Softshell Turtles caught my attention early and remain great favorites of mine all these years (decades!) later. I’ve had a long history with the group – I raised Smooth Softshell hatchlings as a child, dove with huge Florida Softshells in southern canals and was eventually lucky enough to work with the immense Narrow-Headed and Bibron’s Giant Softshells. Today I’d like to introduce this most unique turtle family. Read More »
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A female Boa (Boa constrictor) shocked herpetologists by giving birth to live young that she produced by cloning rather than mating. What’s more, the process used to create the young is new to the animal world – it has not been seen in any other vertebrate.
Asexual Births in other Species
Asexual reproduction or parthenogenesis – producing young without mating – is well known among insects and certain fishes (including Hammerhead Sharks), some of which can even switch sexes several times. It has also been recorded in a small number of reptiles, such as the Brahminy Blind Snake, American Whiptail Lizards and the Komodo Dragon. Read More »
Horned Lizards (Phrynosoma spp., please see photo) and odd Australia’s Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus) have always reminded me of dinosaurs – I think it was their horn-bearing skulls. I recall sketching my pet Horned Lizards and taking the (somewhat primitive!) drawings to the American Museum of Natural History for comparisons with the Triceratops skeletons displayed there. This month (September, 2010), fans of such reptiles and dinosaurs were pleased to learn of the discovery of 2 new dinosaur species, one of which bore 15 horns upon its head – more than any other animal, past or present.
North America’s Lost Continent
The new species were uncovered in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah, USA. The area lies in what was once the “lost continent” of Laramidia, formed when an ancient sea separated the eastern and western portions of North America for millions of years. The enforced isolation gave rise to innumerable bizarre insects, fishes, amphibians, dinosaurs and other creatures, many of which, it appears, have yet to be discovered. Read More »
Seasonal Behavioral Changes
Many species, even those from regions considered “tropical”, slow down during the cooler seasons; in captivity they often respond to autumn’s arrival in a similar manner. Animals that are native to your area will be most strongly affected, especially if exposed to the local light cycle, but even exotic species may gear their behavior to local conditions. Read More »
In the year 2000 I had the good fortune to work with the world’s sole surviving group of Kihansi Spray Toads (Nectophrynoides asperginis). Last seen in the wild in 2004, and declared extinct in nature soon after, the 499 individuals sent to the Bronx and Toledo Zoos represented the species’ last chance. Recently (August, 2010), I received the pleasant news that a group was sent back to Tanzania for possible reintroduction. Read More »