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Archive for April 17th, 2007

Neon green gecko key to preventing Mauritian plant extinction

Posted by Miqe on April 17, 2007

A vibrantly colored gecko plays a key role in a highly threatened ecological community in Mauritius, reports new research published in American Naturalist.Studying plant-animal interactions in Mauritius, an Indian Ocean island famous for its extinct dodo bird, researchers found that a rare plant, Trochetia blackburniana, benefits from its proximity to Pandanus

Nectar-feeding male P. cepediana day gecko approaching a flower of T. blackburniana. Photo by Dr. Dennis M. Hansen.The researchers report that “dense patches of palmlike Pandanus plants (Pandanaceae) are favored microhabitats of this gecko… Even a small patch of Pandanus plants forms a dense, impenetrable matrix of spiky, serrated leaves. Hiding in such patches may protect P. cepediana from sudden attacks by its main predator, the Mauritian kestrel Falco punctatus, a bird feeding almost exclusively on Phelsuma geckos (Groombridge et al. 2001), and from other endemic Mauritian birds that prey on Phelsuma geckos (Cheke 1987). Furthermore, Pandanus patches provide good egg-laying sites, and the dense shade they offer may be important for Phelsuma thermoregulation.”

plants because they house high densities of geckos responsible for pollination. The findings, which unusually identify a lizard as a key pollinator, are significant because they provide “valuable management insights for ongoing conservation efforts to save the highly endangered flora of Mauritius.”The researchers, led by Dennis M. Hansen of the Institute of Environmental Sciences at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, used a gecko exclusion experiment to determine the importance of the endemic blue-tailed day gecko (Phelsuma cepediana) in pollination of Trochetia blackburniana, a species that is now in decline due to the impact of introduced species and the disappearance of its key pollinator, the olive white-eye (Zosterops chloronothos), a bird, across much of its range. The authors found that unlike alien invasive wasps and birds that fed on Trochetia blackburniana nectar without collecting pollen, the blue-tailed day gecko was tagged with pollen “either just behind the head or on the gecko’s throat and chest,” making it a crucial pollinator of the plant species. Hansen and colleagues showed that gecko exclusion had a “highly significant negative effect” on fruiting of Trochetia blackburniana.

“Lizard pollination of T. blackburniana is an interesting phenomenon in itself because only a few studies so far have identified lizards as important pollinators of plants,” they wrote. “Most of the known examples of lizard pollination occur on islands where a low diversity and a low abundance of invertebrates may force otherwise mostly insectivorous lizards to expand their diet to include fruit and nectar.”

The researchers say their work may be applicable to conservation efforts in the neighboring islands of Reunion and Madagascar where there are also large populations of day geckos and Pandanus plants.

“Our results highlight the significance of the community context when considering conservation management of endangered plant species,” they write.

Want ot read the rest of this interesting article?

Please visit: Mongabay

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

“Deadly” snake found in Herefordshire wood

Posted by Miqe on April 17, 2007

POLICE officers from Ledbury were certainly in for a big surprise when they went down to the woods on Sunday afternoon – to be confronted by a 8ft long Burmese python.

The officers were responding to calls from several members of the public who had been walking along a footpath and seen the giant snake motionless on the ground.

Unsure as to whether the snake was dead or alive, Sergeant Emma Wright and PC Dan Underwood made their way to the scene, to find the serpent very much in the land of the living and needing to be removed.

“We were unsure of exactly what sort of snake we were dealing with, so I took a photo of it on my mobile phone and we contacted the West Midlands Safari park, who pretty quickly confirmed that it was a Burmese python,” said Sgt Wright. “We then needed to make sure the snake could be safely removed from the area and then had to find a suitable home for it.”

Ledbury veterinary surgeon Derek Stoakes was called out to assist and, together with the officers, was able to coax the python into a box ready to be removed.

“I was very impressed by the way the officers dealt with the situation because this was a very large snake. I have treated snakes in the past but this was considerably bigger than anything I had seen before,” said Mr Stoakes. “The snake was pretty still when I arrived but some became quite active – possibly because it was quite a warm day.”

Once safely placed in a secure box for transportation, one of Herefordshire Division’s wildlife crimes officers, PC Kevin Le Good, drove the serpent to the Vale Wildlife Centre in Evesham where it has been given a temporary home. Dubbed Monty’ by staff, the python is said to be enjoying the attention and is none the worse for his woodland escapades.

Police have not received any reports of missing snakes and it seems most likely that Monty was abandoned by his owner.

PC Kevin Le Good said: “It is not very often we get called out to deal with snakes – and certainly not ones as big as this. Fortunately this story has a happy ending and Monty is now enjoying his new home at the Vale Wildlife Centre.

“Sadly, it seems most likely that Monty was abandoned by the roadside by its owner, who presumably no longer wanted to keep the snake as a pet. Clearly this was a very dangerous thing to do and was done without any thought to either public safety or the welfare of the snake itself.

“People considering buying exotic animals should stop and think whether they really are suitable as pets and whether they are capable of looking after them correctly. Dumping any animal by the roadside is a particularly cruel thing to do, especially with domesticated pets who may not be able to fend for themselves.”

Anyone with information as to who the owner of the snake is should contact Ledbury Police on 08457 444888.

From Hereford Times

Edit: I changed the headline some..

Posted in Herps in the news, International articles and news. | 6 Comments »

Some pictures of V. ammodytes giving birth.

Posted by Miqe on April 17, 2007

There pictures was taken in july 2006.

I really hope to be able to take new pictures this year, or even maybe catching it with a videocamera..

Posted in My animals, Snakes | Leave a Comment »

Support approved for brown tree snake control, containment & research

Posted by Miqe on April 17, 2007

Guam has often caught national attention from the infamous brown tree snake, so naturally when information surfaced that the interdiction program at the Department of Agriculture ran into funding problems, it made for cause for concern. But according to the acting chief of the Department’s Aquatic and Wildlife Division Tino Aguon, the problem is back under control. “The Air Force has identified and has given us fairly good news that money has been identified,” he confirmed. “I think we’re going to be in good shape this year and the long-term is to make sure that the funding is always there rather than wait to come to a situation where we’re in a crisis situation.

It was in the late-1940’s/early-1950’s that scholars believe the brown tree snake hitched a ride as a stowaway on a military cargo ship. Since then the snakes fanned out islandwide and within two decades they managed to decimate ten of the twelve native Guam birds, two of eleven native lizards, and have contributed to running native fruit bats into near extinction. Agricultural officials in the region believe the brown tree snake is the single greatest threat to terrestrial ecosystems in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and one of the greatest ecological threats to Hawaii.

Over the next few days agency representatives from Hawaii, the U.S. mainland and the CNMI will be on Guam to provide presentations detailing their efforts related to brown tree snake studies and population control. Inspection and compliance section chief from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture Domingo Cravalho, Jr., expresses the importance of combining resources and research to bring the problem under control, saying, “I really support the efforts being done on Guam and I’m hoping that the issues we’re worrying about with funding will come through and all the different aspects of the different programs, getting together collaboratively in a cooperative effort to ensure that we attack this problem in a joint manner.”

Currently it’s estimated that there are twenty snakes per acre on Guam – that’s half the number it once was in the 1980’s. The group will continue to meet tomorrow up until Thursday to discuss the brown tree snake invasion.

From KUAM News

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Death in the rainforest: fragile creatures give the world a new climate warning

Posted by Miqe on April 17, 2007

Amphibian and reptile numbers fall by 75% in reserve meant to save them.

A red-eyed tree frog, Costa Rica
A red-eyed tree frog in Costa Rica

A protected rainforest in one of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots has suffered an alarming collapse in amphibians and reptiles, suggesting such havens may fail to slow the creatures’ slide towards global extinction.Conservationists working in a lowland forest reserve at La Selva in Costa Rica used biological records dating from 1970 to show that species of frogs, toads, lizards, snakes and salamanders have plummeted on average 75% in the past 35 years.


Dramatic falls in amphibian and reptile numbers elsewhere in the world have been blamed on habitat destruction and the fungal disease chytridiomycosis, which has inflicted a devastating toll across central and South America. But scientists hoped many species would continue to thrive in dedicated reserves, where building, land-clearance and agricultural chemicals are banned.

The new findings suggest an unknown ecological effect is behind at least some of the sudden losses and have prompted scientists to call for urgent studies in other protected forest areas. The researchers, led by Maureen Donelly at Florida International University, believe climate change has brought warmer, wetter weather to the refuge, with the knock-on effect of reducing the amount of leaf litter on the forest floor. Nearly all of the species rely on leaf litter to some extent, either using it for shelter, or feeding on insects that eat the leaves.

The study revealed sharp declines among two species of salamander, whose numbers fell on average 14.52% every year between 1970 and 2005. Frog species slumped too, with numbers of the mimicking rain frog falling 13.49%, the common tink frog 6.69%, and the strawberry poison frog 1.18% a year. Lizards suffered similar falls, with one species, the striped litter skink, down 10.03% each year, and orange-tailed geckos declining by 8.05% every year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Amphibians, Herps in the news, International articles and news. | 1 Comment »