Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The effects of a new strain of ranavirus on Neopian species

You all know that Neopets can get sick with things like the flu or a Reptillior bite. But there is a new threat lurking in Neopia's waters:a new strain of ranavirus. This strain poses threats to Mortogs, Greebles, Turdles, Blurtles, Quiggles, Cobralls, and some wild Hissies. Via this new strain of ranavirus, mortality is a high concern. Many populations of Southern Water Cobralls are endangered and with the threat of ranavirus, they could become extinct within the next 10 years. Wild Hissies are also in danger from ranavirus, due to the fact that many wild strains are having DNA extracted from them for colors and patterns in captivity, and never getting re-released into the wild. Ranavirus also poses threats to captive Neopets and Petpets, as your beloved Quiggle could pick up a little virus during a nice trip to the river. And there is currently no known, commonly available cure for ranavirus, meaning that very high risk is posed if this strain is not stopped.

♣ To see whether or not Blurtles, Hissies, Cobralls, and Turdles can carry the new strain of ranavirus.

As these species are common pets and Petpets, and also have endangered populations in the wild, viewing to investigate if they can carry the new strain of ranavirus is crucial to their survival.

The Study
Blurtles, Hissies, Cobralls, and Turdles taken from a river on Krawk Island where it is known the new strain of ranavirus thrives, were tested for ranavirus. They were then re-released with radio transmitters and their behavior was examined. One Cobrall died during the study, but this was related to an accidental crush injury. Blurtles escaped from the harnesses on the transmitters and could not be tracked. Hissies, Cobralls, and Turdles did not escape from the harness.

♣ One Hissi tested positive for ranavirus, same Hissi died.
No Cobralls tested positive for ranavirus.
♣ No Blurtles tested positive for ranavirus.
♣ Turdles tested positive for ranavirus.

The results are that Turdles can carry the new ranavirus strain, however, the Hissi that tested positive for ranavirus did not get it from the water, but rather from eating an infected prey animal.

Monday, September 29, 2014

My favorite things from THS

For the weekend, I have been at the Tennessee Herpetological Society conference in Nashville, and as with JMIH, I am doing a blog post of my favorite things. Now, unlike JMIH, THS was a much smaller conference meaning that unlike JMIH, I didn't choose a schedule but instead went to all sessions on all days. In my opinion, Day 1 was depressing in some ways due to many sessions surrounding ranavirus and how animals are dying. However, also on Day 1, there was a rather positive session surrounding success of hellbender breeding at the Nashville Zoo. One of the things I discovered that day was that there are two of many things I cannot draw that were mentioned:owls and hellbender sperm. That was my main favorite session that day, as even though things such as ranavirus being carried in water snakes with 100% mortality is another area of herpetology, I do prefer more positive sessions surrounding living animals. Also, viruses are hard to draw. If you see any doodle I ever do of any kind of microorganism, it's going to look like a paramecium. Paramecia are easy to draw. For some reason, the microorganism doodles sometimes have faces.

On Day 2, my favorite thing on that day actually did not involve the sessions. I was panicked due to forgetting my name tag, but luckily I could get in for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Nashville Zoo to see things such as the hellbender project, and another thing I discovered:The Nashville Zoo has a thriving population of dart frogs they use to get other animals, which means in the behind-the-scenes tour, there were so many adorable poison dart froglets! Another thing from the behind-the-scenes was watching the staff at the zoo feed the false chameleons with their snails. It actually took fairly long before they ate, though. Also on Day 2 was one fairly interesting session on museums and collections as well as preserving dead specimens. It was rather interesting to find out how they preserved specimens, even though I must admit that I did a lot of doodles of Hissi skeletons when trying to figure out how the wings would look and whatnot. Also on Day 2 was a live creature at the conference rather than at the zoo. It was what might have been a new variety of crayfish.

And on Day 3 was one of the best experiences of all:the herping trip. Northern Water Snakes, Black Racers, Eastern Milk Snakes, Northern Cricket Frogs, Long-Tailed salamanders, Dusky Salamanders, Two-Lined Salamanders, and Southern Newts were all found during the trip. Both Black Racers and Northern Water Snakes, as well as the Eastern Milk Snake, I held. I actually got bitten by the second Black Racer, and my parents were both bitten by Northern Water Snakes. Interestingly enough, my dad was bitten by a tiny baby water snake, and his was the only one that actually drew blood. But the Northern Water Snakes were known for biting a lot. They were very young. They were wild snakes. And they were incredibly calm! I actually managed to hold one particular water snake for a rather long time. And the Eastern Milk Snake you could have kept as a family pet, it was so nice! But also under the coverboard the Eastern Milk Snake was found near was the skeleton of a Black Racer. I have part of it, some vertebrae with some of the skin still attached. Also found in the park was the skeleton of a cat, perhaps a stray. And for more excitement:The Eastern Milk Snake and Northern Cricket Frog were new species in the park! So hopefully they will be fruitful and multiply. And on the night of Day 1, there was something for which there was a reason I'm saving it until the end. There was a live auction. I had a 20-dollar budget. I spent about 60 dollars. But they all went towards a good cause. There were many turtle items, and also a pot of sorts with a snake in a hat, which happened to have some little frogs inside. But where most of the money was spent was with a photo of a corn snake known as Isis. The photo was taken by Lisa Powers and the snake had exactly the same colors as my corn snake, Wadjet. And two highly red, Egyptian mythology-named corn snakes? They have to be together. But at the same time, the items we donated, a set of four My Little Pythons and some homemade reptile and amphibian jewelery, fetched 65 dollars for the scholarship fund. And this was exciting enough that there was a reason I saved the best for last.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Radio transmitters and young tuatara

Attaching radio transmitters is a good way to study tuatara, lizards, and snakes. Because, you can't just watch a cryptic animal. But tracking it via radio transmitters means that the animal will just go about its life and you can tune in without effecting its behavior. But, for adult Tuatara, it's known that this works. But for young tuatara, not so much. So, there are studies on how radio transmitters effect young tuatara.

There were both tagged tuatara and untagged tuatara released into a natural area. It was evaluated whether or not there is an effect on growth, behavior, and body weight on tagged and untagged tuatara. Another method was using dummy transmitters such as clay molds, beads, or broken transmitters. Both dummy and functional transmitters had cylinders so the tuatara could be harnessed.

Methods for tracking
Do you ever think about reptiles with backpacks? If you do, then you'll understand this method. Straps were made out of elastic, and there were stitches so that the transmitter would sit by the neck of the tuatara in question. The next method:duct tape. Yes, duct tape can be used for anything, even tracking reptiles! The tape was wrapped around the tail of the tuatara, so that the transmitter would sit at the tail. This method was known as "surgical tape". But the next method-a variation of "surgical tape" with you guessed it, duct tape. Duct tape lasts longer than other tapes, but it might scar the reptiles. (physically, not emotionally.) Another method is a harness that holds the transmitter on the animal's back. It was secured with elastic, and the transmitter was held in place by a knot.

Methods for tracking cont.
For the backpack harness, it remained attached, but it swelled up the tuatara's shoulder. But contrasting, in less than 30 days, the tuatara shed the surgical tape method. But duct tape stayed, and some good news:from the tape, there is no injury. Now, for the translocation (moving the tuatara somewhere else), the backpack harness was used as it would last for the 5 months of the study, including when the reptiles shed their skin. However, modifications to the elastic and cylinders made it less likely the reptiles would get injured by the backpack harness.

Main study methods
The tuatara were released in spring, when they will have increased temperatures and activity. 14 wild-caught tuatara were released, as were 41 captive-raised tuatara. 2 more were then released.

 Results with juvenile tuatara
Four juveniles had implants in their abdomens, and they came from Stephens Island.  The implants stayed in for less than a month. Data was collected surrounding movement and habitat use, but there was no data surrounding negative effects. Another set of 2 juveniles were translocated to the Titi Islands. They had the backpack harness, that stayed for around 2 months. There was data collected about their movements and how spread-out they were. But there is good news. No negative effects were observed!

Study results
Three juveniles escaped from their harnesses, but they were found and their harnesses replaced. However, one tagged individual was found dead about 3 months from release, but it was probably due to a human crushing it, either purposefully, or accidentally by not watching where they stepped. But one main thing that is important is that tagged juveniles did fine. There were not negative effects on growth, weight, or how spread out they were. But how spread out they are is essential for re-introducing them to certain areas. The backpack harness did not effect the behavior of the tuatara. Both tagged and untagged animals had the same behavior. Radio transmitters are a good method for research of cryptic species, and they do not effect the behavior of juveniles.

Jarvie, Scott, Ramirez, Edward Dolia, Jignasu, Adolph, Stephen, Seddon, Philip, Cree, Alison. "Attaching Radio Transmitters Does Not Affect Mass, Growth or Dispersal of Translocated Juvenile Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus)" Herpetological Review, 2014, 45(3).

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Oracle of Delphi-Python included

This is a school project, may not be directly related to snakes.


What do you first think about when you hear the word "python"? Many think about the ball pythons that are abound at breeders and pet stores, while some might think of the reticulated pythons of Asia. But the original Python was a dragon, guarding the Oracle of Delphi. The dragon was killed by Apollo. But wait, how did the snake get there? So Zeus had a child with Leto. Hera was highly jealous at Zeus' interest in other women, so she sent Python to pursue Leto. But then Apollo chased the Python into the Oracle of Gaia (Mother Earth), and killed the snake with some arrows next to where the priestess stood. However, Python was still honored via funeral games.

The Priestess
Prophecies were delivered at the Oracle via a priestess. The priestess was in a trance-like state, possibly brought on by hallucinations from vapors, or potentially snake venom. As far as snake venom, the priestess may have been made immune to snake bites and then bitten by a venomous snake. The venom may have created hallucinations which became prophecy when translated. However, in my opinion, I do not think venom is likely because immunization to snake bites, especially in Ancient Greece, may have been notoriously difficult to do. I would say that hallucinations are more likely, due to vapors.

The word "Python" when referring to constrictors
Now let's talk about the word "python". One question about it is what does an Ancient Greek dragon have to do with a constricting snake? Now, think about what colonies Greece had. But wait a minute! None of the snakes native to the country of Greece are pythons! But think about Alexandria. It was in Egypt. There were pythons in Egypt! But how did we get from a dragon to a constricting snake? Let's look at Reticulated or Burmese Pythons. In ancient times, these very large serpents probably were identified with dragons. Now, Ancient Greek culture had spread across the globe so the existence of Python was probably known. Somebody probably thought about the serpentine dragon, and when trying to colonize Asia, saw a Reticulated Python. They thought it was a dragon and said it was Python. The name stuck to the constricting snakes. Later, herpetologists found that species related to these pythons could also be called "pythons". But because we haven't moved on from Ancient Greece, many people still identify the word "python" with very large constricting snakes. I am not sure about this, but it seems highly likely.

However, pythons can also mean very sweet snakes like Pinkie here, my pet Ball Python.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When copperheads meet invasive plants

In an Indiana park, there are copperhead populations. But there are also invasive plants. The invasive plants in the wild areas block the copperheads' sun absorption and therefore keep them from getting enough heat, meaning that in areas where people are and the invasive plants are controlled, such as the campgrounds, visitor's center, cabins, and picnic tables are where the copperheads are found. Now, it is bad for the people if they get bitten by copperheads because copperheads are venomous. And it's bad for the copperheads if they get killed by people! Therefore, in this park, there should be wild areas with no invasive plants that don't have people intruding so the copperheads can live in peace without humans posing danger to them and without copperheads posing danger to park visitors. But in the areas where there are no invasive plants, lawnmowers and herbicide are also present, causing an ecological trap. The copperheads need areas with no invasive plants, but they also need to not be disturbed by people, lawnmowers and herbicide! Having wild areas without exotic plants is essential to continue these copperheads' survival without ecological traps involved.

Kingsbury, Bruce, Carter, Evan. "Copperheads, Invasive Plants, and Ecological Traps" Presentation at Joint Meeting of Icthyologists and Herpetologists 2014, August 2, 2014. Live presentation. August 2, 2014.