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Snake Surprise – “Virgin” Female Boa Constrictor Gives Birth

coiled boaA 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 »

New Dinosaur Resembled a Horned Lizard – On an Immense Scale

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 »

Kihansi Spray Toads, Extinct in the Wild, Return to Africa

Kihansi Spray Toad
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 »

Red-Eared Sliders Out-Compete Native European Turtles

European Pond TurtleRed Eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) have been introduced worldwide and are believed to negatively impact many species.  However, direct evidence concerning their affect on other turtles is scarce.  A recent study involving Sliders, Spanish Terrapins (Mauremys leprosa) and European Pond Turtles (Emys orbicularis) has shed some light on the subject.

Hardy Invaders

It’s easy to imagine that introduced Red Eared Sliders would create problems for native European turtles.  They are larger than many species favoring similar foods, breed rapidly, adjust well to human presence, and are very aggressive in the pursuit of food and basking sites.

I have noticed that Eastern Painted Turtles have declined in several habitats now occupied by Sliders, but am basing this on observation only, not study.  Others voice the same concerns, but again have been unable to document just what, if anything, the Sliders are doing to nudge-out the natives. Read More »

US Government Seeks Comments on Proposed Amphibian Trade Restrictions

Clawed Frog FemaleSome time ago I posted an article concerning possible new Federal regulations that could limit the trade in live amphibians (read it here), and promised to notify folks when the government asked for public comments.  That time is now upon us.

The Proposal – History and Intent

The proposed regulations stem from concerns that the trade in live frogs and salamanders (and frog legs) is aiding the spread of 2 deadly amphibian diseases, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (“Chytrid fungus” or Bd) and Ranavirus (please see the article mentioned earlier for details).   Read More »

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