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News articles on herps
Mongabay.com news articles on herps in blog format. Updated regularly.
The biggest new species discoveries in 2011
(12/26/2011) Every year scientists describe thousands of species for the first time. 2011 was no different, so here's a look at some of the significant new species discoveries for the year. New species discoveries are bound to continue as genetic analysis becomes more widespread and scientists conduct surveys of ever more habitats. But species loss also continues, and that is something considerably more difficult to quantify. Cataloging the disappearance of a species is extremely costly -- final proof can take years. Nonetheless in 2011 the book was closed on two particularly conspicuous creatures: neither the Vietnamese rhino nor the western black rhino roam the wilds any more.
Photos: Red-and-green animals for Christmas
(12/24/2011) For the holidays, a set of red-and-green animals.
The dark side of new species discovery
(12/21/2011) Scientists and the public usually rejoice when a new species is discovered. But biologist Bryan Stuart has learned the hard way that the discovery of new species, especially when that species is commercially valuable, has a dark side-one that could potentially wipe out the new species before protections can be put in place. Stuart has discovered 27 species unknown previously to scientists - so far. That includes 22 species of frogs, three types of snakes, and two salamanders. His experience with one of these, a warty salamander from Laos with striking markings (Laotriton laoensis), opened his eyes to a dark side of scientific discovery: commercial overexploitation before protections are in place. Shortly after Stuart described the previously unknown species Paramesotriton laoensis in a scientific paper published in 2002, commercial dealers began collecting this Lao newt for sale into the pet trade. In essence, the dealers used Stuart's geographic description in the paper as a “roadmap” to find the rare newt.
Herpetology curator: behind-the-scenes of 'new species' discoveries
(12/18/2011) Bryan Stuart’s mission as a curator of amphibians and reptiles at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is to understand the diversity of life on earth. For that, he documents what species occur where and why. He’s particularly attracted to areas where there’s a dearth of knowledge, like Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Gabon, and so far has discovered 27 species unknown previously to scientists: three species of snakes, two types of salamanders, and 22 kinds of frogs.
The world's tiniest frogs, the size of a Tic Tac, discovered in New Guinea
(12/16/2011) Scientists have discovered the world's tiniest frogs in Papua New Guinea.
New large horned viper discovered, but biologists keep location quiet
(12/15/2011) In a remote forest fragment in Tanzania, scientists have made a remarkable discovery: a uniquely-colored horned viper extending over two feet long (643 millimeters) that evolved from its closest relative over two million years ago. Unfortunately, however, the new species—named Matilda's horned viper (Atheris matildae)—survives in a small degraded habitat and is believed to be Critically Endangered. Given its scarcity, its discoverers are working to pre-empt an insidious threat to new species.
Photos: 208 species discovered in endangered Mekong region in 2010
(12/14/2011) Last year researchers scoured forests, rivers, wetlands, and islands in the vanishing ecosystems of the Mekong Delta to uncover an astounding 208 new species over a twelve month period. A new report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) highlights a number of the new species—from a new snub-nosed monkey to five new meat-eating pitcher plants to a an all-female, cloning lizard—while warning that many of them may soon be gone as the Mekong Delta suffers widespread deforestation, over-hunting and poaching, massive development projects, the destruction of mangroves, pollution, climate change, and a growing population.
Giant snakes commonly attacked modern hunter-gatherers in Philippines
(12/13/2011) Humans have an ambivalent relationship with snakes. The legless reptiles are often feared and reviled, becoming stand-ins for the Devil and movie monster characters; yet many people have grown to love snakes, raising large, even dangerous, specimens as pets. Now, new research suggests that the ecological role between snakes and humans, as well as other primates, is more nuanced than expected. After spending decades living among the Agta Negritos people in the Philippines, anthropologist Thomas Headland has found that the hunter gatherer tribes were quite commonly attacked by reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus), while the people themselves had no qualms with hunting, killing, and consuming python.
New species of frog sings like a bird
(12/12/2011) If you're trudging through the high-altitude rainforests of northern Vietnam and you hear bird song, you might want to check the trees for frogs. Yes, that's right: frogs. A new species of tree frog has been discovered in Vietnam that researchers say has a uniquely complex call that makes it sound more like a bird than a typical frog. Discovered in Pu Hoat Proposed Nature Reserve, the new species, dubbed Quang's tree frog (Gracixalus quangi), dwells in the forests at an altitude 600-1,300 meters (nearly 2,000-4,265 feet).
Picture of the day: the endangered Toad Mountain Harlequin Toad
(12/09/2011) Atelopus certus is an endangered species of harlequin toad that is endemic to the Darien region of eastern Panama. It is primarily at risk from the spread of chytridiomycosis, a deadly fungal disease, that has been killing amphibians through Central America and other parts of the world.
Picture of the day: emerald-eyed tree frog
(12/09/2011) The emerald eyed tree frog (Hypsiboas crepitans) is found widely across tropical Latin America, ranging from Panama to Peru to Brazil. It is found both in pristine habitats and areas heavily impacted by humans.
Picture of the day: Blue-and-yellow poison frog
(12/08/2011) The blue-and-yellow poison dart frog (Dendrobates tinctorius) — often called the dyeing dart frog — is found in the rainforests and savannas of Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, and northern Brazil. Across its range there are several color forms.
Picture of the day: Amazonian shaman with hallucinogenic frog
(12/06/2011) The giant monkey frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor) is known for its mind-altering skin secretions. A small handful of tribes deep in the Amazonian rainforest between Peru and Brazil have used this species in hunting rituals.
Picture of the day: Red-eyed tree frog relaxing on a branch
(12/05/2011) In recognition of Amphibian Ark winning mongabay.com's 2011 conservation award, our pictures of the day this week will focus on amphibians.
$500 offered for rediscovery of extinct snake
(11/29/2011) Need to make a quick 500 bucks? Easy: head to Glades County, Florida and find a specimen of the South Florida rainbow snake (Farancia erytrogramma seminola), which the US government says is extinct. In an unusual bid two NGOS, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Center for Snake Conservation, are offering a substantial reward to the first person who can prove that the South Florida rainbow snake has not vanished forever.
Extinct frog rediscovered in Israel
(11/21/2011) After its marshland was drained, researchers thought the Hula painted frog (Discoglossus nigriventer) had vanished for good. However a patrol at the Ha-Hula lake in Israel recently discovered a single female amphibian that turned out to be the long-lost, and long-sought, Hula painted frog.
Snake laundering rampant in the Indonesian reptile export market
(11/21/2011) Breeding farms in Indonesia are being used to launder illegally caught wildlife, finds a new study published in the journal Biological Conservation. The research is based on surveys of traders who supply the market for green pythons, a non-venomous snake popular in the pet trade for its many color forms. The authors tracked pythons from their point of capture in Indonesian New Guinea and Maluku to breeding farms in Jakarta where the snakes are exported for the pet trade as 'captive-bred'. They found that 80 percent of snakes exported annually from Indonesia are illegally wild-caught.
Photos: 40% of Madagascar's reptiles at risk of extinction
(11/10/2011) 40 percent of Madagascar's terrestrial reptiles are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and over-collection for the pet trade, reports the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its latest update of the Red List of Threatened Species.
Museum specimens reveal the tracks of an amphibian epidemic
(11/07/2011) Dead men tell no tales, but dead frogs can speak volumes. Scientists have shown that frogs and salamanders preserved in museums tell the history of a deadly fungus and its spread across Mexico and Central America. The new finding, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), may help explain past and ongoing amphibian die-offs in the region.
New site is a match-maker for world's endangered frogs
(11/03/2011) A new initiative by the conservation group, Amphibian Ark, hopes to match lonely, vanishing frogs with a prince/princess to to save them. Dubbed FrogMatchMaker.com after online dating sites, the program is working to connect supporters and donors with amphibian conservation programs in need. Currently, amphibians are among the world's most imperiled species with 41 percent threatened with extinction according to the IUCN Red list.
Saving Ghana's vanishing frogs
(11/02/2011) Frogs need all the help they can get. With the IUCN Red List estimating that 41 percent of amphibians are endangered, frogs are currently the world's most imperiled animal family. Scientists estimate that around 200 amphibian species have been lost to extinction in recent decades to habitat loss, pollution, and a devastating fungal disease. Yet as the frog emergency worsens, there have been positive movements in conservation. The most recent comes from the small West African country of Ghana. Partnering with the enthusiastic US-based organization, SAVE THE FROGS!, two Ghanaian herpetologists, Gilbert Baase Adum and Caleb Ofori, have started a sister branch in their country: SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana.
Animal picture of the day: Halloween frog mounts pumpkin
(10/27/2011) A Halloween enrichment exercise for a giant monkey frog at ZSL London.
Old trees necessary for nesting animals
(10/17/2011) Aged, living trees are essential for over 1,000 birds and mammals that depend on such trees for nesting holes, according to a study in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. In much of the world, tree-nesting animals depend on holes formed through maturity and decay—and not woodpeckers—requiring standing old trees.
Little-known animal picture of the day: salmon-bellied snake
(10/11/2011) The salmon-bellied snake (Mastigodryas melanolomus) is found in Central American forests, savannas, and even agricultural areas. It preys on lizards, frogs, and rodents.
Pictures: 12 new species of frog discovered in India
(09/15/2011) Scientists have discovered 12 new species of frogs in the rainforests of India's Western Ghats, according to a paper published in the latest issue of ZooTaxa.
Scientists discover giant species of crocodile; luckily it is extinct
(09/15/2011) Researchers excavating a coal mine in Colombia have discovered a previously unknown species of prehistoric crocodile. The beast is described in the September 15 issue of the journal Palaeontology.
Sea turtle deaths in U.S. waters reduced 90%, but shrimp trawling accounts for 98% of kill
(09/14/2011) The number of sea turtles accidentally caught and killed in United States coastal waters has declined by an estimated 90 percent since 1990, reports a new study published in the journal Biological Conservation. The authors, including researchers at Duke University and Duke University, say regulations to reduce bycatch are responsible for the decline.
Authorities capture the biggest crocodile ever recorded (PHOTO)
(09/06/2011) Authorities in the Philippines captured the largest crocodile on record after a series of fatal attacks, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Baby animal picture of the day: rare Rare Siamese crocodiles hatch in Laos
(08/30/2011) Conservationists are celebrating the hatch of 20 critically endangered Siamese crocodiles at the Laos Zoo, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Could zooplankton save frogs from deadly epidemic?
(08/26/2011) Scientists have discovered that a species of zooplankton will eat a fungal pathogen that is killing amphibians around the world.
Picture of the day: milking a fer-de-lance
(08/24/2011) If you're unfortunate enough to be bit by a venomous snake in South America, its most likely the fer-de-lance (Bothrops atrox).
Photos: 10 new frogs discovered in India's great rainforest
(08/09/2011) Ten new species of frog have been discovered in India's Western Ghats according to two new papers in Biosystematica. Although human populations have farmed in the Western Ghats for centuries, the new discoveries prove that the rainforest still holds many surprises. The Western Ghats lie along India's west coast and have been dubbed one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, but the rich wildlife is imperiled by rising human impacts.
Balancing agriculture and rainforest biodiversity in India’s Western Ghats
(08/08/2011) When one thinks of the world's great rainforests the Amazon, Congo, and the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and Indonesia usually come to mind. Rarely does India—home to over a billion people—make an appearance. But along India’s west coast lies one of the world's great tropical forests and biodiversity hotspots, the Western Ghats. However it's not just the explosion of life one finds in the Western Ghats that make it notable, it's also the forest's long—and ongoing—relationship to humans, lots of humans. Unlike many of the world's other great rainforests, the Western Ghats has long been a region of agriculture. This is one place in the world where elephants walk through tea fields and tigers migrate across betel nut plantations. While wildlife has survived alongside humans for centuries in the region, continuing development, population growth and intensification of agriculture are putting increased pressure on this always-precarious relationship. In a recent paper in Biological Conservation, four researchers examine how well agricultural landscapes support biodiversity conservation in one of India's most species-rich landscapes.
Singing frog leads to insights into human hearing
(08/03/2011) New understanding of how female tungara frogs sort out the din of multiple males singing may lead to insights into human hearing, according to a new study in Nature Communications.
July in review: lizards, alligator-eating pythons, toads, and an Arctic heatwave
(08/02/2011) Herps dominated the list of popular mongabay.com stories for the month of July.
Animal picture of the day: the Jesus Christ lizard
(08/01/2011) The basilisk lizard walks on water. To escape danger the lizard will race across a stream, sprinting, literally, off the water's surface. But despite its nickname of 'Jesus Christ lizard' this is not a miracle, but adaptation.
Animal picture of the day: baby Nile crocodile
(07/26/2011) One day this baby Nile crocodile could reach 20 feet (6 meters) long. Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) range throughout sub-Saharan Africa and even make their home on the island of Madagascar.
Picture of the day: unusually blue animals
(07/21/2011) Following up on yesterday's post on the spectacular blue anole from the Colombian island of Gorgona, here is a small collection of pure blue animals I've photographed. Birds and fish are excluded from the list since there are many blue species.
Animal picture of the day: the world's most blue lizard?
(07/20/2011) The blue anole is one of the world's most spectacular reptiles. Found only on the island of Gorgona, the blue anole is so elusive and rare that scientists have been unable to give an estimate of its population. However it is considered threatened due to its dependence on its small island habitat.
Blue iguana back from the dead
(07/18/2011) The blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi) was once king of the Caribbean Island, Grand Cayman. Weighting in at 25 pounds, measuring over 5 feet, and living for over sixty years, nothing could touch this regal lizard. But then the unthinkable happened: cars, cats, and dogs, along with habitat destruction, dethroned Grand Cayman's reptilian overlord. The lizard went from an abundant population that roamed the island freely to practically assured extinction. In 2002, researchers estimated that two dozen—at best—survived in the wild. Despite the bleak number, conservationists started a last ditch effort to save the species. With help from local and international NGOs, the effort, dubbed the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, has achieved a rarity in conservation. Within nine years it has raised the population of blue iguanas by twenty times: today 500 wild blue iguanas roam Salina Reserve.
Animal photo of the day: the brilliant Red-eyed Tree Frog
(07/16/2011) The red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas) is one of the most colorful and best-known tree frogs.
Brainy lizards rival birds in intelligence
(07/13/2011) Reptiles have long been thought to be dim-witted, but a new study in Biology Letters finds that the Puerto Rican anole, a type of lizard, can match birds in smarts. Using cognitive tests that have been previously used on birds, researchers with Duke University found that the lizards were capable of solving a problem they've never encountered before, remembering the solution in future trials, and even changing techniques when presented with new challenges. In fact, the tiny anoles solved the test with fewer tries than birds. Given reptiles' reputation of being slow-on-the uptake the head author, Manuel Leal, said the findings are 'completely unexpected'.
Endangered Madagascar wildlife on sale in Thailand
(06/19/2011) Conservation group TRAFFIC uncovered nearly 600 Madagascar reptiles and amphibians on sale in Thai markets, including endangered species and those banned for sale by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The animals, representing 24 reptiles species and 9 amphibians, are being sold for the international pet trade. "We know there is a significant ongoing illegal trade in protected species from Madagascar, mainly destined for Asia, which has been exacerbated by the current political situation in the country leading to weaker enforcement of existing laws and safeguarding of protected areas," says Richard Hughes, WWF’s Representative in Madagascar.
Over 900 species added to endangered list during past year
(06/16/2011) The past twelve months have seen 914 species added to the threatened list by the world's authority of species endangerment, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Red List. Over 19,000 species are now classified in one of three threatened categories, i.e. Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered, a jump of 8,219 species since 2000. Species are added to the threatened list for a variety of reasons: for many this year was the first time they were evaluated, for others new information was discovered about their plight, and for some their situation in the wild simply deteriorated. While scientists have described nearly 2 million species, the IUCN Red List has evaluated only around 3 percent of these.
Photos: 600 new species discovered in Madagascar since 1999
(06/06/2011) More than 600 species of plants and animals have been described in Madagascar over the past decade, reiterating the position of Indian Ocean island as one of the world's top biodiversity hotspots, says a new report issued today by WWF.
Traditional Chinese medicine trade takes toll on Indonesia's geckos
(06/01/2011) The call of the tokek, or gecko, is one of the most familiar sounds in Indonesia. Next to the smell of clove cigarettes, the calls to prayer, the friendly smiles and the ferocious afternoon rainstorms, it stands as one of the most easily identifiable characteristics of the country.
World's 'most social' lizard builds multigenerational homes
(05/31/2011) Researchers from Macquarie University in Australia have discovered that the threatened great desert burrowing skink lizard forms stable families that construct and maintain elaborate underground homes, reports ABC News. This is the first lizard in the world known to practice such familial behavior. Native to central Australia, researchers are conducting studies on the great desert skink (Liopholis kintorei) at Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, where rangers monitor the threatened species. Over 5,000 species of lizard have been documented globally, but only the Uluru skinks live together in immediate and social families that invest in the construction of long-lasting homes.
Amphibian-plague strikes frogs harder in pristine ecosystems
(05/31/2011) Frog populations worldwide are facing two apocalypses: habitat destruction and a lethal plague, known as chytridiomycosis. Over 30 percent of the world's amphibians are currently threatened with extinction and it is thought at least 120 species have gone extinct in just the last 30 years. Unfortunately, a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) finds that the two threats—habitat loss and chytridiomycosis—are likely to leave no frog population undisturbed. According to the study, frogs that live in still-pristine habitats are more susceptible to chytridiomycosis than those that are already suffering from habitat loss.
Photos: the top ten new species discovered in 2010
(05/23/2011) If we had to characterize our understanding of life on Earth as either ignorant or knowledgeable, the former would be most correct. In 250 years of rigorous taxonomic work researchers have cataloged nearly two million species, however scientists estimate the total number of species on Earth is at least five million and perhaps up to a hundred million. This means every year thousands of new species are discovered by researchers, and from these thousands, the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University selects ten especially notable new species.
North America's tiniest turtle vanishing
(05/12/2011) Despite decades of conservation work, populations of North America's smallest turtle, the bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii), is continuing to decline. Habitat destruction, invasive plants, road-kill, and the illegal pet trade have all played a role in the bog turtle historic decline, but researchers are now reporting increased mortalities across bog turtle populations, bringing fears of disease or an as-yet-unnamed environmental issue.
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