young cottonmouth (water moccasin). These snakes are notorious for showing you the whites of their mouths when they assume a defensive posture

Currently, there are two antivenins available in the United States. Crotalidae is the older serum, and this treatment produced allergic reactions in approximately 20 percent of patients it was administered to. The newer and more advanced antivenin, CroFabz, uses venom from every species of venomous snakes found in the U.S., and has proven to be very effective. Less than one percent have allergic reactions. The only problem with CroFab is availability, because it’s relatively new, some hospitals might not have any on hand.

Be forewarned that a pit viper with a decapitated head can inflict a deadly bite. A tough snake’s nervous system can still function for up to 30 minutes, and some of them are still capable of perceiving and responding to stimuli. If you’re ever forced to terminate a snake’s life, then be careful, treat it with respect, and don’t make any foolish mistakes.

Maintaining a healthy snake population is just as important as maintaining and regulating a proportional deer herd. Nature does have a balance, and as good stewards we need to ensure that our children, and the generations to come can enjoy the things that we’ve all been blessed with.
  
In closing, I’d like to thank herpetologist Kelly Irwin, and wildlife rehabilitation specialist and ornithologist Tommy Young for their helpful assistance and guidance. Without their advice, some of the important details included in this article wouldn’t have been possible.

By Steven E. Stillwell

From Buckmasters

Posted in Fieldherping, Herpetology, Herps in the news, Reptiles, Snakes, Venomous herptiles | Tagged: , | 6 Comments »

Species extinction poses threat to medical science

Posted by Miqe on May 6, 2008

As species decline, huge losses to medical science may follow suit.

A NEW generation of antibiotics, new treatments for thinning bone disease and kidney failure, and new cancer treatments may all stand to be lost unless the world acts to reverse the present alarming rate of biodiversity loss, a new landmark book says.

The natural world holds secrets to the development of new kinds of safer and more powerful painkillers; treatments for a leading cause of blindness – macular degeneration – and possibly ways of re-growing lost tissues and organs by, for example studying newts and salamanders.

But, the experts warn that we may lose many of the land and marine-based life forms of economic and medical interest before we can learn their secrets, or, in some cases, before we know they exist.

The new book, Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity, is the most comprehensive treatment of this subject to date and fills a major gap in the arguments made to conserve nature. While many books have focused on the expected ecological consequences, or on the aesthetic, ethical, sociological, or economic dimensions of biodiversity loss, Sustaining Life examines the full range of potential threats that this loss poses to human health.

A particularly illustrative example, highlighted by the book’s authors, of what may be lost with species extinctions can be found in the southern gastric brooding frog (Rheobatrachus) which was discovered in undisturbed rainforests of Australia in the 80s. The frogs raise their young in the female’s stomach where they would, in other animals, be digested by enzymes and acid.

Preliminary studies indicated that the baby frogs produced a substance, or perhaps a variety of substances, that inhibited acid and enzyme secretions and prevented the mother from emptying her stomach into her intestines while the young were developing.

The authors point out that the research on gastric brooding frogs could have led to new insights into preventing and treating human peptic ulcers which affect some 25 million people in the United States alone.

“But these studies could not be continued because both species of Rheobactrachus became extinct, and the valuable medical secrets they held are now gone forever,” say Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein, the key authors of the book based at the Centre for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School.

Sustaining Life is the work of more than 100 experts and published by Oxford University Press. At the heart of the book is a chapter dedicated to exploring seven threatened groups of organisms valuable to medicine, including amphibians, bears, cone snails, sharks, nonhuman primates, gymnosperms, and horseshoe crabs that underscore what may be lost to human health when species go extinct.

These losses include: promising new avenues of medical research and new treatments, pharmaceuticals and diagnostic tests.

 A giant leaf-tailed gecko from Montagne d’Anjanaharibe, Madagascar.

“The Earth’s biodiversity, much of which has yet to be discovered, provides a unique opportunity to improve not only the health of current but also that of future generations. However as species are lost so too are our options for future discovery and advancement. Thus Sustaining Life provides poignant evidence that biodiversity loss is not merely an environmental issue but one which affects us on a very basic, fundamental and personal level,” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, United Nations assistant secretary-general and executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Experts, including the authors, emphasise that the book’s conclusions should not be construed as a licence to harvest wildlife in a way that puts further pressure on already threatened, vulnerable and endangered species. Instead they should be a spur for even greater conservation and improved management of species and the ecosystems they inhabit.

Jeffrey McNeely, chief scientist at IUCN-World Conservation Union and a co-author of the book, said: “While extinction is alarming in its own right, this book demonstrates that many species can help save human lives. If we needed more justification for action to conserve species, this book offers dozens of dramatic examples of both why and how citizens can act in ways that will conserve, rather than destroy, the species that enrich our lives.” – United Nations Environment Programme

Amphibians

The class Amphibians is made up of frogs, toads, newts, salamanders and caecilians – little known legless organisms that resemble giant earthworms. Nearly one third of the approximately 6,000 known amphibian species are threatened with extinction. These animals produce a wide range of novel substances, some of which are made only by amphibians living in the wild, not by those in captivity.

 A blue poison dart fron from northern South America. One third of 6,000 known amphibian species are threatened by extinction.

These include:

 

  • Pumiliotoxins, like those made by the Panamanian poison frog that may lead to medicines that strengthen the contractions of the heart and thus prove useful in treating heart disease.

 

 

  • Alkaloids made by species like the Ecuadorian poison frog, which could be the source of a new and novel generation of painkillers.

 

 

  • Antibacterial compounds produced in the skin of frogs and toads such as the African clawed frog and South and Central American leaf frogs.

 

 

  • Bradykinins and maximakinins, made in the skin glands of species like the Chinese large-webbed bell toad; Mexican leaf frog, and North American pickerel frog that dilate the smooth muscle of blood vessels in mammals and therefore offer promising avenues for treating high blood pressure.

 

 

  • Frog glue, produced by species such as the Australian frog, could lead to natural adhesives for repairing cartilage and other tissue tears in humans.

 

 

  • Many species of newts and salamanders, such as the Eastern spotted newt, can regrow tissues such as heart muscle, nerve tissue in the spinal cord and even whole organs.

 

 

  • As we are in evolutionary terms relatively closely related to these species, they are vital models for understanding how we might someday harness our own dormant regenerative potential.

 

 

  • Some frogs, such as the grey tree frog and the chorus frog can survive long periods of freezing without suffering cell damage – understanding how these frogs do this may yield key insights into how we might better preserve scarce organs needed for transplant.

 

Bears

 A brown bear and her cubs. Bears are hunted for their paws and gall bladders.

Nine species of bear are threatened with extinction including the polar bear, the giant panda, and the Asiatic black bear. The threats to bears are similar to those amphibians face, but in addition many bears are at risk because they are killed for body parts, such as gall bladders, which can command high prices in black markets in places like China, Japan and Thailand.

Several medical benefits have already arisen from the study of bears, including the development of ursodeoxycholic acid, found in the gall bladders of some bear species such as polar and black bears, into a medicine.

The substance is used to prevent the build up of bile during pregnancy; dissolve certain kinds of gallstones; and prolong the life of patients with a specific kind of liver disease, known as primary biliary cirrhosis, giving them more time to find a liver transplant.

Some bear species, known as “denning” bears because they enter into a largely dormant state when food is scarce, are of tremendous value to medicine as they are able to recycle a wide variety of their body’s substances.

Unlike people, who if “bed-ridden” for a five-month period can lose up to a third of their bone mass, bears actually lay down new bone during the denning period. Bears appear to produce a substance that inhibits cells that break down bone and promote substances that encourage bone and cartilage-making cells. Denning bears can survive for a period of five months or more without excreting their urinary wastes, whereas humans would die from the build up of these toxic substances after only a few days. An estimated 1.5 million people worldwide are receiving treatment for end-stage renal disease. By studying denning bears, we may be able to learn how to treat them more effectively and help large numbers to survive. Denning bears may also hold clues to treating Type 1 and Type II diabetes as well as obesity. When produced in a non-invasive and ethically acceptable way, without pushing already threatened species further towards extinction, these substances are of great value to medicine.

Gymnosperms

Close to 1,000 species of Gymnosperms have been identified, including pines and spruces. Evolutionary, they are among the oldest of any plants alive but many groups, such as the cycads, are classified as endangered.

Several pharmaceuticals, including decongestants and the anti-cancer drug taxol, have already been isolated from gymnosperms. The researchers believe many more are yet to be discovered and may be lost if species of Gymnosperms become extinct.

Substances from one Gymnosperm, the ginkgo tree may reduce the production of receptors in the human nervous system linked with memory loss. Thus they may play a role in countering Alzheimer’s disease.

They may also help in the treatment of epilepsy and depression.

Cone snails

Around 700 species make up the cone snails, seven of which were identified only since 2004. While only four are now classified as vulnerable, no thorough assessment has been made in over 10 years; so current listings may under-estimate the true number of endangered cone snail species. For example, almost 70% of some 380 cone snail species surveyed had more than half their geographic range within areas where coral reefs, their main habitats, are threatened.

Cone snail species may produce as many as 70,000 to 140,000 peptide compounds, large numbers of which may have value as human medicines, yet only a few hundred have been characterised.

One compound, known as ziconotide, is thought to be 1,000 times more potent than morphine and has been shown in clinical trials to provide significant pain relief for advanced cancer and AIDS patients. Another cone snail compound has been shown in animal models to protect brain cells from death during times of inadequate blood flow.

It could prove a breakthrough therapy for people suffering head injuries and strokes and may even contribute to therapy for patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Other potential developments from cone snail peptides include treatments for urinary incontinence and cardiac arrhythmias.

Sharks

There are at least 400 species of sharks, which, as a group, evolved in ancient seas 400 to 450 million years ago. Many species are now threatened, with some species, such as the scalloped hammerhead, white shark and thresher shark, falling in numbers by as much as 75% over the past 15 years.

Over-fishing has been the main reason for the losses, and has been driven by: an increased demand for shark meat as a substitute for traditional commercial fish catches in foods like fish and chips; the rise in consumption of shark fin soup; increases in by-catch, for example, in tuna fisheries; and an increased market for shark cartilage products for a variety of unproved medical purposes.

Squalamine, a substance isolated from sharks such as dogfish, especially abundant in their livers, may lead to a new generation of antibiotics as well as treatments against fungal and protozoan infections. Studies are also being undertaken with squalamine compounds as possible anti-tumour and appetitesuppressant substances.

Trials are now also underway to see if squalamine can treat age-related macular degeneration which can lead to severe vision loss. The shark substance may halt the growth of new blood cells in the retina, which is linked to a loss of retinal function and blindness in these patients.

The salt glands of some sharks are also being studied to gain insight into how the human kidney functions and how chloride ions are transported across membranes, which may shed light on two diseases – cystic fibrosis and polycystic kidney disease.

Sharks, having evolved as some of the first creatures with a fully functioning “adaptive” immune system are irreplaceable models to help us understand human immunity. What potential these creatures may still hold to further our knowledge of immunity is being rapidly depleted with the mass slaughter of sharks and the endangerment of sharks worldwide.

Horseshoe crabs

There are four species of horseshoe crabs, with each organism possessing four eyes and six other light-detecting organs as well as blood that turns cobalt blue when exposed to the air. Because only around 10 offspring survive out of the estimated 90,000 eggs produced by a female, they are highly sensitive to over-fishing.

Once harvested and processed to be used as fertiliser, they are now used as bait for eel and whelk fisheries. Horseshoe crabs are also important in the food chain, especially for birds like the red knott, which rely upon the eggs for fuel over their 16,000km migratory journey Horseshoe crabs also have tremendous value to medicine. Several classes of peptides have been isolated from the creatures’ blood that appear to kill a wide range of bacteria.

Another peptide from the horseshoe crab has been developed into a compound known as T140 which locks onto the receptor in humans that allows the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) to gain access into the body’s immune cells. Pre-clinical trails indicate that the substance is at least as effective as the drug AZT at inhibiting the replication of HIV.

T140 has also shown promise in preventing the spread of certain cancers such as leukaemia, prostate cancer and breast cancer, and as a possible treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Other cells in the blood of horseshoe crabs can, for example, detect the presence of key bacteria in the spinal fluid of people suspected of having cerebral meningitis.

From The Star

Posted in Amphibians, Herps in the news, International articles and news., Lizards, Reptiles, Snakes, Venomous herptiles | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Had a quick look in the bushes..

Posted by Miqe on April 29, 2008

Just to see if I could find any Common vipers / adders. And I did. Here´s a couple of pic´s..

Posted in Fieldherping, Herpetology, Reptiles, Snakes, Venomous herptiles | 2 Comments »

Where Have All The Snake Handlers Gone?

Posted by Miqe on April 29, 2008

The Depression came late and stayed long in rural America.  A curious ritual became popular during this time in certain Holiness and Pentecostal churches:  snake handling.

George Hensley, a former Tennessee moonshiner, became the father of this movement.  While walking through the woods in 1910, he encountered a poisonous snake.  Picking it up, he marvelled that he was not harmed just as the Bible promised(Mark 16:18).  Hensley would go on to introduce this practice in Appalachian churches and its popularity grew rapidly as a test of a person’s faith.

Snake handling is not without danger.  “There are over 100 documented deaths from serpent bites,” says Ralph Hood, professor of social psychology at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.  “In every tradition, people are bitten and maimed by them. They risk their lives all the time by handling them. If you go to any serpent-handling church, you’ll see people with atrophied hands, and missing fingers. All the serpent-handling families have suffered such things.”

How do adherents view a person being bitten by a snake?  A variety of explanations are offered from the presence of hidden sin in the person’s life to a lack of faith or anointing of the Spirit.   

Hensley’s death from a snakebite in 1955 combined with many states passing laws against the practice witnessed the decline of snake handling.  Today, only a few dozen churches still engage in this ritual.

Modern Pentecostals explain Christ’s words on taking up snakes without harm by pointing to the Apostle Paul’s experience of being bitten by a viper but not harmed (Acts 28:1-5).  In other words, the sense is the accidental taking up of serpents, not the intentional.

Desperate times create special fervor in religious circles.  Should such times ever return again, the practice of snake handling will hopefully retain its near-extinct status.

Brief history and video of snake handling here!

From Houston Chronicle

Posted in Herps in the news, Reptiles, Snakes, Venomous herptiles | 2 Comments »

OUTDOORS: Snake are important members of the community

Posted by Miqe on April 22, 2008

Not all encounters with wildlife are pleasant for hunters and anglers. They get stung by yellow jackets, munched on by mosquitoes, bitten by ticks and occasionally attacked by large predators like cougars, grizzly bears and sharks.

But most save a special dose of fear and loathing for snakes, particularly in spring when snakes are more active at the times people are in the woods or on the water. Stephen Secor, an associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Alabama, believes there’s no real reason for that.

‘Snakes don’t want to be found,’ Secor said. ‘People undoubtedly walk by snakes they never see. A person walks by and they’re not going to do anything. To them, a person is a predator and they want to remain camouflaged.’

That reveals pretty good common sense in snakes. Most snakes that bite people die because the person bitten or someone with them usually shoots or clubs it immediately.

On the other hand, few people bitten by snakes die. Health statistics indicate about 7,000 to 8,000 people a year suffer snake bites. That’s a pretty small number considering the millions of hunters, hikers, anglers, farmers, foresters and loggers who slog around in prime snake habitat every day.

A large percentage of those bitten were handling or harassing the snake when bitten. And only about 15 people die from snake bites annually.

It may be their secretive nature that gives the reptiles their bad reputation. For people who aren’t handling a snake, the bite comes as a complete surprise. They view the snake as the aggressor since they meant it no harm.

But snakes bite as a last ditch defense mechanism, Secor said.

‘These are extremely docile animals,’ Secor said.

‘People don’t think about snakes being docile animals. For an animal in the wild that could potentially do harm to you very few ever do.’

Snakes tolerate human handling better than most wild creatures. An experienced person can frequently pick up and handle a completely wild snake without it reacting in alarm.

‘Go out there and grab a squirrel and see what he does to you,’ Secor chuckled.

Secor doesn’t advocate untrained people picking up snakes; in fact, he discourages it. That’s because some can do humans harm. But he notes that there’s no such thing as a ‘poisonous’ snake.

‘They’re not poisonous,’ Secor said. ‘They are venomous. A mushroom is poisonous. Something that is venomous has a delivery system that injects something into you.’

It may sound like a small distinction to someone who fears snake bite. But Secor believes it’s only the beginning of the lack of understanding most people have of snakes.

‘If you see one, all you have to do is back up a couple of feet,’ Secor said. ‘They can’t come after you. They’re heavy-bodied snakes and can’t move very fast. They can’t strike very far.’

West Alabama has three types of venomous snakes and all three belong to a grouping known as pit vipers. Copperheads, cottonmouth water moccasins and timber rattlesnakes or canebrake rattlers inhabit the region.

Of the three, timber rattler bites are the most dangerous to humans because of the snake’s size and the toxicity of the venom. The snake’s size is relevant because it governs how much venom the snake can inject. Copperhead bites are the least dangerous to humans with water moccasin bites falling in between.

All three have similar venom. It is a mixture of enzymes which destroys tissue, Secor said. When a human is bitten, the tissue around the bite can die. The body’s reaction to the venom is swelling, which can be painful.

About half of all bites are ‘dry bites’ in which the snake injects no venom. And Secor recommends against field treatment, particularly cutting the wound. Victims should head for the hospital.

A good pair of boots is probably the best defense against snake bite, he said.

‘They’re not going to have the power to penetrate through a leather boot, except maybe in a weak spot or a seam,’ he said.

Defensive bites are not meant to penetrate deeply, Secor said. When a snake bites prey, it wants to sink its teeth in, hold on and inject venom. When it’s defending itself, the snake wants to withdraw its teeth quickly and prepare to strike again.

Copperheads are the most common and live in woodlands and scrub, Secor said. They are generally small snakes of two feet or less with a colorful skin pattern that provides excellent camouflage in the woods.

Copperheads become active during the day at this time of year as things are warming up. During the heat of summer, they reserve most of their activity for night.

Feeding on small rodents like mice and chipmunks, copperheads lay in wait to ambush their prey, Secor said.

‘They’re very well camouflaged in that dead leaf litter,’ Secor said. ‘That matches up very well with the markings on them.’

There is little people can do to avoid copperheads since their location in the woods would appear random to people. But they are usually staking out rodent trails that they’ve scented with their tongues.

All people can do is use common sense precautions like watching where they step. Secor said copperheads aren’t very aggressive.

‘I bet many have been stepped on without even responding,’ he said.

Water moccasins are found wherever there is woody cover along the bank of a body of water. While moccasins are snakes found in water, not all snakes found in water are moccasins. A variety of non-venomous water snakes live in this area and virtually all of the snakes found in water without surrounding woody cover, such as catfish and farm ponds, are not moccasins, Secor said.

Unlike water snakes, which live almost exclusively on fish and amphibians, Moccasins will eat just about anything they can swallow, including rodents, birds and other snakes.

Their color, ranging from almost bronze to very dark, varies with age and the region where they live, Secor said. They typically swim with more of their body out of the water than a water snake.

Anglers are sometimes alarmed by moccasins swimming toward their boats. Secor said that isn’t an attempt to attack people. The snake sees the boat as a piece of dry land it can crawl up on.

Again, common sense will help avoid bites from cottonmouths. Secor recommends against stepping into or reaching into areas in wooded cover around water without looking first.

Timber rattlers are found in much the same habitat as copperheads, preferring hilly woodlands. They’re frequently found on hillsides with southern exposure because they warm up faster.

Timber rattlers have a huge range, stretching from New England to Florida. The largest ever recorded was 6 feet, two inches but most never exceed five feet in length.

Feeding on larger rodents, squirrels and even rabbits, timber rattlers also lie in ambush for their prey, Secor said. Their distinctive rattling serves as a warning that should help people avoid bites. But like copperheads, their location may appear random to people.

Timber rattlers have a habit few people are aware of, Secor said. They climb up to 20 feet up into trees, which could provide a hunter climbing into a tree stand with an unpleasant surprise.

Secor argues against killing snakes, even the venomous varieties.

‘These are one of the master controllers of the rodent population,’ Secor said. ‘They’re part of the ecosystem. They’re important members of the community.’

From Toscaloosa news.

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

As You Know It’s “The Year Of The Frog.”

Posted by Miqe on April 18, 2008

And As Part Of Our Continued Attempt To Raise Money To Help

It’s Time For Our Decorative Items Sale.

Decorative Items like: Herp Figurines, Copper Snake, Lizard or Turtle Light Light Switch Plates, One Of A Kind Netsuke Sculpture From Japan Of Snakes, Turtles and Frogs, Frog Napkin Holders, Decorative Frog or Turtle Ceramic Tiles You Can Display Or Use As A Trivet, Decorative Frog Picture Frames, Turtle, Frog, Even Flying Dragon Lizard Trinket Boxes, Items From All Over The World—And Of Course More.

So – From Friday April 18th thru Sunday, April 21st

PURCHASE ANYTHING FROM THE DECORATIVE ITEMS DEPARTMENT
AT WWW.HERPARTS.COM (REMEMBER IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE OF A FROG)

10% OF THE PRODUCT’S PRICE GOES TO THE AMPIHBIAN SPECIALIST GROUP

And remember Mother’s Day is around the corner. If you are a mom buy yourself a gift.

Keep in mind a lot of these items are one of a kind.

On behalf of the frogs: rabbit, ribbbit, croak, ribbit. (Thank you for your support.)

Some of the products..

 

 

 

Posted in Amphibians, Herpetology, Lizards, Reptiles, Snakes, Venomous herptiles | Leave a Comment »

Court rules in favour of man and his snakes

Posted by Miqe on April 9, 2008

An environmental court has overruled both the County Council and Gävle municipality in central Sweden, finding there is nothing wrong with a man keeping 47 snakes–20 of which are poisonous–in his apartment.
According to the court, nothing demonstrates that people feel mental discomfort from living near a neighbor with snakes, according to the legal news website Pointlex.

Gävle municipality had denied the man the right to house the snakes in his apartment because “it is generally accepted that many people in society are afraid of snakes.”

And the fear is also justified as it is not unlikely that the snakes could escape, the municipality contended.

In his defence, the snake-man said that an insufficiently grounded fear shouldn’t constitute a nuisance.

The environmental court found that the man had a great deal of knowledge about snakes and that he seemed able to handle them appropriately. He was aware of all applicable animal protection regulations, and the snakes’ living quarters were escape proof, assuming the outer door was closed.

An examination of the case also failed to provide support for the claim that Swedes in general feel discomfort from having a neighbor with snakes.

And even if the snakes make some feel a bit queasy, their concerns can’t be judged from a medical perspective to affect health and welfare in such a way that the snakes be considered a public nuisance according to Sweden’s environmental code.

From The Local

Posted in Herpetology, Herps in the news, International articles and news., Reptiles, Snake, Snakes, Swedish articles and news., Venomous herptiles | 3 Comments »

 
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