Skinks Surprise Researchers – Baby Lizards Hatch Early When Disturbed

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.   Herpetologists studying Australia’s Delicate Skink (Lampropholis delicata) discovered, quite by accident, that this species’ embryos somehow sense danger when their eggs are disturbed.  In response, the tiny lizards erupt en masse – even if they are not quite ready to hatch!   Also employed by Red-Eyed Treefrog tadpoles (Agalychnis callidryas, please see photo) this unique strategy is just one of many new discoveries indicating that reptile and amphibian embryos are more aware of their environments than we imagined (the embryos of some turtles even seek heat within the egg – please see article linked below).  The fact that the Delicate Skink is a very common species, and that the discovery was made in a park near Sydney, Australia, also shows the value of studying animals that are near-at-hand – all hold secrets!

Delicate Skink

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Peter Woodard

Natural History

The Delicate Skink is a small, greenish-brown lizard that flashes iridescence in sunlight.  This characteristic is responsible for its alternative common name, Rainbow Skink.  Native to eastern Australia and Tasmania, it is often found in gardens, city parks and similar habitats.  Aspirin-sized eggs deposited in flower pots and nursery soil may be responsible for the populations now established on New Zealand and Hawaii (where it has been dubbed the Plague Skink). Read More »

Keeping Frogs and Toads as Pets – Creating a Terrarium and Best Amphibian Care Products

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  From tiny “living jewels” to hulking giants capable of consuming bats, snakes and rodents, the world’s nearly 6,000 frog species present an amazing array of pet-keeping opportunities.  With proper care, some may live for decades (to age 50 in the case of the African Bullfrog), and quite a few are active by day and quickly learn to accept food from one’s hand.  However, keeping frogs and toads as pets means providing a habitat that meets their specific needs – humidity, temperature, substrate, terrarium size and shape, light, water quality and other conditions must be carefully considered. 

Oak Toad

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Eric Shashoua

Although each has needs that vary from those of others, some general rules have emerged.  The following information is drawn from my experiences with hundreds of species over a lifetime of frog-keeping in zoos and at home.  It can be applied to most of those that you are likely to encounter.  However, details will vary – please post below for information concerning individual species.

Housing

Please remember that your frog’s natural history will dictate the type of terrarium it requires…please post below to discuss the need of individual species, or to share your observations.

Setting up the Terrarium

Active, sedentary, high-strung, aquatic, arboreal and terrestrial frogs and toads utilize their living spaces in different ways.  Following are some basic guidelines for popular species. Read More »

Scorpions Surprise Biologists – New Scorpion Species near Tucson and In the Andes

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Approximately 2,000 scorpion species have been described, but most arachnologists believe that many more await discovery.  Few, however, expected an unknown species to turn up within sight of a major city in the USA.  But that is what happened earlier this year, and the discovery was unusual for other reasons as well.  Another noteworthy new scorpion species surfaced in the Ecuadorean Andes, a little-studied region long suspected of being a diversity hotspot for scorpions.  New Arachnids of all kinds are regularly discovered…please post our own news items and thoughts at the end of this article.

Vaejovis sp.

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Acrocynus

A Unique Scorpion from Arizona’s “Sky Islands”

One never knows where new invertebrates will appear.  In 2000, a new centipede was found in NYC’s Central Park, of all places.  Still, the discovery of a sizable scorpion now known as Vaejovis brysoni was surprising on several levels.  The scorpion was discovered accidentally, in an area of the Santa Catalina Mountains that had been well-studied (6 new species have been found there since 2006), and within sight of Arizona’s capitol city of Tuscan (please see photo).

Also very surprising is the fact that the new scorpion’s habitat is considered by biologists to be a “sky island”.  Sky islands are mountain tops that have become isolated from nearby mountains that contain similar habitats and species.  The valleys between the mountain tops prevent scorpions and other animals from breeding with one another.  Over time, these isolated populations evolve into distinct species.  Oddly, another scorpion of the same genus is already resident on V. brysoni’s “sky island”.  This is the first time that closely related animals have been found on the same mountain in this region.  Learning how 2 similar species survive in close proximity to one another should provide interesting insights into scorpion evolution. Read More »

Geckos in the Terrarium – Feeding Day Geckos

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Day Geckos, those brilliantly-clad gems of the lizard world, are growing in popularity in zoos and private collections alike.  Small wonder – the 52 described species, all placed in the genus Phelsuma, are active by day (of course!) and, when properly kept, quite willing to breed and exhibit a wide range of behaviors in moderately-sized enclosures.  Feeding Day Geckos isn’t hard, as most eagerly feed upon crickets and mealworms, but their nutritional needs will not be met on this all-too-common diet.

Gold Dust Day gecko

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Thierry Caro

If your Day Geckos are to live long, healthy lives and reproduce, a good deal of effort must be put into providing a varied diet.  Fortunately, most herp keepers find the extra work – such as collecting or breeding “alternative” insect species – enjoyable, and well worth their efforts.  The following foods and techniques have served me well throughout my zoo and private animal-keeping careers.  The information can be applied to most species, including Standing’s, Gold Dust, Giant, Spotted, Lined and Peacock Day Geckos.  However, details will vary.  Please post below for information on individual species. Read More »

Venomous Reptiles – Newly Discovered Viper is an Endangered Species

B. nigroviridis

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by TimVickers

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Guifarro’s Palm Pit Viper (Bothriechis guifarroi), recently described as a new venomous reptile species in the journal Zookeys, may already be in danger of extinction.  In an attempt to draw attention to its plight, the newfound snake has been named after Mario Guifarro, a conservationist murdered for his work within its habitat.  Three other arboreal pit vipers have been uncovered in recent years (please see below)…each also faces an uncertain future.

I’ve had the good fortune of working with several Bothriechis species at the Bronx and Staten Island Zoos.  Although somewhat similar in external appearance, each inhabits a unique habitat, or niche within a habitat, and they can teach us a great deal about how snakes evolve and partition resources.  Guifarro’s Palm Pit Viper is the 10th species to be included in the genus (the last to be described was B. thalassinus, in the year 2000), but I’m sure more await discovery. Read More »

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