Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A little animation I did

It's herpetologically inaccurate because a snake wouldn't refuse a mouse in disgust or have eyelids, but here it is if you want to see it. I couldn't put it on My Little Python because it references the fact that snakes eat mice.


The animation was drawn in Microsoft Paint with the border, caption and animation added from online services. You might notice that unlike other GIFs I've done, this one doesn't loop to get the feel of an actual cartoon.

Monday, December 14, 2015

When herp conferences and Neopets collide...

..you get this. Our featured pet is Researchy the Blue Hissi, who's a herpetological, conference-going herp. Here are her experiences, with all Neopets terms, characters, and other stuff copyright Neopets 1999-2015.

Our heroine arrives at the conference hotel, with way too much luggage and a nervous feeling of excitement.


Preparing for her ranavirus talk. She decided to keep one of the aquatic lizards she was studying.


The reception in the break room. As you might be able to tell, Researchy cropped out the other Neopets for the Facebook photo.


The field herping expedition. A lizard's egg, a snake hook in her hand, a rat snake around her neck, and water going up to where her knees would be if she had knees.


Giving her talk in a previously used classroom. She has some quite nice visual aids for the ranavirus subject.


The behind-the-scenes museum and lab tour. I wonder what kinds of specimens are in that box?


The final day's auction, getting engaged in a bidding war over a stuffed snake.


Here are some things I've done for real conferences:

We have reached new levels of holiday nerdisms.

BTW, everything on here except the ornaments was constructed with a straightedge and compass. It's up to you to figure out how.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Herpy Holidays:Facebook Screams (Parody of Jingle Bells)

This parody is a humorous commentary on online sensationalism. Non-political but very opinionated.

Dashing through my house
'Cause I can't find my pet snake
Try to search the Web
For some advice to take
Panic everywhere
All over the Net
Yes, it might be venomous
That's not what I should get!

Oh, Facebook screams, Facebook screams
They have to react
Now my pet snake's name
Is on a really bad hashtag!
Facebook screams, Facebook screams
They have to react
Now my pet snake's name
Is on a really bad hashtag!

A day or two ago
The Internet was calm
Then the snake escaped
Which created a bomb
Now it's on the blogs
And spending people's ROM!
Up on Google Trends
It's higher than Vietnam!

Oh, Facebook screams, Facebook screams
They have to react
Now my pet snake's name
Is on a really bad hashtag!
Facebook screams, Facebook screams
They have to react
Now my pet snake's name
Is on a really bad hashtag!

Oh, Facebook screams, Facebook screams
They have to react
Now my pet snake's name
Is on a really bad hashtag!
Facebook screams, Facebook screams
They have to react
Now my pet snake's name
Is on a really bad hashtag!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Journal Summary:Finca Chiblac Salamanders discovered in northern Mexico

The Neotropics of Mexico and Central America have a very large range of biodiversity which makes them great for research, especially on salamanders. But, as you probably know if you're reading this post, amphibian populations worldwide are declining, mostly due to habitat destruction for farming and development and diseases such as chytrid fungus. If a species that we thought was extinct is discovered or if a species with a very small range is found in a different region, that tells us that those species have a higher chance of surviving.

This particular salamander, the Finca Chiblac Salamander, which I will abbreviate as the FC Salamander for the purpose of making this post easier to read, has been very difficult as far as being discovered in the Neotropics. Until January of 2009, there was no sign of it until researchers found nine individuals in a survey, the first sighting of the endangered species in 32 years. Another specimen was collected a year later outside of the salamander's range, implying that maybe the FC Salamander wasn't extinct and had a larger range than we thought it did.

In June of 2012, a team of researchers started surveying for vertebrates in a mostly unexplored region of northern Mexico. The herpetologists started looking in plants and under rocks to see if there were any salamanders there. Eight specimens of the FC Salamander were found under assorted kinds of wood. This was surprising. This was far outside the FC's range and the species isn't built for travel. This led to genetic examination to see if the salamanders the herpetologists had found were really FCs or a species that spawned from the FC. The results were in, and they proved that the FC Salamander had a wider range than anyone had expected.

Bouzid, Nassima, Rovito, Sean, Sanchez-Solis, Jorge. "Discovery of the Critically Endangered Finca Chiblac Salamander (Bradytriton silus) in Northern Chiapas, Mexico." Herpetological Review, 46(2), 186-187. 2015.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Natural Enquirer Scientist Cards:Review

The US Forest Service runs a magazine for kids designed to get them interested in science, especially environmental science and biology. They call it the "Natural Inquirer". A very clever name, if I do say so myself. (If you're not in the US, you can mostly ignore this post.) They recently sent out cards surrounding the different scientists that work with them. And I'm going to be reviewing these cards.

The Natural Inquirer Scientist Cards have lots of great things going for them. For one, it exposes kids to a variety of careers involving the environment and conservation and also expands the everyday citizen's knowledge about the Forest Service. And another thing about them is that they also show that forestry and conservation have many more assets than you might think. Biology for different animals and landscapes might seem obvious, but what about economics and the assessing of how the public uses resources? Or the study of how different climates affect mountains? And what about the idea that controlled fires can be used to manage forests?

As well as encouraging an interest in environmental conservation, let's look at these cards from the perspective of education as a whole. They inspire an interest in science, whether it's environmental or something like chemistry. They also can help encourage children to learn throughout their whole lives. In some cases, they might also help bring about things like a respect for animals so your child knows that they shouldn't catch tadpoles from the pond. (The If You Build It, They Will Come series on this very blog shows why catching tadpoles is a REALLY bad idea.) Overall, these cards are good in every possible way.

Friday, October 9, 2015

If You Build It, They Will Come:Conference outline and slides

 Sorry if it's a bit clunky, this has been copy and pasted directly from my talk outline.




Hello, I’m Allison Metler, age 10, a homeschooled student from Bartlett, TN and my project is:
If you Build it They will come: Use of Temporary Microbiota as an Environmentally sound alternative to the traditional frog life cycle project in home education settings.



Can temporary ponds made of low-cost materials prove usable frog habitat for breeding purposes?
     Can these pools be used as an alternative to in-house metamorphosis projects by attracting indigenous frogs to be observed, without need of moving the frogs to the students?

      Can homeschool families be convinced to use these ponds instead of current methods?



We reviewed the use of metamorphosis projects in early childhood education literature.
  


Tadpole to frog projects are standard in early childhood science programs for grades K-2, and understanding of life cycles is a major concept in state science standards at some point in the early years in all US states.



They have several benefits. The first is that for these children, it is usually their first sustained observation of any animal other than perhaps a pet dog or cat, and their first exposure to any amphibian in real life. The interesting and novel metamorphosis of the frog provides the opportunity to compare and contrast to other life cycles. A great deal of science vocabulary and early recording and observation skills are included in this project.



Such projects are also cross curricular, and usually involve reading books about frogs, graphing and measurement skills in math as the students observe and analyze their tadpoles, drawing frogs, and learning about environmental issues, which can spark interest in both amphibians and herpetology and in environmental conservation.





However, such projects also have noted environmental risks.  Tadpoles have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is either the wild or via the mail. Tadpoles purchased by mail are non-native to the area, and some of the most common tadpoles shipped are invasive species, including African Clawed frogs and American Bullfrogs. A quick search of Ebay shows multiple lots of unidentified tadpoles, including a lot of “possible tree frogs and toads” from Florida.
The most common outcome in school-based projects are for any surviving frogs/tadpoles to be released outside. Since many tadpoles are moved for such projects, most state websites and other sources call for point of capture release or euthanizing all frogs that result from such a project, which in turn is a bioethics concern.  And, sadly, in a lot of the projects, some or all of the tadpoles die, which can be quite traumatic for the children, and, if handled badly, teach that tadpoles and frogs are disposable.





We wanted to see whether these applied to the homeschool population as they did to traditional classrooms.  We chose to target homeschoolers because I am part of this population and have seen this project happen, including co-op settings where every child is sent home with a plastic cup of unidentified tadpoles.  We also could easily collect data on past homeschool projects because my mother is active in multiple groups and forums for homeschoolers in the Memphis area and nationally. Finally, homeschoolers are a good place to focus change because homeschoolers can continue a project into summer months, which more closely matches the natural frog breeding cycle in Tennessee. 



            69 families  Surveyed on :Well Trained Mind forums, using a built in surveying tool
                       Homeschoolers of Memphis Eclectic and Memphis homeschool buzz, using Quia

Survey limited to those who have done frog metamorphosis projects in past 2 years
     Questions: Where were your tadpoles/eggs for this project obtained?
                         How many tadpoles survived to become frogs
                         What happened to the tadpoles after the project


65% of tadpoles were taken from the wild, an action that there are at least some restrictions on in all US states.  We used state websites as well as data compiled by PARC and Save the Frogs to review the state wildlife laws.

28% of tadpoles came from a retail source, such as Grow-A-Frog,  Insect Lore, or Carolina Biological supply.

2% of tadpoles had unknown origins because the child got the tadpole at a group class or event.

5% of tadpoles were observed in the wild.






56% of families had some tadpoles die.
25% of families had all tadpoles die.
19% of families had all tadpoles survive.
81% of families experienced death.

This indicates that the traditional project design often doesn’t achieve it’s desired results, and raises bioethics concerns about the animals and also concerns for the children, who have had to observe animals they have cared for die.



64% of families released frogs into the wild,  which risks the spread of disease or the introduction of invasive species. This is particularly a concern since Xenopus laevis (African clawed frogs) are one of the most common species used in some of the commercial kits, and these frogs are both a known invasive species and believed to be the vector by which batrochydrid Dendrobatids entered the United States. . (Weldon, et al, 2004.)

23% of families could not answer said question, as none of their frogs survived.
7% of families kept the frogs as pets throughout their lifespan.
4% of families gave the frogs away.
2% of families disposed of the frogs. The reason for this was because one family in Australia had accidentally collected cane toad tadpoles which under Australian law were required to be killed.(Frog Decline Reversal Project, 2001-2013.)




We had not specifically asked about specific species, but on the Well trained mind forums, parents who had had very poor surivival rates asked what kind of frogs they should get if they wanted them to live. The results were quite scary from an ecological viewpoint, given that the majority of surviving frogs end up in the wild.
8 of the projects where all tadpoles survived had African Clawed frog tadpoles,
1 had cane toad tadpoles (a report from Australia).
4 families had American bullfrog tadpoles, but none kept them long enough to turn into frogs.
Invasive species had a high rate of survival reports, and parents were actually encouraging each other to get mail-order, non-native African clawed frog tadpoles for such projects.

Other observations from the comments were that almost no families actually returned to point of capture. Normally, frogs were released into backyards or the nearest water source, even if this was across state lines from their capture, and no distinction was made as to source of frogs in their release.






We decided to focus on a backyard pond design. In order to form a viable alternative to the more traditional project, the pond needed to be:

Suburban friendly, and stay within code enforcement limits for Bartlett TN and surrounding areas, which meant that it needed to be temporary, above ground, and no more than 18 inches deep, as well as controlled for mosquitoes

Low cost, similar to the $30 or so that a commercial grow a frog kit costs

Attractive to frogs so that they will actually choose to come to the area and utilize the pond.



      Site- 1/3 acre lot in suburban Bartlett, roads on 2 sides, not chemically treated. The pond is set up on a brick patio, near a porch light, with a screened porch on one side and the side of the house on the other, with a large tree and open lawn on the other two sides.

                Nearest “wild” water source-drainage ditch about ½ mile away, across one road by straight line access, known source of green/grey tree frogs and American toads, across 2 roads
                 Multiple vernal ponds about ¾ mile away, known breeding spot for grey tree frogs
                 Farm ponds about 1 mile north, across 2 roads, known source for chorus frogs and spring peepers. Chlorinated swimming pool next door and a few others in immediate area.


Pond- 6 ft diameter wading pool, 1 foot maximum depth, purchased at Target.  ($5 at 50% off in July clearance sale)
            Cover objects-Corregated plastic ramp (from Home Depot, plastic sign board, $5/sheet), duct taped, cover objects sold for turtles/ponds at pet store (floating log, fake lily pad), Frisbee.
                 Filled with water and allowed to dechlorinate, treated with Mosquito Bits/dunks (Bacillus Thurungus) to stay in compliance with Bartlett TN code enforcement, and because we really didn’t want to raise mosquitoes (Purchased on Amazon.com, $2/month).  This is the protocol recommended by Save the Frogs! as safe for amphibians and other vertebrates.
               Time of study-Placed in Mid-Late July, observed through season until October.




     In Year 1, the pond was placed in July. During August and September, we had multiple sightings of Anaxyrus americanus (American toad) near the pond area, daily sightings for several weeks of Lithobates Clamintans (Bronze frog), and multiple sightings of Green and Grey tree frogs (Hyla Cinerea, Hyla Versicolor/Chrystocelis). Frogs were identified using the book, Amphibians of Tennessee, as well as by frog calls using materials provided by FrogWatch USA.

While this did not fully achieve the goal of colonization, it did demonstrate that frogs would be attracted and use our prepared pond.

    Documented on Homeschool forums and on blog, 97 views, 8 likes.



Pond in place through winter and in place for Early Spring.
             Potted plants (Schefflera) added around pond to provide extra cover and more closely mimic wild ponds. These plants were chosen because we already had them and usually moved them outside for Spring/Summer anyway.
             Duckweed added to pond to provide extra cover and more closely mimic wild ponds



          Tree frogs (H. Cinerea, H. Versacolor/Chystocelis) spotted early (March-June), with one ranid frog sighting (Leopard frog (L. Sphenocephala) on 2 days
            Toads much more present in area than in year 1. Calls heard from American toads (A. Americanus) and Fowler’s toad (A. Fowleri)
            Tadpoles sighted in June, but we hadn’t observed eggs. Tadpoles metamorphed into grey tree frogs in mid/late June
Ranid frogs present (2-3/day) in July/August on a regular basis. Ranid frogs using pond are larger than those in year 1.  Most common species in July/August-Bronze frog. Toads common around pond and in grassy nearby areas.
Upland chorus frogs observed in early September (September 6) near pond.




    Additional animal use of pond-frequent use by birds and squirrels in year 1. In year 2, we also had a young Virginia Opossum move in. Ramps and edges of the pond, as well as the water in the pond, had large numbers of invertebrates, including isopods, daphnia, and snails.  Prior to study we had had a population of Rough Earth snakes, which continued to thrive, becoming more easily discovered in year 2 than in year 1.

The pond also offered a greater opportunity to observe the behavior of the target species. For example, this summer a large male bronze frog took up residence in the pond. Our cats have access to a fully screened and covered back porch. While the frog was largely invisible in the pond, he was obviously aware of the cats, because if one came close to the pond, he would give his alert cry, which startled the cat. Within a short time, the cats studiously avoided that part of the porch. The frog otherwise appeared unaffected. This is a behavior you probably won’t see in an aquarium.

               We also saw use of the pond by non-native animals. This young felis domesticus, an invasive species, was spotted using the pond in January. She was removed from the ecosystem and is now contained in our house. Her name is Anery, and she likes having her ears scratched.

This indicates that use of a temporary backyard pond has a greater benefit to homeschooled students beyond the actual frog project, via observation of other animals and water samples for microscopy study, as well as a greater benefit to wildlife beyond frogs.



     Continued to post updates on Homeschool forums  on a Monthly basis between March-August.
        Pageviews increased to an average of 356/post, with an average of 64 “likes” on each post.

    In July, surveyed and asked for volunteers to host sites for 2016. 12 sites are planned, 4 in west TN, 8 in other parts of the USA, plus a single site in Australia in 2015.  An additional 4 families regularly have “nuisance frogs” that lay eggs in their swimming pools, and plan to relocate some or all of these eggs and resulting tadpoles to project swimming pool ponds, in lieu of killing them. These families will report data to us for inclusion in the project. If all families participate, 19 children between the ages of 3-12 will be involved in this project this coming year.



 Next steps: Continue to observe our pond    We have toads. Can we change the pond so that they can use it for reproduction?   DO other people have the same results we do?    Can we get other homeschoolers to try attracting frogs vs buying or catching tadpoles? (Save the Frogs day event, Blogs, homeschool forums).







Acknowledgements:
Parents/teachers/funding source- Donna and Michael Metler
Mentors- Dr. Ann Paterson, Dr. Stephen McMann
Information sources-Lisa Powers, Dr. Kerry Krieger, Save the Frogs, PARC, FrogWatchUSA,
SSAR Pre-baccalaureate grant to allow conference participation
Tennessee herpetological society for allowing me to be here today


If you have any questions and weren't at the talk, post them on the My Little Python Facebook or Twitter pages, email them to me at alli_draggy@comcast.net, or post them in the comments.



Bibliography:

Niemiller, Matthew, Reynolds, Graham. "The Amphibians Of Tennessee." The University of Tennessee Press. 2011.
Frog Decline Reversal Project. "Raising Tadpoles in Containers and Ponds" http://www.frogsafe.au/ponds/raising_tadpoles.shtml , 2001-2013
Montgomery, Charlotte.  "Teaching with Animals:Goals and Guidelines" Day Care and Early Education. 1978.
Hyatt, Alex. Muller, Reinhold. Speare, Rick. "Origin of the Amphibian Chytrid Fungus" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. December 2004.
Conrad, Paulette, Nanjappa, Priya. "State of the Union:Legal Authority Over the Use of Native Amphibians and Reptiles in the United States." Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies. 2011.
Butler, Deanna, Hachey, Alyse. "Science Education through Gardening and Nature-Based play" Young Children, November 2009.  
O'Brien, Elizabeth, Merson, Hayley. "Life Cycle of a Frog" Fall 2011.

Web Sources from Organizations:

Frogwatch USA
SAVE THE FROGS!!!
Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

Saturday, October 3, 2015

THS 2015:Overview

As you have probably read on the My Little Python Facebook and Twitter pages, you know that for the last week or so, I've been engaged with the salamander hole that is the Tennessee Herpetological Society meeting. The reason for calling it a salamander hole...I think you'll figure that out soon enough.

Day 1. The main thing here: I PRESENTED. "If You Build It, They Will Come:Use of Temporary Microbiota as an Ecologically Sound Alternative to Traditional Frog Metamorphosis Projects in Home Education Settings" (wow, that's a mouthful) was the first session after the plenary and in a string of amphibian talks. It was probably the happiest amphibian talk that day because rather than the disease projects that followed it, it didn't involve exposing innocent frogs to disease and then euthanizing all survivors. That evening was the auction in which I purchased several items including several of the garden decorations that depict cute little frogs carrying "Welcome" signs, an adorable stuffed animal of a blue rattlesnake wearing a bow tie (either he's a Doctor Who fan or he's presenting), several books, and this quite nice rusty metal frog who's a quite nice piece of folk art, just a bit dangerous. My mom aptly nicknamed him Tetanus. After the auction came the field trip. Tons of cool salamanders, centipedes that glow under blacklight, and a water snake that musked me. In short, it was awesome until we started backtracking. I was with my mom and acted as her light source but without the other people within sight range, we didn't know where it was safe to step. Let's just say there were lots of incidents with fallen trees, water, and sinkholes that I don't want to discuss here. What we learned is that we should have brought boots and that next year, both myself and my mom will have headlamps.


Day 2. Typical sessions, mostly turtles and salamanders with a large focus on disease. But my favorite session that day actually wasn't exactly a herpetology session but instead involved the positive bacteria found on salamanders and was presented by a microbiologist. It was very well-explained due to the presenter being in a different field than the audience and was very positive, with minimal harm done to the animals and the result that the probiotics found naturally can fight off chytrid and ranavirus. I also got an award for my presentation, inventing the category of "Astounding Youth Presentation" because I think I was their first presenter ever who wasn't at least in college. That day's field trip had lots of amphibians and a few lizards, but no snakes. The best find that day was an Eastern Box Turtle, both a beautiful species (plus one of conservational concern) and not very common in the site we were herping. I also got to witness the traditional boxing up of the box turtle to the point of asking: "Are you sure there's a turtle in there?"

In short, it was pretty typical for a conference of its type, but I learned a lot of it and proved that despite my age, I could present and do it well.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A waltzing frog:B. alvarengai

If you are at least 16 or so, you've probably done courtship behavior, at least in the form of a dance. Well, so does B. alvarengai, an adorable frog native to Brazil. I don't really like using scientific names but sadly, B. alvarengai doesn't have a common name. So let's just refer to it as a waltzing frog. Okay?

They're very large tree frogs, but not much is known about them, and whatever we know is from a few reports. Their love is also controversial, shy as they cease any activity when they know someone's watching them which makes them very difficult to research.

The researchers somehow managed to witness the frogs getting to know each other at a...school dance in the rainforest. The frogs were breeding via amplexus but they did it in a very interesting fashion. They were waltzing. Holding hands with each other, the fingers intertwined on the front legs. Looking at each other, in a puddle, touching even. They're dancing, just like teenagers at prom, even though we hope the teenagers don't amplexus. And also like teenagers at prom, they were pretty shy. The male hid underneath a clump of grass on the other side of the puddle after about 2 minutes. Also after a little bit longer the female joined him and they returned to dancing. Then amplexus was truly attempted when the male tried to push the female underwater. If you are a teenager or a parent of one, let's hope your or your kid's prom isn't like this. At this very moment, the female escaped, the male chasing after her while calling. The female did the right thing and ignored him, going back to wherever she was intended to be. If amplexus was successful then the female would have laid eggs. Let's definitely hope teenagers don't do that!



Centerno, Fernanda, Pinheiro, Paulo, Andrade, Denis. "Courtship Behavior of Bokermannohyla alvarengai, a Waltzing Anuran" Herpetological Review, 46(2), 166-168. 2015. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Happy World Lizard Day from the Little Pythons!

This comic was supposed to be just a celebration, but things didn't go according to plan...


My Little Python lesson:Whether you're lighting candles for a World Lizard Day cake, making popcorn in the microwave, or doing anything else involving high heat, always know where your fire extinguisher is and how to use it! If a fire is too major, go to a neighbor's house or another nearby building with a phone (or use a cell phone if you have one) and call 911.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

SSAR 2015:Overview

Conference summaries are always popular. This one, however, might not be as interesting due to the fact that the social interactions and such are less notable due to this not being my first conference of its type, as JMIH and THS in 2014 were.


Thursday, the day on which the conference began, was a good start. The Presidential Travelogue was very interesting, describing two decades of herpetology in Madagascar, a very interesting place to begin with, containing species such as frogs that can be smooth or spiky and leaf-nosed snakes. And it was also the home of Beelzebufo, a prehistoric toad that was large enough to eat a small dinosaur. And of course, absolutely adorable mini-frogs and mini-chameleons.

Friday's plenary session was not quite as interesting. Phylogeny seemed rather hard to follow, considering it's how animals are genetically similar to other animals and samples, genomes and such confused me as I tried to take notes that made sense. But...the egg came before the chicken by more than 300 million years. Creatures laid eggs long before chickens or chicken-like animals evolved. However, the session on social patterns in gopher tortoises on that same day was very interesting! Basically, their social patterns are an average high school. The female tortoises have certain other females they like and females they don't, and there's lots of competition, often for mates. Sometimes that competition turns aggressive but the tortoises don't have a principal or parent to complain to, so they have to tough it out. Another Friday event was the SSAR Herpetological Quiz, intended for college students. The questions...the snake questions I was pretty sure about, the frogs I was decently sure about, and the lizards, salamanders, and such I completely guessed on.

Saturday's plenary was decently interesting. It was mostly surrounding Henry Fitch and his work even though I sort of wished that I'd get more about the actual snake ecology in 70 Years of Snake Ecology. At the same time, Saturday's snake fungal disease session was rather depressing. Even though the results surrounding mortality and such were much better than the SFD sessions at THS, I'd still rather hear about healthy, living, thriving populations. A much happier session on Saturday was surrounding using cameras to look at the social lives of river turtles. It was a session with lots of inspiring videos. If they managed to capture a mother and baby on film/digital data and found some good song to use as a soundtrack, they could sell it as one of those heartwarming animal movies.


Sunday had sessions surrounding history and social media. Not really that many about actual animals! One of the more interesting animal sessions on Sunday was surrounding burrow use by Burmese Pythons in Florida. Apparently the snakes would use burrows dug by rodents, gopher tortoises, and potentially humans. Subjects found included several male and female pythons and one disgusted gopher tortoise. The history sessions were very interesting, but I often ended up drawing things. I can now draw much better frog feet and snake charmers. And for some reason, preserved collections are interesting. I don't know why because normally my favorite sessions involve living animals, not historic dead ones on display.

Monday did not have sessions but did have a tour of Allen Press, a publisher of journals and more.  I got to see how they made books and journals. Plus, I even took home a souvenir. A test cover from Herpetologica, featuring some absolutely beautiful frogs.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard...literally.

Most of you have probably played Rock Paper Scissors. Or maybe Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock. But this is a different kind of Rock Paper Scissors. An evolutionary game among lizards. So let's learn the rules of Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Colors.

There are three strategies or color morphs in the side-blotched lizard for this game. If you win depends on throat color. Orange beats blue because they have more testosterone and can chase blue males off. Blue beats yellow, because they work together and defeat the sneaky strategies of yellow-throated specimens. But yet yellow beats orange. The males with yellow throats aren't territorial, but they pretend to be female in order to get onto an orange-throat's territory.

This game of Blue Yellow Orange is popular among West Coast lizards, especially. In the northwest, orange always dominates as they have completely removed yellow and blue from their territory. In other regions, only orange and blue exist. The first to go is always yellow. Always.

Comparing this to our human game of Rock Paper Scissors, I like to picture orange as rock for it is strong and defeats blue scissors and yellow paper. But in some areas, the rules change so that both rock and scissors can defeat paper. If you did this in a game of Rock Paper Scissors with your friends, you would pretty much always win. But you'd have very annoyed friends.

But is this game of Rock Paper Scissors more than it seems? Are Rock, Paper, and Scissors separate species? Not quite yet but they might be subspecies. Long ago, this game was fair. Blue, Yellow, and Orange all existed. But with continual breeding and natural selection, some subspecies that started out as three morphs merely became one morph so evolution dictates who beats who.

Now imagine that Rock Paper Scissors was Rock Rock Rock. You would need to change your strategy and the rules greatly. That's what's happening with lizards. As populations that used to have Rock, Paper, and Scissors morphs are evolving into only Rock morphs, the Rock morphs' adaptations for beating Scissors and Paper now are just useless. So the rules within the genetic code need to be modified for Rock, Rock, and Rock instead of Rock, Paper, and Scissors.


Corl, Ammon, Davis, Alison, Kuchta, Shawn, Sinervo, Barry. "Selective loss of polymorphic mating types is associated with rapid phenotypic evolution during morphic speciation" Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz. 2009.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Rough Earth Snakes (Virginia striatula) in captivity

General Information

Rough Earth Snakes are small snakes found in the central area of the United States, with some populations reaching into the southwest. In the areas where they are found, they are a common species. However, one usually does not see them unless they are flipping rocks and grass looking for them as they are a secretive serpent. Their frequent habitats are anywhere where there are rocks, wood, pieces of metal, concrete, or other heat-attracting substances, soft-bodied insect larvae, and cover in some form, ideally grass, dead leaves, or other foliage. Often, they can be found in man-made areas including trash dumps, under decks, on sidewalks, and...in my backyard.


Rough Earth Snakes in captivity

In my backyard, we have a very large, thriving population of Rough Earth Snakes that has been there since we moved in, and probably longer. Often, they are found under rocks and grass when mowing or edging. When my mom discovered two healthy, full-grown individuals hiding under the grass near the sidewalk, I had the opportunity to keep them inside for approximately a week. As soon as they came in, I sketched their appearances and some other information about them.


My scanned sketches of the two Rough Earth Snake specimens. Click on the images to enlarge.
In captivity, their care conditions were in a 10-gallon vivarium with a lid that snapped on to prevent predation by cats living in the same house. The bedding was suitable for burying and a small dish of water was in the corner. Hiding places were available in the bedding. The snakes did not have external heating as they were native to the area and it was summer, so they could safely be kept at room temperature. The snakes' diet was waxworms, a soft-bodied, high fat insect larva available at our local bait shop. Waxworms were fed to snakes and water was refilled daily. This continued for approximately a week until specimens were released. On date of release, I noticed a complete shed from one of the specimens. The fact that these animals, caught from the wild, could have shed cleanly in captivity shows that they were thriving for that week. Another shed from another of the two specimens was found. It was in two pieces, but any sort of shedding in captivity, especially for a wild-caught animal, shows that the care of that animal was optimal for its survival. My family was newly entering this as little information was known about captive husbandry of Rough Earth Snakes and we did not know how to care for small, underground-dwelling animals. I did disturb the animals while digging in their bedding daily to ensure that they were both alive and well.


Conclusion

Rough Earth Snakes can be kept in captivity successfully with little effort. If they were bred in captivity, I can see them as a good addition to the pet trade. Even when wild-caught they are fairly docile. Their only threat displays that I have seen are freezing and secreting feces onto a predator or human. However, a captive-bred specimen could easily be an easy to keep pet snake. They require minimal space and could be kept in a small apartment. They have the same appeal as a Kenyan sand boa, but unlike the boa, can be kept at room temperature in most of the US and do not require rodents. If they were to bite a human, they could not hold a grip on any body part. For that reason, they could be a good first pet for children. So, if you are blessed with being in an area of the States that has Rough Earth Snakes, I encourage you to bring them in for short periods of time and record your findings.


Trauth, Stanley, Robinson, Henry, Plummer, Michael. "The Amphibians And Reptiles of Arkansas" The University of Arkansas Press. 2004.


Powell, Robert, Collins, Joseph, Fish, Lee. "Virginia striatula (Linnaeus) Rough Earth Snake" Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. 1994.  

Niemiller, Matthew, Reynolds, Graham, Miller, Brian. "The Reptiles of Tennessee" The University of Tennessee Press. 2013. 

Photos

Shed skins from both specimens, labeled and bagged.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A problem with pythons? An opinion essay.

    A problem with pythons?

Involves politics. Viewer discretion advised.


Invasive species. They’re everywhere in one form or another. Everything from pythons in the Everglades to pretty European flowers in your yard is an invasive species. In general, an invasive species is a species that’s surviving and thriving where it doesn’t belong. And there are lots of legal restrictions because of them like the oh-so-infamous python ban. What should be done? Here are my personal views. Animals should be permitted to stay with their owners but they must be microchipped so that, in case they get loose, their owner can be located. Breeding of animals that might become invasive due to a natural disaster should be illegal south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Breeders of said animals would have 6 months to a year to move their business. The reason there are Burmese Pythons in the Everglades is because a large breeder in Miami was destroyed in Hurricane Andrew. But, if somebody was breeding pythons in Iowa and their business got destroyed due to a tornado, the animals would not survive and therefore not become invasive. What should be done is we should ban species that are actually invasive. At this point, we’re starting to ban everything that’s not a cat or dog. We have banned anacondas that aren’t even in the pet trade in the US. Feral cats and dogs, as well as invasive plants like kudzu and privet do more damage than all the big snakes we’ve banned combined. And in reality, if somebody spends hundreds of dollars on a snake, unless there is something like a natural disaster, they aren’t going to let that snake loose in the Everglades, assuming they’re a reasonable human being. Let people keep their snakes, but make them microchip them. And, individual pets do not an invasive species make. If somebody has one anaconda and it gets loose, it’s not going to destroy an ecosystem and breed out of control unless there’s another anaconda in the area. And why put so much energy to banning pythons when there’s feral pets, invasive plants, and Xenopus frogs (African Clawed Frogs) roaming around, causing economic damage, eating native species, and spreading chytrid fungus. The pythons are in one area, don’t cause that much economic damage, and aren’t spreading disease. Feral pets eat tons of native species. Invasive plants cause lots of economic damage. Xenopus frogs are to blame for the chytrid fungus, which is deadly to amphibians, entering the United States. So, to summarize:Let them keep their snakes, move the breeding north, and ban more damaging species.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Your Friendly Neighborhood Nature:A guide to suburban herping

Your Friendly Neighborhood Nature

A guide to suburban herping

Say you live in the suburbs. And you want your good dose of herping. Only problem is that you're not quite sure how you can herp in the suburbs. Well, this is how. Do you have a park nearby? If so, then you probably have a lake. Go during warm months of the year. Visit the lake for turtles, or if it's a less used park and is more wild, maybe even water snakes! If the park allows it, you can go after dark to see and hear frogs and toads. If you're almost anywhere in Florida, during most of the year, sit out on your porch or sun room and wait for anoles to show up. Do you have chickens or a wood fireplace? If so, then look under the wood and near the chickens for a chance at seeing rat snakes, especially if you're in a wilder suburb. There can be reptiles and amphibians almost anywhere! Even a puddle has a chance at having frogs. You can make your yard better for reptiles and amphibians too. You can create a pond! This pond can be a large, in-ground lake or just a box or wading pool filled with water, as well as cover objects and a ramp. I did this for the "If You Build It, They Will Come" project and saw frogs in my yard far more than I had previously.  You can also install PVC pipes in the ground to provide shelter for tree frogs. Bird feeders may attract rat snakes, and you can use pieces of wood, metal, or black plastic as coverboards. In many cities, your grass can get to a certain height, so, as long as it doesn't get beyond that height, you may wish to create a non-mowed section to provide shelter for wildlife. You may also want to register your yard as a habitat with the National Wildlife Federation, whose plaque does provide some merit for city-wide restrictions. Getting a birdbath may attract rat snakes to eat the birds, tree frogs to lay eggs in it, or, if it's stone, lizards to sun themselves on it. Also, there are some cautions. If you have stray cats in your neighborhood, adopt them if possible. This will keep them from becoming predators of native wildlife. If you have a pond, treat it with Mosquito Bits or Mosquito Dunks to keep it from becoming a health hazard. If you have dead pets or other animals, treat them responsibly. Bury them or do something other than leaving them around. This may attract unwanted creatures and again, could be a health hazard. Furthermore, it always helps to have excuses. What we suggest is to use common objects as habitat. If you have a pond, if it's big, say it's a pool and the cover objects are kids' toys. If it's small, say it's a bird bath. If you have PVC pipes for tree frogs, paint them and say they're yard art. Also say that any coverboards you have are yard art. Anyway, hopefully this will help you be more successful at herping your suburbs. I'll see you next time on Alli's Snakes.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Your Paper's Writing-Parody of Lips Are Movin

If your paper's writing, if your paper's writing
If your paper's writing, then you're lyin', lyin', lyin', hey
If your paper's writing, if your paper's writing
If your paper's writing, then you're lyin', lyin', lyin', hey

Boy, you misdescribe these snakes
Tell me that there's not cobras in that place
You need to be replaced.
You treat 'em like they come from outer space
You're the media
People believe you
You tell them something but it ain't true
And what we got is more than enough
Stop that something you do

You can tell them 'bout the pythons
And you lie-lie-lie, lie-lie-lie, lie-lie-lie
But you treat them like they're cobras so
goodbye-bye-bye
Bye-bye-bye

I know you're lyin
'Cause your paper's writing
Tell me do you think I'm dumb?
I might like snakes
But I'm not stupid
Writing round in circles with your pens
I give you snakes, you give me cobras
Saying that this will soon be done
But I know you're lyin
'Cause your paper's writing
You guys should know now that I'm done

If your paper's writing, if your paper's writing
If your paper's writing, then you're lyin', lyin', lyin', hey
If your paper's writing, if your paper's writing
If your paper's writing, then you're lyin', lyin', lyin', hey

Hey, baby, don't you bring them fears
About the snakes, the snakes, hey, oh
You only write it when they're not here
You need replaced, replaced, hey, oh

You can tell them 'bout the pythons
And you lie-lie-lie, lie-lie-lie, lie-lie-lie
But you treat them like they're cobras so
goodbye-bye-bye
Bye-bye-bye


I know you're lyin
'Cause your paper's writing
Tell me do you think I'm dumb?
I might like snakes
But I'm not stupid
Writing round in circles with your pens
I give you snakes, you give me cobras
Saying that this will soon be done
But I know you're lyin
'Cause your paper's writing
You guys should know now that I'm done

Come on, stop!

If your paper's writing, if your paper's writing
If your paper's writing, then you're lyin', lyin', lyin', hey
If your paper's writing, if your paper's writing
If your paper's writing, then you're lyin', lyin', lyin', hey

I know you're lyin
'Cause your paper's writing
Tell me do you think I'm dumb?
I might like snakes
But I'm not stupid
Writing round in circles with your pens
I give you snakes, you give me cobras
Saying that this will soon be done
But I know you're lyin
'Cause your paper's writing
You guys should know now that I'm done

Friday, March 20, 2015

"Rattlesnake Roundups-Rounding up the problems?" An opinion essay

Rattlesnake Roundups-Rounding up the problems?

   The Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup is apparently coming up. Let me describe this to you. Lots of alcohol-crazed people massacring rattlesnakes for no apparent reason. What's wrong with this? Well, for one thing, if you kill the rattlesnakes, you're essentially inviting plague-carrying rodents. Do we really want another Black Death? I think not. But why would people do such a thing? Why would a decent human being ever kill animals for no real reason? We have the ophidiophobiacs, or in the comic strip Frank and Ernest's terms, the lack-toes intolerant who kill rattlesnakes because they're scared of them. We have the alcohol-crazed, who normally wouldn't mindlessly kill rattlesnakes but are because they're under the influence. Then we have the religious, who identify snakes with evil and kill them in the name of their religion. Remember the legend of how St. Patrick drove the snakes (druids) out of Ireland? The religious at rattlesnake roundups are essentially modern St. Patricks. Then we have the just plain mean, who kill rattlesnakes for the sake of killing. These people were guided in the wrong direction and just plain can't be fixed. Then, we have the uninformed and traditionalists, who go the traditional way of the rattlesnake roundup and don't know about the ecological havoc they're wreaking. Then we have the fashion-crazed, who just want their rattlesnake boots. Don't they know that murdering animals is not in this year? There might also be other groups like the Texas natives who do anything pertaining to Texas, the havoc-wreakers who just want to kill and cause chaos, and in some cases people who think rattlesnake rattles are lucky. Now, what's wrong with all this? Picture a world where plague-carrying rodents are everywhere, pestilence is king, and humans that aren't dying are ignorant. This is you soon, Texas! But there is a way. There is a light at the end of this deep dark ignorant tunnel. There is a little thing called the Texas Rattlesnake Festival, which actually celebrates rattlesnakes instead of killing them. Support this event, tag your positive pictures of live rattlesnakes with #rattlesnake2015, and light a candle in your window in honor of these poor rattlesnakes. Remember, as was once said about cancer, the best way to beat rattlesnake roundups is together. And we will be the Reptile Legion, for we are many.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Can you make it through this post without saying "Aaaw"?

Hissies! They're cute, snaky, cuddly, can fly, and are copyright Neopets 1999-2015! What more could you want? And frankly, they're adorable. Here are the rules. Read all of this post! If you saw "Aaaw" or other equivalents such as squealing in delight, you lose! Now then, let's begin.

This Hissi giving a baby a ride.

This Baby Hissi enjoying a lollipop.

This squishy Plushie Hissi.

This Hissi giving a wingless Neopet a ride.

This Grey Hissi. He wants some of your love.

A Maraquan Hissi who just has to dance.




So how about it? Did you say "Aaaw"? Or did you squeal in delight? I bet you did.









Factors effecting precision of radio telemetry in indigo snakes

When researching snake ecology, you might want to track it via radio telemetry. This means that you can know where the snake is and what it's doing without the snake knowing, and you can track it with a computer. But, for other animals, like birds, triangulation is used, which involves doing bearings of direction at two locations, and then using said bearings to estimate where the animal is. But that introduces a much larger chance of error. But, telemetry in snakes has many ways it could go wrong. If your snake is on flooded habitat or dense vegetation, you might not be able to track it, and many snakes spend a lot of time underground or in very thick vegetation, or even underwater! And what if your snake is brumating? And, not to mention, for triangulation, snakes are down-to-earth literally, and having a transmitter that's very low could cause issues in triangulation. Even though, apparently, triangulation is not commonly used in studies of reptiles and amphibians, it may be critical to determine just how accurate triangulated telemetry can be for snakes.

A radio telemetry study was done on Eastern Indigo Snakes as a part of a movement and resource selection study. During the study, a lot of snakes ended up on private land the landowner did not allow access to. During those instances, typical triangulation was used. To determine said snakes' locations, multiple estimators and beacon tests were used and linear error was predicted.

The study was done on the southern 40 kilometers of Lake Ways Ridge in Highlands County, Florida. The study area was a mix of natural habitats including scrub, scrubby flatwoods, mesic flatwoods, forested wetlands, and non-forested wetlands. There were also cattle ranches, citrus groves, and rural and urban development. Eastern Indigo Snakes were searched for using road-cruising and visual encounter surveying around burrows belonging to Gopher Tortoises. However, about 90% of captures were done when tracking other snakes or traveling from field site to field site. Snakes were chosen for radio transmission in a way that distributed the transmitters as evenly as possible among the sites. Smaller snakes got smaller transmitters and larger snakes got larger transmitters. However, at no time did the transmitters exceed 2% of the snake's body weight. Snakes were taken to the Small Animal Hospital for the necessary surgery for transmitter installment. Once the snakes had recovered, they were released into the nearest burrow or brush pile to where they were captured. Each snake was located every two days using a Yagi antenna and a R-1000 receiver. Beacon tests were done throughout the study on telemetered snakes that had accessible locations and did not appear to be moving based on the transmitter signal. 

Radio transmitters were implanted into 32 Eastern Indigo Snakes. Two individuals were lost less than 30 days after release, probably because their transmitters failed. The results had shown that distance to the estimated location of the animal had the strongest effect on linear error, which was consistent with triangulation studies done in the past. Angular error was increased with magnified distance from the transmitter. Reducing the distance between the scientist observing and the animal is often necessary to maintain reasonable accuracy. The low vertical height of the transmitters may have also reduced accuracy. When animals spend large amounts of time underwater or in thick vegetation, it also may reduce the accuracy of transmissions. The position of the snakes had very little effect on the error, except for beacon tests, in which most located snakes were moving. Either way, the results suggested that triangulation may not be sufficient for snake radio telemetry studies. It was suggested that triangulation should be avoided in said studies and beacon tests should be used instead to measure linear error of triangulation.


Bauder, Javan, Barnhart, Patrick. "Factors Affecting he Accuracy and Precision of Triangulated Radio Telemetry Locations of Eastern Indigo Snakes (Drymarchon couperi)" Herpetological Review, 45(4), 590-597. 2014. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

So true...XD

A satire I drew of myself...please don't ask. The characters are me and my Neopets (copyright Neopets 1999-2015), Kasandaria and kiss_angel_girl. Kiss_angel_girl is the dinosaur, and Kasandaria's the snake in black. The text goes as follows...and yes, I am still running Windows XP and scared of the Windows 8 start screen. XD

The Windows XP-rience
"Starting the terror"

Kasandaria:Would it be mean if I scared our owner?
Kiss_angel_girl:How much fear are we talking?
(Neopets end up looking like the evil maniacs they are.)
Kasandaria:Utter terror.
Kiss_angel_girl:What's the plan?
Kasandaria:Windows 8 start screen.
Kiss_angel_girl:Ooh.
Kasandaria: (dressed as Windows 8 start screen) This is your new start screen.
Me (human):AAAA!



Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snappy answers to snaky questions

Hey there! With Repticon in Memphis coming up, those of you who are coming are probably going to get a lot of snaky questions, some of which are downright stupid! So without further ado, I present snappy answers to snaky questions.

Snappy answers to snaky questions

Q:"Is this snake poisonous?"
A:"Why do you need to know, are you going to eat it?"

Q:"Can this snake bite?"
A:"Does this snake have a mouth?"

Q:"Is this snake venomous?"
A:"You'll find out if it bites you."

Q:"Could this snake constrict my *family member here*?"
A:"Depends. How big is your *family member here*?"

Q:"Will this snake bite?"
A:"If you try to hurt it, then maybe."

Q:"What kind of snake is this?"
A:"(Calmly say species' common name.)"

Q:"How big does this snake get?"
A:"Why don't you find out? Keep it for a couple of years."

Q:"What does this snake eat?"
A:"Almost any small animal that can fit in its mouth."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Graphing a heart...

from wolframalpha.com

There were other options, but they all used trigonometric functions...

(x^2+y^2-1)^3 = x^2 y^3

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Alli's Pick:Frank and Ernest

Where I found this comic


 If you don't get the joke, this involves a play on words of "lactose intolerant" which is when a human or animal cannot digest lactose, the sugar in milk properly. Because lactose sounds like lack-toes and snakes lack toes and many people don't tolerate them, we end up with the lack-toes intolerant, or, in scientist's terms, ophidiophobiacs. Either way, do what it says. Don't pay any attention to the lack-toes intolerant unless you're trying to educate them.

This cartoon copyright 2013 Bob Thaves & Tom Thaves

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Alli's Pick:FoxTrot

Where I found this comic strip



 Quincy here has been escaping from his tank, terrorizing Paige, and eating things he shouldn't since 1988 in the Foxtrot comic strip by Bill Amend. He's Jason's pet iguana and seems incredibly tolerant. He isn't very realistic in behavior, for one thing, he eats crickets when iguanas are vegetarian, but he gets points for his utter cuteness.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hellbenders and their conservation issues

A hellbender is a large salamander that is endemic to North America and has two distinct subspecies, the eastern hellbender, a salamander found throughout the eastern states, and the Ozark hellbender, which is found only in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri. Hellbenders have existed for more than 65 million years, but sadly, they are now declining due to habitat destruction, poor water quality, predation, and invasive species.

State Wildlife Grants has helped these salamanders via securing hellbenders' futures. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Tennessee Hellbender Recovery Partnership were presented with a State Wildlife Action Plan Partnership Award in March 2013 due to their leadership in conservation of eastern hellbenders, and their many efforts to prevent the subspecies becoming threatened.

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, in fall 2010, proposed listing both North American subspecies of hellbenders as federally endangered, due to declines in their populations since the 1990s. These two subspecies are North America's piece of the pie of giant salamanders, with only two other species in existence, the Chinese and Japanese giant salamanders. All giant salamanders are threatened by human activities, however.

While the eastern hellbender's federal status was being reviewed, the TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) looked to see if it was really true that hellbenders were at great risk in Tennessee. At the time this was done, it was believed that the eastern hellbender was just as threatened as its cousin in the Ozark Mountains, but data was not available to support this. Other local hellbender experts were needed to help develop projects to firmly discern whether or not Endangered Species Act protection was needed. The experts used were Dr. Brian Miller, a professor working at Middle Tennessee State University, Dale McGinnity, the curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Nashville Zoo, and Dr. Michael Freake, a professor at Lee University. The copious amounts of knowledge, experience, and passion these experts had for hellbender conservation truly informed a number of TWRA projects that would soon produce the data needed to determine the eastern hellbender's federal status.

Surveying efforts helped show more of the picture of the hellbender's status in Tennessee. The salamander's distribution and abundance within the range it had historically declined severely over the last 20 years. Hellbenders in Middle Tennessee were only present in four Tennessee River tributaries, but they were not present in the Cumberland or Barrens Rivers systems, places where they were once abundant. Hellbenders were also missing in action from other streams that once had grand populations. Many of the populations of older animals had either no reproduction or the recruitment of young hellbenders. Genetic surveying of tissue samples from hellbenders in each river system differentiated two main populations:the Duck river system and Hiwassee river system populations. This knowledge would help guide future efforts to restock systems with hellbenders, to maintain genetic diversity.

In later years, new techniques were developed to restore hellbenders. McGinnity produced the first captive-bred eastern hellbenders, and he and Dr. Debra Miller at University of Tennessee, Knoxville produced sampling protocols for better understanding the impact of chytrid fungus and ranavirus on hellbenders, and both conditions were detected contributing to the eastern hellbender's decline. Furthermore, via conservation, improved techniques, and captive breeding, this ancient, beautiful salamander's life can be secured hopefully for years to come.

Reeves, Bill, Pfaffko, Mary. "Conserving the Eastern Hellbender in Tennessee" Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. 2014. (?) http://teaming.com/sites/default/files/Conserving%20the%20Eastern%20Hellbender%20in%20Tennessee_0.pdf

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Alli's Pick:Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin loves snakes! <3 Of course, he kind of mixed up poisonous and venomous, but hey, he's Calvin. He can kind of get away with it.







Calvin and Hobbes copyright Bill Watterson 1985-1995.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Body Size and Growth of the Eastern Collared Lizard in Central Arkansas

Because of habitat fragmentation and population declines, the Eastern Collared Lizard is designated as a vulnerable species in Arkansas. Fertility is a major component of population dynamics, and size is related to fertility, it makes sense that age-specific size and growth can indicate the health of Eastern Collared Lizard populations.

Methods and Materials

Studies were done on a privately owned rock quarry near the Arkansas River Valley region in Central Arkansas that contained 4-5 colonies of Eastern Collared Lizards. No evidence of migration was found between adjacent colonies, even though it wouldn't be that hard for the lizards to migrate, as colonies were separated by grass and dirt roads. All colonies were treated as a population. Most of the site had large areas of rocks and boulders, with some vegetation and hardwood forest. Between May and October 2011, data on body size and growth was recorded to the nearest millimeter, gender of lizard, and age class. Bodies of female lizards were examined to see how well they were doing reproduction-wise. It was not attempted to distinguish the gender of hatchling lizards. After the lizards were captured, they were given a toe clip and mark with a paint pen. Growth rates of this Central Arkansas population were compared to the Sandy Ridge population's growth rates. Raw data and comparisons of individual growth rates weren't available for Sandy Ridge pre-suppression due to sample size. Sandy Ridge raw data was not available for post-suppression either, so comparisons were used via the mean, standard deviation, and sample size for each size/age class.

Results

Over the course of the study, 141 yearling and adult lizards were captured and there were 77 recaptures of 37 hatchlings. Body size was similar for all age/size classes between the central Arkansas and pre-suppression Sandy Ridge populations. Except for adult females, the lizards were larger in central Arkansas than in Sandy Ridge post-suppression populations. It was concluded that in their first full activity season, yearling females must reach a minimum body size of 77 mm to lay eggs. Egg sacs were detected in all but the two smallest yearling females. Growth rates did not differ significantly between the central Arkansas and Sandy Ridge post suppression populations. The mean size of lizards from central Arkansas and pre-suppression Sandy Ridge compared favorably with each other. However, most lizards from the central Arkansas population were much larger than Sandy Ridge post-suppression and do not differ from pre-suppression Sandy Ridge lizards in size. Data on the yearling females' body size and growth suggested that the annual fertility of the central Arkansas lizards should be fairly high. Six of eight yearling females in the Central Arkansas population reached the predicted minimum body size of 77 mm necessary for reproduction. Furthermore, the mean size of adult females in Central Arkansas was similar to that of Sandy Ridge pre-suppression. Thus, it was shown that this Central Arkansas population was fairly healthy.


Brewster, Casey, Sikes, Robert, Gifford, Matthew. "Body Size and Growth of the Eastern Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris) in Central Arkansas" Herpetological Review, 45(4), 580-583. 2014.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Shake my Tail-Parody of "Shake it Off"

If rattlesnakes could do songs of protest...

I'm just a little snake
There's no reason to hate
That's what I will say, mm-mm.
That's what I will say, mm-mm.

Some lives I might just take
but before that, I shake.
That's what I will say, mm-mm.
That's what I will say, mm-mm.

But I keep slitherin'
Can't stop, won't stop givin'
'Cause I eat the rodents
In the towns,
'Cause I gotta keep the pests out.

'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate hate
I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake my tail, I shake my tail
The chasers gonna chase, chase, chase, chase, chase
And the snakers gonna snake, snake, snake, snake, snake
I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake shake shake
I shake my tail, I shake my tail

I eat up all your pests
Your crops can do the rest
And you don't think I'm the best, mm-mm.
You don't think I'm the best, mm-mm.

My venom's not for you
Humans don't make good food
I don't want to bite you, mm-mm.
Don't want to bite you, mm-mm.

But I keep slitherin'
Can't stop, won't stop givin'
'Cause I eat the rodents
In the towns,
'Cause I gotta keep the pests out.

'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate hate
I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake my tail, I shake my tail
The chasers gonna chase, chase, chase, chase, chase
And the snakers gonna snake, snake, snake, snake, snake
I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake shake shake
I shake my tail, I shake my tail

Shake my tail, I shake my tail
I, I, I shake my tail, I shake my tail
I, I, I shake my tail, I shake my tail
I, I, I shake my tail, I shake my tail

Hey, hey, hey
Just think while you've been getting scared and panicking about the

rattlesnakes and the little tiny rat snakes of the world,
You could've been getting educated by this rattlesnake.

Someone's man brought their new girlfriend
She's like "Aah, a snake!" but I'm just gonna shake it.
And to the fella over there who's about to chop my head
Put that machete down! I'll just shake, shake shake

Yeah ohhh

'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate hate
I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake my tail, I shake my tail
The chasers gonna chase, chase, chase, chase, chase
And the snakers gonna snake, snake, snake, snake, snake
I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake shake shake
I shake my tail, I shake my tail

Shake my tail, I shake my tail
I, I, I shake my tail, I shake my tail
I, I, I shake my tail, I shake my tail
I, I, I shake my tail, I shake my tail

Shake my tail, I shake my tail
I, I, I shake my tail, I shake my tail
I, I, I shake my tail, I shake my tail
I, I, I shake my tail, I shake my tail

Shake my tail, I shake my tail
I, I, I shake my tail, I shake my tail
I, I, I shake my tail, I shake my tail
I, I, I shake my tail, I shake my tail