Monday, 31 July 2017

Three species of tiny frogs discovered in Peruvian Andes

Date:  July 27, 2017
Source:  University of Michigan

Summary:  Three more frog species have been discovered in the Peruvian Andes, raising to five the total number of new frog species the group has found in a remote protected forest since 2012.

Baby western swamp tortoises set for release into wild (Australia) – via Herp Digest

By Loukas Fountain,, 7/10/17 

Three of Australia's rarest reptiles have been given a health check as they prepare to move from captivity into the wild.

Adelaide Zoo is one of just two zoos worldwide to house and breed the western swamp tortoise.

The zoo is celebrating a successful breeding season, which saw four baby tortoises hatching, each the size of a coin.

Native to Western Australia, in the mid-1980s it was estimated there were fewer than 50 tortoises left in the wild.

They now only live in the wild in two small habitats in the Swan Valley, north-east of Perth.

Zoos SA received its first western swamp tortoises as part of an agreement with Perth Zoo in 2003, but breeding did not start for several years due to issues with incubation.

Since 2012, Zoos SA has successfully bred and raised 16 of the reptiles, with nine already making the journey back to WA to be released into the wild.
The reptile was thought to have been extinct for more than 100 years until a random discovery in 1953.

"It really was a chance discovery. A kid took one into a country fair, it was identified as a swamp tortoise and things have progressed from there," Zoos SA reptile keeper John Della said.

Perth Zoo has since bred more than 800 of the tortoises and released 600 into four separate nature reserves.
Adelaide Zoo has eight adult breeding tortoises, all from Perth Zoo, and three were born last year.

Those three are being prepared to move back to Perth in September, but were woken from a six month hibernation period on Monday to be cleaned, weighed and returned to a pond to gain weight ahead of their move.

"Most tortoises would hibernate over winter in the cooler months," Mr Della said.
"These guys need to aestivate over summer because that's when their ponds dry out and they've got no water, so they'll find some nice leaf litter to bury themselves in and basically sleep there until the rains come.

"Then they go back to their ponds, their food sources come back and they can start breeding.”

It takes about three years for keepers to determine the gender of each tortoise and the reptiles will not breed until they are aged about seven.

Later this month, Perth Zoo will send another breeding pair to Adelaide to be housed at Monarto Zoo, near Murray Bridge.

Australian man convicted after exporting native reptiles to Italy in socks – via Herp Digest

Xinuhua News, Editor, Mengjie, Melbourne, 7/10/17

 (Xinhua) -- An Australian man has been convicted after he shipped native Australian lizards to Italy inside pairs of socks, local media reported Monday.

Craig James Pender, a Victorian man, was convicted of illegally importing and exporting illegal reptiles.

Pender exported 13 Australian reptiles to Italy, including five blue-tongue lizards, four spiny-tailed skinks and four shingleback lizards, tucked inside pairs of socks which were in turn stuffed into a speaker system.

The discovery of the lizards by Italian customs staff prompted a joint investigation between Victorian and Australian agriculture departments of Victoria which resulted in Pender's arrest.

It is believed the man was part of an international smuggling ring specializing in exotic reptiles.

Robyn Cleland, head of compliance for the federal agriculture department, said that biosecurity officials would pursue other members of the smuggling ring.
"Exotic animals can introduce devastating pests and diseases," Cleland told Australian media on Monday.

"Mr Pender's irresponsible actions placed our national wildlife, environment and industries at great risk.”

A search warrant carried out during the investigation into Pender found illegally imported hog-nosed snakes in his house.

The investigation also turned up links between Pender and Norwegian man Bard Alexander Meringen, who was arrested in Norway with more than 200 live reptiles in his home.

Pender was also convicted of illegally importing four green tree pythons into Australia in 2009.

People convicted of importing or exporting a threatened species in Australia face a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment, a penalty that could be increased to 10 years if the species is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Cricket's summer song making a comeback

By Helen BriggsBBC News
29 July 2017

The cheep, cheep, cheep of a cricket in the grass is the quintessential sound of summer.

As I crunch over heathland in search of the elusive insect, the song fills the air, as if conjured up by a magician.

My companion, Mike Coates, the warden here at RSPB Farnham Heath, beams with delight.
Earlier, before setting out for the reserve, he'd warned me that the insects are rare, and might not perform on cue.

"It's not so much looking, we're going to be listening mostly for the sound of male field crickets chirruping in order to attract a mate," he explained, over a mug of tea in the staff portacabin.

"It's just a brilliant noise. It's like summer translated into sound - it's fantastic."

DNA Analysis Reveals Why 'Water Bears' Are the World's Toughest Animals

By Jen Viegas, Seeker | July 29, 2017 08:10am ET

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are less than a fraction of an inch in length, yet they are believed to be Earth's toughest, hardiest animals. They are virtually indestructible. Tardigrades have the ability to withstand complete dehydration. Once desiccated, they have been frozen in blocks of ice, exposed to radiation, and sent into the vacuum of space, and yet they still usually spring back to life when water becomes available again.

New genetic research, published in the journal PLOS Biology, reveals how tardigrades achieve such resurrections after drying to a crisp. The authors now even believe that alien life forms could possess this remarkable ability.

"If life exists on other planets, and it is water-based, then those organisms that live out of water will evolve to resist extreme events, including the threat of drying out," said co-author Mark Blaxter of the University of Edinburgh's Institute of Evolutionary Biology.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Moving Nose to Tail, Shrew 'Conga Line' Shimmies Online

By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer | July 27, 2017 04:52pm ET

A creepy, crawly video of tiny critters holding each other's tails and scurrying across the ground like a furry centipede has captured the internet's attention.

Called "The NOPE train," the video has garnered nearly 3 million views since it was posted to Imgur on Monday (July 24). Commenters got creative, calling the furry unit "the human centipede: mice edition," a "rat king in the making" and a "fluffy snake." One user wryly posted, "The caboose is a bit wobbly."

At least two commenters got the animal right: They're shrews. And not just any shrews — that fuzzy conga is a mother shrew leading her babies in a train, known as a caravan, according to Cynthia Alvarado, a clinical veterinarian at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Orca Calf Dies at SeaWorld: Why Killer Whales Get Sick in Captivity

By Tracy Staedter, Live Science Contributor | July 27, 2017 06:15pm ET

A 3-month-old orca calf named Kyara died this past weekend, possibly from pneumonia, at SeaWorld San Antonio. This isn't the first occasion of a killer whale dying in captivity.

Dozens of other captive killer whales, including the SeaWorld orca named Tilikum, who was made famous in the documentary "Blackfish," have also died from bacterial infections.

According to SeaWorld’s press statement, Kyara's death, which is still being investigated, was not the result of living in captivity. But some experts in marine mammal research say that the living conditions contribute to disease.

Why a New York Bay Is Crucial to Baby Sand Tiger Sharks

By Merry Camhi, Wildlife Conservation Society | July 28, 2017 04:01pm ET

Dr. Merry Camhi is director of the WCS New York Aquarium's New York Seascape Program, an initiative of the Wildlife Conservation Society. She has a doctorate in ecology from Rutgers University. Camhi contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Yes, it's that special time again — Shark Week, the Discovery Network's celebration of all things chondrichthyan, when sharks are on the air … andin our waters. 

In urban New York City, mention "shark" any other time of year, people might think of lawyers, cards and loans. Most folks are surprised to learn that at least 26 species of sharks and 14 species of skates and rays (sharks' close cousins) ply the coastal and offshore waters of New York, especially from spring to fall.   

Viral video of child with 12ft snake sparks online debate – via Herp Digest

Video at

The Scottsman, July 10, 2017

An online video on a Harry Potter fan page involving a young girl wrapped in a large snake has sparked an online debate.

The video, titled “Raising a young Slytherin” shows a girl sitting as a snake perches just above her on the couch.

The Harry Potter fan site is clearly linking video to Parseltongue, the language of serpents linked to Slytherin House in Harry Potter.

In the video, as the girl says “do it” the snake opens its mouth in apparent yawn.

However, the post has sparked an online debate over the safety of the child.

Some users have expressed concern while others have praised the parents for making sure the child feels comfortable with snakes

User Emily Parvin wrote: “It’s an albino python. They will stop eating when sizing something up so no need to worry as long as it’s eating the food on offer to it.

“If it stops eating, then you should be concerned. As for not being dangerous, of course it’s dangerous, but so can any animal be. I love snakes though. But I’ll stick to cats for pets.”

Shannon Kerr posted: “Having a snake is just like having a dog or anything else like that, yeh it’s quite unlikely but if it wanted to the dog could snap and bite a child just like a snake could wrap itself around you but honestly, most PET snakes I’ve met are pretty chill.”

Dorothy Locke Mancinelli wrote: “Well this is a news story waiting to happen. I get of it were a little corn snake or something but this is just stupid. Haven’t we seen the stories of snakes that were “gentle” or “harmless” that have strangled kids or the family dog or cat? Stupid stupid stupid!”

A debate has been sparked over the safety concerns with Jordan Pemble writing: “Yeah, no freakin way. That snake is sizing that child up to eat.”

The video has been viewed more than 319,000 times on the page alone.

Three Turtle Smugglers are Caught – via Herp Digest

Malayanclean, 7/19/17

Three more down, plenty more to go.

Two Thais and a Malaysian man have been arrested for trying to smuggle eight rare sulcata tortoises, also known as African spurred tortoises (Centrochelys sulcata), through Malaysia’s border with Thailand. The trio of smugglers, who were between 24 and 28, tried to cross the border with the reptiles hidden in their car via Perlis. The three men are facing a prison term of up to two years and a fine of up to RM50,000, or both, for violating anti-trafficking laws.

Most likely, the African tortoises were destined for Malaysia’s booming exotic pet trade where the animals are prized by many turtle enthusiasts. Numerous exotic turtles are smuggled into the country and out of it with depressing regularity. Often trafficked turtles don’t survive their ordeals, suffocating or starving to death in boxes where they’re bound up in duct tape to stop them from moving around.

There’s also a thriving market in them within Malaysia, where turtles and other exotic animals are often traded online. Small and juvenile turtles are especially prized. As we have pointed out repeatedly here on Clean Malaysia, just as all other trades, legal or illegal, wildlife trafficking, too, responds to demand. We can all reduce or even eliminate that demand by refusing to buy or sell endangered animals and by reporting those people who continue to traffic in them.

“Turtle species are seriously threatened [and] nowhere more so than in Asia with 17 of the 25 most critically endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles on the IUCN Red List found in the region,” James Tallant, a senior program officer for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, recently pointed out.

All illegal trade in exotic turtles and other vulnerable species of wildlife (be they reptiles, mammals, fish or birds) must stop.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Native leech preys on invasive slug?

Date: July 21, 2017
Source: Hokkaido University

Summary: Citizen science has revealed the spread of the invasive giant slug Limax maximus and its potential native predator in Japan, providing new insights into predator-prey dynamics between introduced prey and native predators.

Humans identify emotions in the voices of all air-breathing vertebrates

Joint press release by Ruhr-Universität Bochum and Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Date: July 26, 2017
Source: Ruhr-University Bochum

Summary: Amphibians, reptiles, mammals -- all of them communicate via acoustic signals. And humans are able to assess the emotional value of these signals. The authors interpreted their findings as evidence that there might be a universal code for the vocal expression and perception of emotions in the animal kingdom.

DNA links male, female butterfly thought to be distinct species

Date: July 27, 2017
Source: Florida Museum of Natural History

Summary: Researchers recently discovered what was thought to be a distinct species of butterfly is actually the female of a species known to science for more than a century.An international team of nine butterfly researchers from the U.S., Brazil, the U.K., Peru and Germany used DNA sequence data to associate the female sunburst cerulean-satyr, or Caeruleuptychia helios, an Amazonian brush-footed butterfly, with its male counterpart.
Males and females of this group look dramatically different from each other, a phenomenon known as sexual dimorphism, and the species was named and described in 1911 based on the brilliantly iridescent blue males. Rarer than the male, the brown female was considered another species and was recently named and placed in a different genus, Magneuptychia keltoumae.


People and wildlife now threatened by rapid destruction of Central America's forests

'Human Footprint and Cow's Hoofprint' report shows illegal cattle ranching is responsible for more than 90 percent of forest loss in remaining wildlife strongholds

Date: July 26, 2017
Source: Wildlife Conservation Society

Summary: Central America's largest remaining forests are disappearing at a precipitous rate due to illegal cattle ranching, oil palm plantations, and other human-related activities, all of which are putting local communities and the region's wildlife species at high risk, explains a new report.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Decoding ants' coat of many odors

Date:  July 10, 2017
Source:  Vanderbilt University

Summary:  Biologists report a major advance in deciphering the molecular genetics underlying the ant's high-definition sense of smell, an ability that has allowed them to create the most complicated social organization on earth next to humans.

Baits may be bolstering bear populations

Date:  July 7, 2017
Source:  Wiley

Summary:  Baits used by hunters have become a substantial portion of black bears' diets, research shows. In northern Wisconsin, over 40 percent of the diet of harvested animals consisted of bait subsidies.

Monarch butterfly parasitoids brough to light by citizen science

'Unprecedented view' of parasitoid presence in monarch larval ecology

Date:  July 10, 2017
Source:  Entomological Society of America

Summary:  Scientists now know more than ever about the flies that attack monarch butterfly caterpillars, thanks to citizen science. Since 1999, volunteers participating in the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project have collected and raised more than 20,000 monarch eggs and caterpillars, and they've recorded incidents of those specimens being parasitized by fly larvae.

Undersea robot reveals 'schools' of animals in deep scattering layers

Date:  July 10, 2017
Source:  Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Summary:  Throughout the world ocean, animals congregate at certain depths. A new paper shows that, rather than consisting of a random mixture of animals, these deep-scattering layers contain discrete groups of squids, fishes, and crustaceans.

Prelude to global extinction: Human impact on Earth's animals

Biologists say disappearance of species tells only part of the story of human impact on Earth's animals

Date:  July 10, 2017
Source:  Stanford University

Summary:  In the first such global evaluation, biologists found more than 30 percent of all vertebrates have declining populations. They call for curbs on the basic drivers of these losses.

Three tonnes of ivory seized in Vietnam

July 9, 2017

The global trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after populations of the African giants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to around 600,000 by the end of the 1980s

Vietnamese authorities have seized nearly three tonnes of ivory hidden among boxes of fruit, officials said Sunday, the latest haul to spotlight the country's key role in the global wildlife smuggling trade.

Police in the central province of Thanh Hoa found 2.7 tonnes of tusks inside cartons on the back of a truck that was on its way to Hanoi, according to a report on their website.

"This is the largest seizure of smuggled ivory ever in Thanh Hoa province," the report said.

State media said the elephant tusks originated from South Africa.

The truck driver claimed he was unaware of what he was transporting, according to a report in state-controlled Tuoi Tre newspaper.

Police declined to comment further when contacted by AFP on Sunday.

The global trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after populations of the African giants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to around 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.
There are now believed to be some 4
5,000, with 30,000 illegally killed each year.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Frogs may have evolved the first kneecaps on Earth

7 July 2017

By Andy Coghlan

Frogs legs have sprung a big surprise – contrary to textbook biology, they have primitive kneecaps.

The kneecaps are made of dense, fibrous cartilage rather than bone, and appear to be much better suited to soaking up the strains of leaping and jumping than the bony human patella.
They may have been missed until now because they are not clearly visible on frog leg bones, even with a microscope, says Virginia Abdala of Argentina’s Institute of Neotropical Biodiversity, who led the investigation. The researchers analysed full skeletons of 20 species, but they were only able to see kneecaps in the eight specimens from which they took tissue slices for analysis.

One implication of the discovery is that kneecaps like this began to evolve in the Devonian period 400 million years ago, when the first four-legged animals reached land, the researchers say.

“Until now it was thought that the evolution of kneecaps coincided with the arrival of tetrapods that lay eggs on land or retain fertilised eggs in the body,” says Abdala. This investigation shows that the process really started with fibrocartilage in frogs, she says.

Spiders lure bees for dinner by making flowers look flashier

10 July 2017

By Katie Langin

Ambush hunters normally rely on the element of surprise, opting to stay hidden until the moment of attack. But some spiders go for a flashier strategy. They reflect UV light, which makes the flowers they sit on appealing to bees – a bizarre strategy that has evolved multiple times in crab spiders, which ambush their prey instead of catching it in webs.

Felipe Gawryszewski at the Federal University of Goiás in Brazil and his team collected individuals from 68 species of crab spider in Australia, Europe and Malaysia. All of the species hunted insects using a sit, wait and pounce strategy, but some did so on drab substrates like bark and leaves while others hunted on flowers.

Using genetic information from all these species, the team pieced together a “family tree”, which showed that the flower-based hunting strategy evolved multiple times. What’s more, flower-dwelling crab spiders reflected more UV light than non-flower dwellers.
This appears to be an effective hunting strategy as bees are more likely to visit flowers when UV-reflecting spiders are perched atop them.

Ancient species of ‘supercroc’ had serrated, T. Rex-like teeth

July 6, 2017

by Chuck Bednar

A giant crocodile-like creature that lived in Madagascar more than 150 million years ago had a large jaw and serrated teeth similar to those of the Tyrannosaurus rex, suggesting that it, like the predatory dinosaur, fed on bones and other hard animal tissues, a new study has revealed.

The species, whose scientific name is Razanandrongobe sakalavae (“giant lizard ancestor from Sakalava region”), had straight legs and a skull unlike those of modern-day crocodiles, according to BBC News. It is thought to be the earliest and largest member of a group of early crocodilians known as Notosuchians – a clade which lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

In fact, in a press release, lead author Cristiano Dal Sasso from the Natural History Museum of Milan and his colleagues reported that Razanandrongobe sakalavae (Razana, for short) predates what had been the earliest-known Notosuchians by around 42 million years.

Based on the shape of the skull and an analysis of the creature’s anatomical features, Dal Sasso and his colleagues identified Razana as a relative of South American baurusuchids and sebecids, a group of predators that had deep skulls and powerful erect limbs. Razana was reportedly about 7 meters long and weighed between 800 and 1,000 kilograms (about 1,700 to 2,200 pounds).

A twist in the tail: Flying fish give clues to 'tandem wing' airplane design

Date:  July 5, 2017
Source:  Society for Experimental Biology

Summary:  Ribbon halfbeak are a species of fish with the ability to fly above the sea surface -- but unlike true 'flying fish', they lack the necessary hind wing fins. So how do they fly?

Elephant seals recognize each other by the rhythm of their calls

Date: July 20, 2017
Source: Cell Press

Summary: Every day, humans pick up on idiosyncrasies such as slow drawls, high-pitched squeaks, or hints of accents to put names to voices from afar. This ability may not be as unique as once thought, researchers report. They find that unlike all other non-human mammals, northern elephant seal males consider the spacing and timing of vocal pulses in addition to vocal tones when identifying the calls of their rivals.

A wolf's howl in miniature: Researchers discover mice speak similarly to humans

Date: July 19, 2017
Source: Northern Arizona University

Summary: Grasshopper mice (genus Onychomys), rodents known for their remarkably loud call, produce audible vocalizations in the same way that humans speak and wolves howl, according to new research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Grasshopper mice employ both a traditional whistle-like mechanism used by other mice and rats and a unique airflow-induced tissue vibration like that of humans.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Male fish mutating into females because of waste chemicals, expert warns

Expert calls for stronger stance on chemicals and drugs that are likely to have ‘sub-lethal’ effects on wildlife

Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent
Monday 3 July 2017 13:00 BST

Tougher controls should be considered on chemicals that can feminise male fish and cause other “sub-lethal” effects, a leading ecotoxicologist has said.

Nearly 10 years after he helped reveal how significant an impact human drugs were having on wildlife, Professor Charles Tyler has warned that scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the consequences of thousands of waste substances.

Some are from industrial processes, but others are drugs taken by people that then pass through them and into the sewers or are simply flushed directly into the toilet.

Professor Tyler, of Exeter University, will talk about the issue in a speech at the 50th Anniversary Symposium of the Fisheries Society in the British Isles.

He took part in a major study in 2008 that found nearly a quarter of male roach fish taken from 51 sites on English rivers showed signs of becoming female, such as having eggs in their testicles.

In some rivers, all the male roach were found to have been feminised to a degree because of high levels of oestrogen, which is used along with progestin in birth-control pills to prevent ovulation and is also present in other drugs.


Six of the secretive cats could be released in Northumberland’s Kielder forest if an application by the Lynx UK Trust is approved

Damian Carrington Environment editor

Friday 7 July 2017 15.39 BST Last modified on Friday 7 July 2017 22.00 BST

After an absence of 1,300 years, the lynx could be back in UK forests by the end of 2017. The Lynx UK Trust has announced it will apply for a trial reintroduction for six lynx into the Kielder forest, Northumberland, following a two-year consultation process with local stakeholders.

The secretive cat can grow to 1.5m in length and feeds almost exclusively by ambushing deer. Attacks on humans are unknown, but it was hunted to extinction for its fur in the UK. The Kielder forest was chosen by the trust from five possible sites, due to its abundance of deer, large forest area and the absence of major roads.

Sheep farmers and some locals are opposed to the reintroduction, but Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific advisor to the Lynx UK Trust and expert adviser to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) believes there are good reasons for reintroducing the predator.

 “Lynx belong here as much as hedgehogs, badgers, robins, blackbirds - they are an intrinsic part of the UK environment,” he told the Guardian. “There is a moral obligation. We killed every single last one of them for the fur trade, that’s a wrong we have to right.”

Rural communities would also benefit from eco-tourism, O’Donoghue said: “They will generates tens of millions of pounds for struggling rural UK economies. Lynx have already been reintroduced in the Harz mountains in Germany. They have branded the whole area the ‘kingdom of the lynx’. Now it is a thriving ecotourism destination and we thought we could do exactly the same for Kielder,” he said.

In the egg, American bullfrogs learn how to avoid becoming lunch

Date:  July 5, 2017
Source:  Oregon State University

Summary:  When exposed to potential predators as an embryo, the invasive American bullfrog becomes harder to kill when it becomes a tadpole, according to a new study.

Changes in conservation planning can benefit vulnerable mammals

New research provides the first biological map of priority areas that capture several dimensions of mammalian biodiversity

Date:  July 6, 2017
Source:  Colorado State University

Summary:  New research underscores the viewing of global conservation priority areas through three lenses: taxonomy, traits and evolutionary history.

Green anoles, friends from our childhood, are friends of gardeners, too – via Herp Digest

Tyler Morning Telegraph, 6/28/17 Written by Greg Grant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Surely if you are a gardener you have noticed delicate 6-inch green lizards patrolling your landscape. These guys have been friends of mine since I was a small child.

Because of their ability to change their color from bright green to brown or gray, many people call them chameleons, but they aren’t. These little iguana relatives are actually green anoles, or Carolina anoles, as their Latin name (Anolis carolinensis) indicates. Growing up, I never heard them called anoles. We just knew them as lizards. But in the environmental science world I primarily hear them referred to as anoles with two different pronunciations. Most pronounce it where it rhymes with “a mole,” but I prefer what I think is its original Caribbean Creole pronunciation where it rhymes with “cannoli.”

Anoles do live in the Caribbean islands as well as the southeastern United States from Texas to Virginia. In Texas they live as far west as Central Texas and South Texas. Thanks to sticky pads on the bottom of their feet, they can generally be found on trees and shrubs, as well as walls and rooftops. They generally prefer shady, moist areas, and often completely blend in with nearby potted plants. It’s not uncommon, however, to see them sunbathing during the morning hours.

As children, we couldn’t help wanting to catch them. It’s because of this and their own predators that they have tails that break away quite easily. Amazingly, the tails grow back, but sometimes smaller, discolored or a bit deformed. Our favorite thing to do with them as kids was to let them bite onto our ears and hang there like ear rings.

They don’t eat humans, however. They prefer small insects up to the size of crickets and June bugs. It’s a small-scale horror movie watching them munch and swallow these guys, too. This is why it’s important to be judicious and selective with insecticide use, as birds, spiders, toads, wasps and lizards all need live, healthy insects to dine on. All of these guys provide the service of nature’s insecticide.

One would assume that anoles change colors to blend in with their environment, but the color change apparently has more to do with their temperature, mood and stress level. By far, the most impressive color change they make takes place under their neck when the males project a hot pink dewlap during courtship and territorial displays. They often bob their heads up and down while their dewlap is displayed. My Grandmother Emanis called this dewlap routine “showing their money.” Anoles are very territorial. The males seem to spend more time strutting and posturing than they do foraging.

During the breeding season from March to October, females can lay an egg every two weeks. Eggs take five to eight weeks to hatch. Unfortunately, the female doesn’t look after the egg or the baby lizards, which immediately have to start hunting tiny insects to survive.

Tell your children they are miniature dinosaurs, because they basically are.

Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Students in the US Help Scientists Save Frogs at Lake Titicaca - via Herp Digest

Dina Baker, Peruthisweek, 6/28/17

Denver Zoo’s Lake Titicaca Frog Project aims to educate local communities in Puno about the health of the Lake Titicaca Frog and of the lake itself, in addition to taking action towards the conservation of this species. The Lake Titicaca Frog (telmatobius culeus) is now considered an endangered species due to pollution of the lake, contamination of the lake from local mining operations, and from humans illegally overconsuming the frogs. Educators and conservationists from Denver Zoo visit Puno and surrounding communities regularly to work with scientists in Peru and Bolivia to study the frogs, educate locals and work towards solutions to saving these frogs.

The Lake Titicaca Frogs are important to scientists and humans in general, because they are an indicator of the health of the lake. If these frogs decline significantly in population, then scientists know that there are bigger issues at hand which can impact humans who rely on the lake as well.

It has been over 50 years since Jacques Cousteau and his team were able to use a submarine to explore the depths and floor of Lake Titicaca. Today, scientists are not even sure what the true numbers of remaining frogs might be since it is too dangerous to dive down to those depths and the technology to reach those depths is limited. Since Denver Zoo’s mission is to “Secure a better world for animals through human understanding”, it is very important to Outreach Specialist James Garcia to connect his students in Colorado to nature and educate them about global conservation issues. 

James is also the Education Lead for Denver Zoo’s Lake Titicaca Frog Project for the zoo’s Conservation and Research department, so he has decided to combine his love of education and dedication to conserving the frog by involving his students in the conservation of the frog as well.

Collaboration with St. Vrain Valley Schools Innovation Center in Longmont, Colorado began in June of 2015 when James first met Axel Reitzig, Robotics and Computer Science Coordinator, at a Girls in STEM conference. This was where the idea to have high school students build a robot to study the depths of Lake Titicaca was born and the ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) Team was formed. The team started with 6 students and has grown to 15 students presently.

These students were presented with the challenge of developing a submersible drone that could navigate the depths of Lake Titicaca to study the lake floor, the frogs at various depths, record data, as well as take photographic and video footage. The ROV Team of students worked on this robot during 2016, and in June of that year, James brought it with him to Peru to be tested and used in Lake Titicaca. Prior to leaving the US, the ROV was tested by James and the students in Denver Zoo’s aquarium exhibits and in an actual lake in Colorado.

Although the ROV is now technically out of their hands, the team maintains contact with the scientists at Lake Titicaca in order to troubleshoot, make improvements and help the scientists fix any problems with the ROV. The students have their own ROV model at their school that they can use to walk and talk the scientists through exactly what to do to fix the issues via Skype.

Most of the students are bilingual in Spanish and English, which makes communication much easier with the scientists. One issue has been that the ROV currently being used in Lake Titicaca has lost power. These students are actually teaching the biologists how to remove the power panel, disassemble, fix and reassemble the ROV to address the issue. This is such a great opportunity for students in Colorado to help solve the real world conservation problem that scientists are facing in Peru, capturing footage of the depths of Lake Titicaca.

The ROV Team of students will work with scientists on both the Peruvian and Bolivian sides of Lake Titicaca, however, the ROV is currently in the hands of Bolivian scientists. Future goals of this project include having the Peruvian scientists work with the ROV more and send feedback of their own to the students. The ROV Team is also working on new sensors to measure depth and salinity. 

They are improving the navigation of the robot to make it more user-friendly for the scientists. Lastly, the team is working on a sonar device that will be able to map out the floor of Lake Titicaca in the future. Denver Zoo is very proud of James’s collaboration with the high school students of the Innovation Center and the scientists at Lake Titicaca. It will be very exciting to see the future accomplishments of this team and the discoveries that the scientists have yet to make with this technology.

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