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Re: Newsletter

Posted: Mon Jan 02, 2017 3:18 pm
by Philsuma
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Just in - Brand new - “The Tortoise” Vol. 2 Issue # 1

1. 1) Rambo the pet alligator can stay, Florida officials say (The alligator has been with Thorn for more than 11 years and wears clothes
2. 2) Woman Bitten By Crocodile White Trying to Take Selfie with it
3. 3) A Couples 40 Year “Sacrifice” To Save Loggerhead Turtles (Australia, Great Barrier Reef) (I’d Call it Dedication Not Sacrifice)
4. 4) Saving snakes: Students relocate snakes from Loveland solar site

1) Rambo the pet alligator can stay, Florida officials say (The alligator has been with Thorn for more than 11 years and wears clothes)

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) 1/2/17— A Florida woman is being allowed to keep her 6-foot-long pet alligator at home following a fight with state wildlife officials over the growing size of the reptile.

A spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Thursday that the agency had reached an agreement with Mary Thorn, allowing her to keep her 125-pound reptile named Rambo at home.

Wildlife officials say alligators that measure more than 6 feet must have 2.5 acres of land.

Rambo has earned local celebrity status in Lakeland, which is located between Tampa and Orlando. The alligator has been with Thorn for more than 11 years and wears clothes. Rambo was recently captured wearing a Santa hat.
2) Woman bitten by crocodile while trying to take selfie with it

By Jared Leone 1/2/17 - Cox Media Group

A crocodile bit a woman on the thigh after she fell trying to take a selfie with the carnivorous reptile at a national park in Thailand.

Benetulier Lesuffleur, 41, was with her husband visiting Khao Yai National Park when they ignored warning signs and walked off a designated path to take a photo with the sunbathing crocodile, Metro reported.
3) A Couples 40 Year “Sacrifice” To Save Loggerhead Turtles (Australia, Great Barrier Reef) (I’d Call it Dedication Not Sacrifice)

Melissa Davey, The Hindu, JANUARY 01, 2017

It’s about 7 p.m. at the remote Wreck Rock beach within Deepwater national park in Queensland and Nev and Bev McLachlan are starting the night watch.

For the past 40 years, the husband and wife have been travelling from their home on the Sunshine Coast to a tiny campsite about 140km north of Bundaberg, their enormous caravan full of camp supplies as well as turtle tagging and monitoring gear.

As the sun goes down, Nev (64) and Bev (61) pull on their bright orange turtle patrol shirts, grab their helmets with headlamps and their walkie-talkies, and jump on to separate quad bikes. They drive on to the 22 km stretch of beach, alongside the southern Great Barrier Reef, and start their patrol up and down the sand. Their watch sometimes continues until the crack of dawn, until the endangered female loggerhead turtles they are there to monitor stop emerging from the water to lay their eggs.

Their meticulous and entirely voluntary work over four decades measuring, tagging and making observations about the turtles, which is fed back into a central turtle monitoring database, means researchers have been able to better understand turtle numbers and put measures in place to protect them.

Wreck Rock is one of a handful of sites around Australia where loggerhead turtles come to lay their eggs.

The turtles have faced many challenges to their numbers over the years, Bev says. The data they collect will eventually be analysed by the chief scientist for Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Dr Col Limpus, himself a world-famous turtle researcher. — Original Source The Guardian
4) Saving snakes: Students relocate snakes from Loveland solar site
By Pamela Johnson-Reporter-Herald Staff Writer- 01/01/2017

Loveland, CO, 1/1/17- A solar farm under construction in west Loveland has offered more than the promise of renewable energy. Researchers also got a glimpse of how snake populations are faring near human development.

"It's encouraging in trying to maintain biodiversity in an urban-suburban setting," said Stephen Mackassy, a professor at the University of Northern Colorado.

Mackassy and a team of student researchers spent many hours last spring and summer looking for snakes at the site near Mehaffey Park (west of Wilson Avenue between 29th and 22nd Streets) where the city of Loveland is building a solar farm.

Their purpose was threefold — they wanted to save the snakes from being killed and disrupted during construction, to study snake patterns and to assist the city with environmental regulations.

The students found 119 different snakes, mostly three species that are nonvenomous and harmless — bull snakes, milk snakes and racer snakes. With these, they captured them, tagged them with chips to follow their future movements, and then released them nearby but away from neighborhoods.

They couldn't take the snakes too far, less than a mile, from where they were found so they would be in their native terrain.

"We wanted to help them, get them away from where the construction was going on so they could survive the season," said Graham Dawson, one of four students who worked on the project.

The team also found three rattlesnakes, which they did not release back into the wild.

Instead, those snakes are now living, with many other reptiles, in Mackassy's laboratory area at the Greeley campus, where students and professors study snakes and uses for venom.

During their field research, the students were surprised at how curious people were about snakes and how supportive the public was of their efforts when they explained their purpose.

"That was a nice surprise," said Mackassy. "Snakes get a bad rap because some are venomous and can cause problems for us ... People are fearful of them.”

And Mackassy said he also was surprised at the number of snakes they found at the site because it is very near neighborhoods as well as the popular Mehaffey Park.

"We have a moderate diversity and abundance of these harmless and useful parts of the ecosystem in an area that's very close to human development," said Mackassy.

"I wasn't convinced at the start that we'd find as many or the total number of species ... They have a very important role in regulating populations of small mammals and that means rats and mice primarily.”

The city of Loveland contacted Mackassy to help with snakes at the construction site for more than one reason.

Officials wanted to make sure the snakes and workers were safe, that the snakes did not exit the site en masse to nearby neighborhoods and to comply with federal environmental standards, explained Tracy Turner-Naranjo, environmental compliance administrator for the city.

The solar farm is being built with money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a renewable energy source to replace a hydroelectric plant that was destroyed in the 2013 floods.

"There's a lot of snake activity there," said Turner-Naranjo. "That particular area is very nice habitat for snakes.”

So, the city staff decided to work with snake experts to balance environmental needs with safety of the workers, the neighborhood and the snakes. They created a snake training video for the contractors and employees on site to teach them of habitats, species and signs of snakes.

They also called in Mackassy and his students, who worked to relocate the snakes on city-owned property.

The project, Mackassy and Dawson said, allowed them to talk about how important snakes are to the ecosystem and to preventing rodent-borne diseases such as hantavirus and how to avoid conflict with snakes.

It also provided a baseline population for future study.

"That we're in an urban-suburban area and we still have reasonable diversity of these small animals is impressive and is a good indication that we can maintain this diversity along the Front Range if we consider some simple needs these animals have," said Mackassy.

"The whole project was designed to provide an inventory on what was there but also to develop best practices for the animals."

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Re: Newsletter

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 3:59 pm
by Philsuma
HERPDIGEST IS A NON-PROFIT 501 C 3 CORPORATION- Supported by your donations and sales of herpetology books & magazines
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1. Plight of Chinese turtles shows lax protection in nation’s nature reserves

2) Crocodiles and dolphins evolved similar skulls to catch the same prey

3) State Senator Artiles wants to hunt invasive snakes and lizards in Florida

4) New Frog Species Named After Naturalist David Attenborough

5) Clown tree frogs—newly discovered and already threatened?
1) Plight of Chinese turtles shows lax protection in nation’s nature reserves

By Kathleen McLaughlin, 3/7/17,

Beijing—China’s nature reserves are woefully inadequate at protecting biodiversity, a 12-year study of turtle poaching in dozens of conservation areas has found.

The research results, published 6 March in Current Biology, focus on turtles but draw larger conclusions about the state of wildlife conservation in China. The authors note that China has 2700 nature reserves covering 1.46 million square kilometers, or about 15% of the country’s total territory, a higher percentage than many other countries. And though China ranks first in flora and fauna richness in the Northern Hemisphere, 43% of those species are threatened.

“We discovered that poaching occurred in all of the 56 reserves surveyed, resulting in dramatically reduced turtle populations,” the authors wrote. “In a majority of the reserves, the reserve staff themselves were generally involved in poaching.”
“Although nature reserves were created to protect plants and animals, they have become part of the problem due to weak enforcement of rules,” the authors wrote.

The scientists relied on field studies, surveys of exotic animal markets, and interviews to document the declining turtle population trends in protected areas across three provinces.

“Hunting is strictly forbidden in all nature reserves in China,” they wrote. “From field surveys, however, we found over 1400 poaching devices (i.e. cage traps, hooks, pitfall traps) and encountered 69 hunters in 11 nature reserves. This unexpected finding reflected the managers’ inaction. Although historical records identified 15 species present in these areas, we just found nine species in the field.”

The study asserts that this lack of protection for turtles almost certainly extends to all species in China’s wildlife conservation areas.

“This situation is not unique to turtles, as we saw signs of poaching for all species valuable for food and trade. Currently in China, endangered species are facing a serious threat of extirpation due to poaching, and we identify nature reserves as contributing to the problem due to poor management practices and lack of effective supervision,” they wrote. “In order to improve the conservation of China’s rich biodiversity, it is imperative for China’s nature reserve system to make meaningful changes to its policies and procedures.”

The authors recommend that China’s natural reserves cease all commercial activities and focus on species and habitat conservation.

Recognizing the problem, China’s central government is rolling out plans for a series of national parks around the country that will focus on protecting critically endangered species. A massive national park in northeastern China will preserve habitat for Siberian tigers and leopards, and other parks will focus on endangered antelopes, pandas, elephants, and other large animals.

The national park plan will take control of protected areas away from local and provincial officials, who face funding shortfalls and often engage in profit-making schemes—like turtle poaching—that harm habitat and wildlife, environmental groups contend. The central government will provide the funding and direct the management of the national parks.
2) Crocodiles and dolphins evolved similar skulls to catch the same prey

Date: March 8, 2017
Source: Monash University

A new study involving biologists from Monash University Australia has found that despite their very different ancestors, dolphins and crocodiles evolved similarly-shaped skulls to feed on similar prey.

Dolphins and crocodiles now live in rivers and oceans, but each evolved from land-based animals. Feeding in water has many new challenges. This new study shows that despite being separated by 300 million years, dolphins and crocodiles found comparable solutions to these problems, and evolved skull shapes that are remarkably similar.

"Our results suggest the remarkable similarity between some crocodilians and toothed whales is driven by what they eat rather than where they live," said lead author Mr Matthew McCurry from the Monash School of Biological Sciences.

Previously no rigorous attempt had been made to show how similar the head shapes of dolphins and crocodiles really are. It had been thought that aspects such shallow seas or rivers contributed to the similarity of the skulls of crocodilians (crocodiles and alligators) and toothed whales (dolphins, orca and relatives). But a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences has debunked this long-held view.
Having a long, thin snout must have great advantages when trying to catch small fish, both for crocodilians and toothed whales.

"What is really important about this study is that it will help us predict the diet of extinct aquatic mammals and reptiles just from the shape of their skulls," said Mr McCurry.

The authors used medical CT and laser 3D scanning to digitally capture the skulls of museum specimens from around the world. Once digitised, the authors could examine the shape of the skulls in detail without having them in one location. Using sophisticated mathematical techniques to analyse 3D shape, the researchers could show how diet, habitat and prey size correlated with skull shape.

"Crocodiles and dolphins seem so different to us, but our study shows that many of them are in fact remarkably similar, and this is really down to how they catch their food," said study co-author Associate Professor Alistair Evans, also from the Monash School of Biological Sciences.
Future research will aim to uncover why specific skull shapes are better at catching certain prey using bioengineering computer simulations.

Story Source:
Materials provided by Monash University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
3) State Senator Artiles wants to hunt invasive snakes and lizards in Florida

James Call , Tallahasse Democrat Capitol Reporter March 8, 2017 |

Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami-Dade, wants to hunt down foreign reptiles that are wreaking havoc in South Florida. Artiles called reporters to a brief news conference Wednesday to discuss his plan of having the state pay skilled hunters to trap and kill seven different reptiles, two species of fish and any other prohibited species designated by state wildlife officials.

In the past, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has offered prizes and other rewards for hunters tracking down invasive species and lionfish. Studies indicate that pythons from Asia, lizards from South America and other non-native species have destroyed Roseate Spoonbill nests, consumed more than 90-percent of the Everglades’ raccoons and possums and also threaten native alligators.

Standing outside the Senate chamber, Artiles asked why spend billions on saving the Everglades if it will be without any native Florida wildlife?
“We have a major problem in the Everglades with the major predators being pythons and tegu (an Argentine lizard) – a 6-foot python can eat a 5-foot alligator this is what is happening,” said Artiles. “We’re seeing a drop in little furry animals too, possums, raccoons we’re not seeing them in the Everglades because non-native species are decimating our back yard.”
Artiles’ SB 230 is waiting to be scheduled in the Natural Resources Subcommittee. It would spend $600,000 over two years on pilot programs involving hunters rounding up the invasive lizards, snakes, and fish.
Artiles wants to target these critters:

• Burmese or Indian python;
• Reticulated python;
• Southern African python
• Scrub python;
• Green Anaconda
• Nile Monitor
• Any reptile FWC designates
• Red Lionfish
4) New Frog Species Named After Naturalist David Attenborough
Press Trust of India March 09, 2017

W ASHINGTON: A new frog species, which measures just about two centimeters and was discovered in the Peruvian Andes, has been named after the famous British broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

While there are already a number of species named after including mammals, reptiles, invertebrates and plants, both extinct and extant, not until now has the host of the BBC Natural History's Life series been honored with an amphibian.

The frog is formally described as Pristimantis attenboroughi, while commonly it is to be referred to as the Attenborough's Rubber Frog.

Scientists from Illinois Wesleyan University and University of Michigan in the US, spent two years surveying montane forests in central Peru, in order to document the local amphibians and reptiles and evaluate their conservation statuses.

Their efforts have been rewarded with several new species
of frogs and a new spectacled lizard.

Each of these discoveries, including the Attenborough's Rubber Frog, prove how beneficial it is to take into account both morphological and the genetic data, while looking for species new to science.

The Attenborough's rubber frog is known to inhabit several localities across the Pui Pui Protected Forest, a nature reserve located at elevations between 3,400 and 3,936 meters above sea level in central Peru.

The adult males reach size of 14.6-19.2 millimeters in length, while the females are larger measuring between 19.2 and 23.0 millimeters.

The ground color ranges from pale to dark grey or reddish brown to brownish olive with dark grey scattered flecks.Juveniles are paler (yellowish to reddish brown) with contrasting dark brown flecks and distinct stripes.

Due to the amphibian being known from fewer than ten localities, spread across less than 20,000 square metres, the species should be deemed either Vulnerable or Endangered, according to the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria.

However, researchers suggest that the Attenborough's Rubber frog should be listed as Near Threatened instead, since the Piu Piu forest is formally protected and still largely unknown, so it is likely that there are more additional populations of the new species.

On the other hand, factors such as fungal infections, climate change, pollution and man-made fires continue to be threats for many Andean amphibians even inside protected areas.

"We dedicate this species to Sir David Frederick Attenborough in honour for his educational documentaries on wildlife, especially on amphibians (eg Life in Cold Blood,Fabulous Frogs), and for raising awareness about the importance of wildlife conservation," researchers said.

Among the numerous namesakes of Sir David Attenborough to date, there are a rare genus of beautiful flowering plants, a rare butterfly species, commonly known as the Attenborough's
black-eyed satyr, a flightless weevil species, as well as a number of extinct species.

The study was published in the journal ZooKeys.
5) Clown tree frogs—newly discovered and already threatened?, March 8, 2017

An international team of scientists discovered two new species of clown tree frogs in the Amazon region. Until recently, these colorful amphibians had erroneously been considered part of another species. Now, DNA studies and an analysis of the calls of the examined populations revealed a much higher diversity within this group of frogs. Due to their small distribution areas, it is likely that the newly discovered species are threatened, but the determination of their protection status is currently still pending. In their study, published today in the scientific journal PloS ONE, the scientists from six countries clearly show that a complete species inventory is only possible by means of international cooperation.

In the past decades, more than 810,000 square kilometers of rainforest have been destroyed in the Amazon region, and every day, species from all animal phyla disappear from this area. "Our new study shows once again that we are not even close to knowing the actual species diversity of South American frogs and that even supposedly widespread species may be endangered," explains Marcel Caminer, the study's lead author from the Universidad Católica del Ecuador and he continues, "During expeditions to six Amazonian countries, we examined the two clown tree frog species Dendropsophus leucophyllatus and Dendropsophus triangulum, which were hitherto considered 'universal' species, in greater detail and were able to show that they do not constitute two, but at least five and perhaps as many as seven different species – two of which we were able to describe for the first time.”

Clown tree frogs are a widespread group of frogs primarily found in the Amazon basis, but also in adjacent savannas. They owe their popular name to their remarkably bright colors. The newly discovered species occur in Bolivia and Peru and could only be revealed as separate species with the aid of "integrative taxonomy." "We compared morphological and genetic information as well as the frogs' calls with each other – and through a combination of the different methods we were then able to delimit the new species and show that the two previous species actually comprise an entire species complex", explains Dr. Martin Jansen of the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt. He is particularly thrilled by the discovery of a new species on the grounds of the "Chiquitos" research station, which is co-run by Senckenberg. "This beautiful frog serves as a "flag ship" that underlines the importance of biological field stations and the benefits of observing a region's nature over a period of many years, especially in the unexplored areas of mega-diversity countries."

The study, published on today's date, shows that the number of frog species is still greatly underestimated, particularly in the Neotropics. The reasons for this are the vast size of the Amazon basin and the lack of an area-wide, comprehensive scientific collection. Marcel Caminer comments as follows: "Amazonia is threatened by numerous influences. On the one hand, there is deforestation, mining and oil production; on the other hand, the global climate change. Therefore, it is important to achieve a complete species inventory in order to undertake the subsequent steps toward the protection of this biodiversity."

Even the two newly discovered clown tree frog species are likely threatened already: their distributions areas have a very limited extent and are endangered by habitat destruction. Jansen adds, "Only once we truly know all species and their distribution areas, will we be able to make well-founded statements regarding the effects of such factors as climate change, for example. However, the largest threat to amphibians worldwide continues to be the destruction of their habitats. Our study shows that effective protection measures require prior knowledge of the actual diversity of species and the study of their actual spatial distribution. To achieve this, we need a larger number of experts – taxonomic research is in higher demand today than ever before."

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Re: Newsletter

Posted: Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:20 pm
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1. Northeast Herpetology Workshop 2017

2) Help "Spring Forward" for Amphibians with FrogWatch USA™ Volunteers are needed to assist with amphibian conservation in local communities

3) 15 endangered turtles found smuggled in shoes: Taiwan Customs

4) Mate availability affects the trade-off between producing one or multiple annual clutches in Zootoca vivipara,

5) Sea snakes of the Gulf are focus of new research

6) Meet Diego, the Centenarian Whose Sex Drive Saved His Species By fathering hundreds.

1) Northeast Herpetology Workshop 2017

Dates: June 12-23, 2017 (weekend attendance is optional)

Location: New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC) in Stokes State Forest, Sussex County, New Jersey

Description: This workshop is an introduction to the reptiles and amphibians of the Northeast United States and the techniques that are used to conserve and study them in the field. Through numerous field activities, participants will acquire vital research skills and hands-on experience with the salamanders, frogs, toads, turtles, lizards, and snakes that call the Northeast home. A small number of classroom lectures and active learning discussions will also contribute to the learning experience.

The workshop includes:
• Discussions of reptile and amphibian natural history: their basic biology, life histories, and habitats
• Discussions on the conservation and management of reptiles and amphibians
• Discussions concerning study design
• Reptile and amphibian identification and taxonomy
• Identification of calling amphibians by ear
• Habitat, plant, and non-herp animal identification
• Reptile and amphibian sampling, trapping, and marking/tagging techniques
• Radiotelemetry
• Reptile and amphibian tissue sampling for DNA analysis
• Collection of occupancy, relative abundance, mark-recapture, physical, environmental, and geographic data
• Field note recordation and organization
• A primer in nature photography
• Day and night surveys for reptiles and amphibians
• Hikes through several diverse northeastern habitats
• Off-site field trips to the New Jersey Pine Barrens and urban habitats near NYC
• Participation in ongoing herpetological studies at the NJSOC and elsewhere
• Meals and lodging at the NJSOC

Qualifications: No experience is necessary but participants should be capable of college-level work and have strong interests in field biology, ecology, natural history, etc. Participants should also be in relatively good health and capable of hiking several miles in a range of conditions over moderate-difficult terrain.

Cost: The workshop will be divided into two one-week sessions, with each week-long session involving different schedules, activities, and learning experiences. Participants will have the option of taking the workshop for either one week (5 days) or two weeks (10 days). Cost is $750.00 per person for one week and $1000.00 per person for two weeks (discounts are available for early registrants; see registration below). These fees include instruction, meals, and lodging at the NJSOC.

Credit: Visiting undergraduate students who complete the workshop can obtain 1-3 transferable credits from Montclair State University or they can obtain credit from their home institution by completing the workshop as an independent study or special project (if their home institution approves). Non-credit options and course completion certificates are also available upon request. For all inquiries regarding academic credit, please contact Dr. Randall Fitzgerald at:
Registration: Class space is limited and participants will be admitted on a first come, first served basis. To reserve a seat, each participant must pay a non-refundable $250 deposit by May 1st 2017. Participants who pay in full by May 1st will receive a 10% discount on their registration. Late registrations will be welcome after May 1st if space is still available (please inquire). Full registration must be paid by June 1st 2017. Refunds will not be issued after June 1st.


More Information: ... rpetology/
2) Help "Spring Forward" for Amphibians with FrogWatch USA™ Volunteers are needed to assist with amphibian conservation in local communities

Media Contat Information-Rob Vernon, AZA-301-244-3352-

Press Release, Association of Zoos & Aquariums SILVER SPRING, MD--Marketwired - (March 10, 2017) -

Take advantage of Daylight Saving Time, and "Spring Forward" for amphibians by becoming a volunteer in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) FrogWatch USA™ citizen science program! There's no better way to celebrate the season than by taking action and engaging in conservation in your community.

FrogWatch USA is dedicated to collecting information about frog and toad populations, raising awareness about amphibians and wetlands, and engaging the public in science. Since 1998, FrogWatch USA volunteers have collected data on the frogs and toads heard calling in their local wetlands during evenings from February through August. Together, these volunteers contribute to a long-term, nationwide effort to gather information on species presence, habitat use, and changes over time.
Why frogs? Frogs and other amphibians play an important role in the health of ecosystems, but more than a third of the world's amphibian species are currently facing the largest mass extinction event since the dinosaurs. Even in the United States, previously abundant amphibian populations have experienced dramatic declines.

"The data collected by FrogWatch USA volunteers can be used to help understand how amphibian populations are changing over time and can inform conservation and management efforts," said Shelly Grow, AZA's Director of Conservation Programs. "Furthermore, learning to recognize and identify the frogs and toads calling at night is rewarding in itself and lets you appreciate your community and local wetlands in a whole new way.”

Want to get in on the fun while making a difference? Volunteers participating in FrogWatch USA do not have to be frog or toad experts to make important contributions. 145 FrogWatch USA chapters -- many of which are hosted by AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums -- are available across the nation to train and support people interested in becoming involved. Find a chapter near you and learn how to identify frogs and toads by their unique breeding calls, select a wetland monitoring site, and collect and submit the observations. Online courses are available to help people who do not live near a chapter or want a bit of a refresher. By participating in FrogWatch USA, volunteers can lend an ear for Wood Frogs, members of the Pacific Treefrog complex, and other early season breeders like the Spring Peepers, Upland Chorus Frogs, and Southern Leopard Frogs that can be heard in this audio recording.

FrogWatch USA data is accessible online by anyone with an interest in frogs and toads. Visit the website, managed by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, to register new monitoring sites, record observations, and use maps and graphs to examine observations alongside those of other volunteers throughout the country. "Leap" into FrogWatch USA's online communities on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and SoundCloud.
Learn more about FrogWatch USA and how you can participate by visiting
About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and eight other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit

3) 15 endangered turtles found smuggled in shoes: Taiwan Customs
The turtles were turned over to a wildlife center in northern Taiwan

By Matthew Lubin,Taiwan News, Staff Writer 3/13/17

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The Forestry Bureau said on March 13 that the Customs Administration confiscated 15 endangered turtles on flight FX5142 from Malaysia being smuggled inside sports shoes in parcels.

All of the turtles were alive when discovered by customs when the parcels were checked, and the Forestry Bureau has sent them to a wildlife center in northern Taiwan. The wildlife center works with academic institutions and the Taipei Zoo to ensure proper care of its animals.

The wildlife center has options for the endangered turtles, including returning them to their native habitats. No specific plan has been made at this time.

The Forestry Bureau plans to prosecute the smugglers. Relevant laws indicate offenders are subject to six months to five years in prison and a fine of NT$300,000 (US$9,700) to NT$1.5 million.
Among the turtles confiscated were one angonoka tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora) and 14 painted terrapins, or saw-jawed turtle (Batagur borneoensis). The angonoka tortoise is native to Madagascar and is one of the rarest land tortoises in the world with an estimated wild population of just 600. The painted terrapin is native to rainforests of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand and is a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II critically endangered species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

4) Mate availability affects the trade-off between producing one or multiple annual clutches in Zootoca vivipara,
Animal Behaviour, Volume 123, January 2017 Pages 43-51
Merel C. Breedvelda, b, c, , ,

Luis M. San-Josea, b, d, Cristina Romero-Diaza, b, Eduardo R.S. Roldane, Patrick S. Fitzea, b, d,


Breeding frequency is mediated by mate availability.

Mate availability affects the reproductive success of multiple broods.

The duration of mate exposure affected the date of reproduction.

The duration of mate exposure affected the degree of intersexual competition.

Long exposure to males leads to above optimal mating frequencies for females.

Females of many iteroparous species face trade-offs between producing one or multiple broods per reproductive season, and over fertilizing broods with sperm from the same or different mates. Both trade-offs might be affected by the availability of males (i.e. absence/presence of males) and the timing and duration of male encounters. Here, we experimentally manipulated the duration of mate availability at the first brood and mate availability per se (i.e. absence/presence of mates) at the second brood, and tested their effects on female and male reproductive success, using the common lizard, Zootoca vivipara, as a model species. Females were either exposed to males for a long period before their first annual reproduction and they could remate before their second annual reproduction (unrestricted treatment), or they were exposed to males for a short period before their first annual reproduction and were not allowed to remate (restricted treatment). Reproductive success of first clutches was not directly affected by the duration of access to males. Remating positively affected the probability of producing a second clutch, and the proportion of viable offspring. Remating by females also affected the reproductive success of males: fewer second clutch eggs were fertilized with stored sperm in unrestricted than restricted females. Sperm presence in males was high until the end of the remating period. Our results suggest a close coevolution between male and female reproductive strategies and point to facultative skipping of second broods when fitness benefits are small. This shows that behavioural strategies are at least partially responsible for multiple annual broods. These behavioural strategies are likely to be widespread, given the multitude of taxa raising multiple broods in some but not all years, and given that in most taxa some but not all individuals produce multiple annual broods.
5) Sea snakes of the Gulf are focus of new research

The National/UAE-Daniel Bardsley, 3/11/17

For many UAE residents, the only time they hear about sea snakes is when occasional warnings are made to beachgoers to steer clear of the creatures if they are found on the sand.

Although they are sometimes found washed up on beaches – they have difficulty moving on land, so can appear to be dead when they are alive – and are occasionally spotted in the water, sightings are not common for most of us.

Similarly, sea snakes in the Gulf have tended not to attract the attention of scientists.

Much of what is known about them is locally based on research from the first half of the 20th century. Such studies indicated that there were nine species of the subfamily Hydrophiinae, which includes sea snakes, in Gulf waters.

But researchers have now comprehensively updated their knowledge of local sea snakes by carrying out a detailed survey of their distribution in Gulf waters, work that has been published in the journal ZooKeys.

The study mostly looked at sea snakes found in fishing nets in Iranian waters as "bycatch", meaning they were not the vessels’ target species.
One of the researchers carrying out the fieldwork, and the senior author of the recent paper, was Mohsen Rezaie-Atagholipour, of the environmental management office of Qeshm Free Area Organisation.

During 2013 and 2014 he and his colleagues spent time on trawlers at several locations in Iranian waters, including in the Gulf of Oman, collecting sea snakes that had been caught in the nets. Fieldwork was also carried out in mangrove swamps.

In the two years that followed, the scientists, helped by a French-based researcher, Dr Nicolas Vidal, carried out a detailed analysis of the specimens to identify which species they came from.

They found that there were 10 species present from the Hydrophiinae family, which includes sea snakes. One of them, Microcephalophis cantoris, which was found in the Gulf of Oman, had not been definitively recorded in the area by scientists.

Until this study, the nearest confirmed findings of M cantoris had been made off Pakistan.

"It’s the first time it’s been found in this area and its range is extended for more than 400km," says Dr Vidal.

This species is, says Mr Rezaie-Atagholipour, very rare in the area, which could account for no previous scientific study having definitively identified it in the region.

"We reviewed all assessable literature but, except our record, there is no historical confirmed record of the species in both gulfs," says Mr Rezaie-Atagholipour.

"It, however, seems likely that the species is not abundant even in other parts of its geographical distribution range as we have few information about this species.”

As the scientists note in their paper, sea snakes of the Hydrophiinae family have a common ancestor dating back about 6 million years, although it is in the last 3.5 million years that most of the types that now exist evolved.
There are more than 60 species of hydrophiines in total, with the creatures being found off the east coast of Africa, off South Asia and around Australia and many other parts of Asia-Pacific. They evolved from Australia’s highly venomous land snakes, which helps to explain why they are venomous.

Typically growing 120 to 150 centimetres long, sea snakes have much reduced scales on their underside, meaning they are largely helpless on land. They have shorter tongues than land snakes, because detecting scents is easier in the water than on land. They have valves over their nostrils to keep out water and, as well as breathing through these nostrils, they can also exchange gases through their skin.

Catching prey is largely done through detecting vibrations or sounds and through smell; vision is less important.

They mostly eat fish and other sea life, such as crustaceans. Fortunately, they are not a major danger to people as they tend not to attack unless provoked and even when they do bite people, in most cases no venom is released.

The fact that sea snakes are often found in nets as bycatch raises the question of whether human activity is affecting their numbers. All species found locally, except M cantoris, are classified as "least concern" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

But there could still be issues over abundance locally, says Mr Rezaie-Atagholipour, because the union classification is based on the species’ abundance across its geographical range.

It does not mean that numbers in a specific habitat, such as the Gulf, are not falling.

He indicated that bycatch is probably the greatest anthropogenic threat to sea snakes in the area.

"Some people may think that fishing nets are not a threat for sea snakes because the body diameter of these tube-like creatures is smaller than the mesh size of most fishing nets. This is absolutely wrong," Mr Rezaie-Atagholipour says.

"Sea snakes can easily become entangled in fishing nets due to their long body. Most sea snakes I’ve collected from fishing nets were dead or badly injured, mostly because of pressure by other bycatch or drowning."
Sea snakes found locally are noteworthy, Mr Rezaie-Atagholipour says, because they had adapted to live in the harsh Gulf environment, where temperatures are high, there is little rainfall and the water is highly saline.

"Therefore, sea snake populations in the Gulf are important if we want to know what will be the effects of climate change and global warming on these highly venomous marine reptiles," he says.
"Nonetheless, our information about the biology and conservation status of sea snakes living in the Gulf is scarce. Unlike the Western Indo-Pacific region, known as a biodiversity hotspot for sea snakes, they are not diverse nor abundant in the Gulf.

"I always ask myself, do we have enough information about sea snakes living in the Gulf to know if we are losing them in our area? I feel disappointed when I see the answer is still ‘no’.”

A little more should be known about sea snakes locally when the scientists publish a further study that will look in more detail at the morphology (structure and appearance) and the genetics of the creatures. Fascinating but not well studied, the Gulf’s sea snakes should be yielding up a few more secrets in the years to come.

6) Meet Diego, the Centenarian Whose Sex Drive Saved His Species By fathering hundreds.

New York Times, 3/11/17 by Nicholas Caseymarch, Charles Darwin Research Station, Galápagos — Of all the giant tortoises on these islands, where the theory of evolution was born, only a few have received names that stuck.

There was Popeye, adopted by sailors at an Ecuadorean naval base. There was Lonesome George, last of his line, who spent years shunning the females with whom he shared a pen.
And there is Diego, an ancient male who is quite the opposite of George.

Diego has fathered hundreds of progeny — 350 by conservative counts, some 800 by more imaginative estimates. Whatever the figure, it is welcome news for his species, Chelonoidis hoodensis, which was stumbling toward extinction in the 1970s. Barely more than a dozen of his kin were left then, most of them female.

Then came Diego, returned to the Galápagos in 1977 from the San Diego Zoo.

“He’ll keep reproducing until death,” said Freddy Villalva, who watches over Diego and many of his descendants at a breeding center at this research facility, situated on a rocky volcanic shoreline. The tortoises typically live more than 100 years.

The tales of Diego and George demonstrate just how much the Galápagos — a province of Ecuador — have served as the world’s laboratory of evolution. So often here, the fate of an entire species, evolved over millions of years, can hinge on whether just one or two individual animals survive from one day to the next.

Diego, and his offspring, are part of one of the most high-profile efforts to keep Galápagos tortoise populations thriving. The tortoise, estimated to be perhaps a century old, is one of the main drivers of a remarkable recovery of the hoodensis species — now more than 1,000 strong on their native island of Española, one of the dozen Galápagos islands.

His story stands in contrast to Lonesome George, who was perhaps the most famous Galápagos resident when he died in 2012, at about 100 years old. His species, Chelonoidis abingdonii, now lives only on T-shirts and postcards because George, found in 1971 by a snail biologist on the island of Pinta, never produced any offspring in captivity.

An estimated 11 of about 115 known animal species have gone extinct since scientists began keeping records on the Galápagos. But the establishment of a national park, and the efforts of scientists, mean that extinctions are now a rarity. Which is why the death of George was such a blow.

Scientists did all they could to coax more abingdonii out of George and his mates. Only when George had died did an autopsy reveal it wasn’t lack of potency that impeded his reproduction, but a more anatomical ailment affecting his reproductive organ.

“We don’t like to talk about it,” said James P. Gibbs, a professor of vertebrate conservation biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, and one of the world’s experts on the tortoises, only half joking.

Dr. Gibbs had returned to the Galápagos that week from upstate New York to bring the stuffed remains of George and several expensive air-conditioning units and UV filters that would preserve the reptile in perpetuity in a mausoleum of sorts on one of the islands.

Both George and Diego had shells much smaller than many other species, and long necks to reach the few cactuses growing on their wind-swept island. In a way, those small shells were a curse on both their houses: Abingdonii and hoodensis were easy prey for the buccaneers and whalers who poured onto their islands in previous centuries and saw only defenseless, slow-moving meals that could easily be carted away.

Nor did it help that the giant tortoises of the Galápagos can survive for up to a year in the hull of a ship, meaning they provided a near-endless supply of fresh meat as they were stacked below decks by the hundreds. They were even tossed overboard when a ship needed to lose ballast for a quick getaway.

Among those who dined on giant tortoise flesh: Charles Darwin.

“We lived entirely on tortoise meat, the breastplate roasted … with flesh on it, is very good; and the young tortoises make excellent soup,” Darwin wrote in 1839, near the peak of the tortoise plunder in which some 200,000 were killed or carried away from the islands.

In the end, finches led him to the theory of evolution, not tortoises.

“He may have eaten his best specimens,” Dr. Gibbs said.

The recovery of Diego’s hoodensis species also brings up a quandary, one that perplexed Darwin during his adventures in the Galápagos more than a century ago, when he studied the fauna.

As Diego produces more offspring, and as those he has produced reproduce with one another, the entire hoodensis species could begin to look like Diego.

Evolutionary scientists call this process the bottleneck effect — when survivors’ genes come to dominate the gene pool as populations rebound. It’s particularly true on islands like Española, where tortoises from other lines will not breed with Diego’s kin.

Tortoise experts were divided on what risk that presents for hoodensis on a recent afternoon. Dr. Gibbs called it a “dangerous zone,” where little genetic diversity could mean susceptibility to a dangerous disease or changes in habitat because of climate change.

But Linda Cayot of the Galápagos Conservancy dissented, saying island species on the Galápagos have a long history of being decimated to just a few survivors that rebounded without incident — like a population of giant tortoises that chose to live in the caldera of a volcano. After the volcano exploded 100,000 years ago, the tortoises bounced back and returned to the caldera.

“Every species came from a bottleneck,” Dr. Cayot said. “It’s what happens in the Galápagos.”Dr. Gibbs noted that another male of Diego’s species, in captivity, is adding his own progeny to the gene pool, possibly even beyond the numbers of Diego. He has not been given as much credit, though, perhaps because he does not have a name. (He goes only by “Male No. 3.”)

Two days later, the scientists’ attention was back on George, whose embalmed body was being revealed for the first time on the Galápagos.

A kind of memorial ceremony was underway around dusk at the Charles Darwin center, attended by national park guards, air force officers and police officers. A government official stood to declare the tortoise’s body “cultural patrimony of the people.”

Someone presented a death mask of George, made shortly after he had died.

“It is a great honor to receive this relic,” said Fausto Llerena, George’s longtime caretaker, who spoke below a sign that read: “Lonesome George: A legacy, a future, a hope.

But maybe the real hope was elsewhere at the Darwin center.
Diego lounged in his pen with the females. His face was an old yellow color after four decades in the breeding pen, his shell looking like a house that could use a new coat of paint. He craned his neck to look around him.
“If you give him the chance, he bites you,” warned Mr. Villalva, the breeding center manager.

Before long, Diego had found a female. The act did not look easy, like one boulder trying to roll over another. January to June is the mating season, Mr. Villalva explained.

But not that afternoon. The female backed off into the bushes, and Diego landed with a thud that sent dust flying. After a moment, he scooted away.

For some great photos go to the original story at ... ntemail0=y

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