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Archive for April, 2007

Toads on the Rebound

Posted by Miqe on April 21, 2007


A Wyoming toad, photographed at the Central Park Zoo

One of the most endangered amphibians in North America, the Wyoming toad has undergone an intensive captive breeding program, where toads are raised in zoos and released into Wyoming’s Laramie basin, where they were discovered in the 1940s. 

During the 1970s and ‘80s, the toad disappeared from its already limited range, succumbing to threats such as toxic pesticides, habitat degradation, and disease.  To reestablish the wild population, more than 50,000 toads, raised in captivity by ten zoos, have been successfully released.

From Live Science

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

Hillsborough County Deputy warns others to be careful of snake bites

Posted by Miqe on April 21, 2007

Ruskin, Florida-As a deputy, Brandon Parker often helps people during emergencies. But last November, he was the one who needed assistance while hiking with a buddy, “Out of no where I got bitten on the left leg by an eastern diamondback rattlesnake, it was about 6 1/2-7 foot long. After the bite I felt the burning sensation, my hands started tingling, my legs were tingling and my face was tingling.” Within nine-minutes he couldn’t feel anything from his neck down, “When I became paralyzed and lost my ability to move and started to feel the effects of it I got real scared.” But luckily he was able to get help, “Seek medical attention immediately within the first couple of hours it’s crucial.”

The Florida Poison Information Center says more people are getting bit by snakes as the population increases. Dr. Cynthia Lewis-Younger says, out of 40 snake bites statewide this year, 7 have been in the Bay area, “If it’s a venomous snake it’s potentially life threatening.” Venomous snakes include, the eastern diamondback and pigmy rattlesnakes… as well as copperheads, cottonmouths and coral snakes. Dr. Lewis-Younger has some advice if you get bit, “Be calm, summon help and to rest the limb at or below the level of the heart.”

Deputy Parker still feels pain from the snake bite, but it won’t stop him from hiking.

In fact, he happens to be a reptile remover at the Sheriff’s office, “I’m actually on the list of people you would call in case a snake comes in someone’s house.” Deputy Parker recommends wearing protective gear such as boots if hiking and watch out where you’re walking, “If it could happen to me and I’ve been around snakes and handling snakes just about my whole life it could happen to anyone.”


If you need help call the Florida Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

 From Tampa Bay´s

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

The best snake is a live snake

Posted by Miqe on April 20, 2007

The return of spring means more outdoor activities for many Georgians, which can potentially lead to encounters with slithering reptiles. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) would like to remind Georgians that native venomous and nonvenomous snakes serve a vital purpose. Despite being misunderstood and often maligned, snakes represent an important part of Georgia’s ecosystems.

Georgia is home to 42 species of snakes, of which only six are venomous. But humans’ deeply rooted snake phobia can often lead to an untimely end for the reptiles.

“Even venomous snakes are harmless if left alone to go about their business,” said WRD Wildlife Biologist John Jensen. “It is disheartening that most of the snakes killed by people are essentially harmless and pose no real threat to humans.”

The 36 species of nonvenomous snakes found in Georgia are protected by state law and should not be killed. The preferred diet for snakes varies by species, but can include insects, frogs, rodents and even other snakes. Predation from snakes helps keep the population of many other species in check.

Non-venomous brown snakes are the species most commonly encountered in many parts of Georgia. Their tolerance for urban development and adaptability to a variety of habitats makes them a common species throughout the state, including metro Atlanta. The brown snake poses no danger to people or pets, and actually provides a benefit to gardeners because of its diet that consists primarily of invertebrates like slugs.

“A snake’s first response when confronted by a human is to flee the area or remain motionless in order to avoid detection,” Jensen said. “Snakebites occur when a snake is frightened and forced to defend itself. If simply left alone, a snake will usually try to leave the area.”

Of the 7,000 snakebites reported each year in the U.S. – a figure that includes non-venomous snakebites – 70 percent are determined to be avoidable. In most cases, the snake was seen well before the bite occurred, and simply walking away would have prevented the bite. Many of these bites are not even from wild snakes, but rather captive snakes biting their handlers.

In order to decrease the risk of snakebites, Georgians should use caution around fallen logs, vegetation, rocks and piles of debris, which provide shelter for snakes and the foods they eat. Use caution when moving such materials and avoid placing hands and feet into areas where a snake could be hiding. Should you encounter a venomous snake in the wild, simply move away from the snake and walk around the area.

For more information on snakes, call (478) 994-1438 or visit http://www.georgiawildlife. com , then click on Nongame Animals & Plants and go to the Backyard Wildlife link.

Residents seeking help in identifying a snake can email a photo of the snake through the “Contact us” link at http://www.georgiawildlife. com. Residents wishing to have a snake removed from their property should hire a licensed nuisance wildlife specialist. A list of licensed operators can be obtained from the WRD Special Permit Unit at (770) 761-3044.

From The Blade Plus

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Temperature Sex Reversal Implies Sex Gene Dosage in a Reptile

Posted by Miqe on April 20, 2007

Alexander E. Quinn,1* Arthur Georges,1 Stephen D. Sarre,1 Fiorenzo Guarino,1 Tariq Ezaz,2 Jennifer A. Marshall Graves2 Sex in reptiles is determined by genes on sex chromosomes or by incubation temperature. Previously these two modes were thought to be distinct, yet we show that high incubation temperatures reverse genotypic males (ZZ) to phenotypic females in a lizard with ZZ and ZW sex chromosomes. Thus, the W chromosome is not necessary for female differentiation. Sex determination is probably via a dosage-sensitive male-determining gene on the Z chromosome that is inactivated by extreme temperatures. Our data invite a novel hypothesis for the evolution of temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) and suggest that sex chromosomes may exist in many TSD reptiles.

1 Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.
2 Comparative Genomics Group, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

From Science

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

Gorgona Blues: World’s only pure blue lizard at risk of extinction

Posted by Miqe on April 19, 2007


High above the forest floor on the remote Colombian island of Gorgona lives a lizard with brilliant blue skin, rivaling the color of the sky. Anolis gorgonae, or the blue anole, is a species so elusive and rare, that scientists have been unable to give even an estimate of its population. Due to the lizard’s isolated habitat and reclusive habits, researchers know little about the blue anole, but are captivated by its stunning coloration.

Approximately 35 miles off the Pacific coast of Colombia lies Gorgona, an island with a unique past and an uncertain future. A high security prison colony was maintained on the island beginning in the 1950s until its closure in 1984. Because the island is separated from the mainland by an underwater depression 270 meters deep, Gorgona maintains some endemic biodiversity. In 1985, the island reemerged as a national park to protect the rare species that thrived in the delicate ecosystem.The blue anole is truly stunning to behold–it is pure blue, with no color differentiation between males and females. The largest visual distinction is the male’s dewlap, like other anole species, except in this case the dewlap is bright white, making the blue contrast ever more dramatic. In spite of this striking color, few humans have been lucky enough to spot the world’s only pure blue lizard.

Interested in the full article?

You will find it on Mongabay

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Endangered frog may fall victim to drought

Posted by Miqe on April 18, 2007

The Booroolong tree frog.The Booroolong tree frog.

VICTORIA’S critically endangered Booroolong tree frog risks becoming the latest casualty of the drought, which has dried up the frog’s habitat near the Murray River for the first time.

With the frog already in decline in NSW, there are fears it will die out in the Burrowye and Guys Forest creeks in north-east Victoria, 100 kilometres east of Wodonga.

Although the tree frog species has managed to survive extensive clearing of its habitat and introduced species such as the carp and mosquito fish, which prey on its eggs and tadpoles, the two creeks it inhabits have fallen to unprecedented levels.

The species’ future isn’t helped by the fact that males die after one season. Many were unable to breed this year as the creeks had only small pools left. A captive-breeding program has been set up at the Amphibian Research Centre in Werribee in a frantic bid to save the species.

Booroolong tree frog numbers have already dropped due to chytridomycosis, a worldwide disease wiping out frog populations that has left 35 eastern Australian species extinct or in severe decline.

The amphibian fungal disease is believed to have been spread globally as a result of African clawed frogs being exported for use in human pregnancy tests up until the 1960s.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment’s Wodonga senior flora and fauna planner, Glen Johnson, said frog deaths were often the first indicator of serious environmental problems.

From The Age

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Group assists snake service: Rural/Metro removes 100 per year

Posted by Miqe on April 18, 2007

Snake season begins this month and fire officials remind residents that Phoenix Fire Department does not respond to snake removal reports.

Town residents reported more than 100 snakes annually for the past two years, but the Phoenix Fire Department — the new Paradise Valley fire service provider — does not offer snake removal service.

The municipality will not respond when residents spot a slithery reptile because the department is not properly trained in that area, said Phoenix fire spokeswoman Michelle Miller.

“We have so much response to large scale emergencies that we can’t dedicate enough training to that,” Ms. Miller said.

However, the department will respond to a call if a person is bit by a snake, she added.

Paradise Valley entered an agreement with Phoenix Fire Department to begin serving the town July 1, thus ending the subscription-based relationship with Rural/Metro. The town will cover the annual costs in the agreement.

In Paradise Valley, Rural/Metro responds to snake removal calls frequently, said Rural/Metro spokeswoman Alison Cooper.

“As it starts to warm up, they become pretty active,” she said.

In 2006, the department responded to 106 snake removals within town borders. The year before, Rural/Metro removed 110 snakes.

The fire department does not track what types of snakes are removed but usually they are relocated, unless the same one keeps appearing at a home, she said.

“It’s very rare that we euthanize a snake and the only ones euthanized are rattlesnakes,” Ms. Cooper said.

Ms. Miller said Phoenix refers snake removal calls to the Arizona Herpetological Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation, study and understanding of reptiles and amphibians.

The association offers the public a snake and reptile removal service that is run by volunteers for $40, said President Mark Guidotto. For removals, call 480-894-1625.

Mr. Guidotto said the Herpetological Association responds to hundred of snake removal calls a year, mainly in developing areas in the outskirts of the Valley, like Desert Ridge and North Scottsdale.

Because of Paradise Valley’s rural-like town layout and proximity to Mummy and Camelback mountains, Mr. Guidotto expects the volunteers will get a lot of calls once the new fire agreement is in place.

From newszap

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‘Fewer leaves’ behind frog demise

Posted by Miqe on April 18, 2007

A decline in the amount of leaves on the ground could be behind the rapid demise of frog species, a study of a rainforest in Costa Rica has suggested. Until now, the prime suspect for the amphibians’ population crash was a deadly fungal infection.

By studying data over a 35-year period, researchers found that lizards, which were not susceptible to the infection, had also declined by a similar rate.

The study appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Writing in the paper, the team said the global decline of amphibian populations ranked “among the most critical issues in conservation biology”.

Of particular concern, the scientists wrote, were “enigmatic” declines – where there had been a rapid fall in species populations but no obvious human cause, such as the destruction of habitat.

One of the prime suspects for the enigmatic decline of frogs was chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), deadly to amphibians.

A paper, published in the journal Nature last January, looked at biodiversity hotspots in Central and South Amercia and found that changes to the local climate had created perfect conditions for the spread of the frog-killing fungus.

Lack of litter

But the PNAS paper found another potential culprit – the lack of leaf-litter on the forest floor.


Amphibians on a leaf (Conservation International)

Group includes frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians

First true amphibians evolved about 250m years ago

Adapted to many different aquatic and terrestrial habitats

Present today on every continent except Antarctica

Undergo metamorphosis, from larvae to adults

The international team of scientists examined data of amphibian and common reptile populations in La Selva, a protected area of rainforest in Costa Rica.

Between 1970 and 2005, the data showed that the number of amphibians had declined by about 75%, which supported the idea that frogs were being wiped out by the chytrid fungus.

However, the data also showed a similar fall in the area’s reptiles, which were not susceptible to the fungus.

Over the same period, the data showed that there had been a 75% reduction in the density of leaves falling to the ground from the rainforest’s canopy.

Leaf litter provides a vital habitat, offering food and shelter, for the amphibians and lizards.

The team, from Florida International University, the University of Costa Rica and San Diego State University, suggested shifts in the area’s climate had led to a decline in the habitat needed to sustain the creatures.

“The increasingly warm and wet conditions of the past two decades could negatively influence standing litter mass by affecting rates of litterfall or litter decomposition,” the authors wrote.

This is a very interesting set of work that points out the complicated nature of species decline

Dr Paul Pearce-Kelly,
Zoological Society of London

Dr Paul Pearce-Kelly, a senior curator at the Zoological Society of London, said the findings made an important contribution towards understanding what was behind the decline of the world’s frog populations.

“This is a very interesting set of work that points out the complicated nature of species decline,” he said.

“We shouldn’t forget that any kind of change affecting one species can leave it weakened and predeposed to being more vulnerable to disease and other impacts.

“The environment, regardless of whether it is a protected forest system or not, is highly vulnerable to temperature changes.”

From BBC

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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

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“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 »