Saturday, July 23, 2016

Program Snake Adventures:Pokemon Go @CatchEmAll #PokemonGo #PokemonIRL

You've met Microsoft snakes like XP, Bob, and Windows 98 at My Little Python. But why limit the anthropomorphic, serpentine possibilities to Microsoft products? Considering its/her current popularity, I figured that you might enjoy a snake for Pokemon Go. BTW, I consider this fan art. If you are with Niantic and want me to remove it due to copyright reasons, I will.

This is the snake for Pokemon Go. Spawning from a device with the app or a massive Pokeball, she wears a Pokemon trainer-esque outfit and carries a sword. Her favored Pokemon include Ekans, Gyarados, and an iPad with legs. This is the origin of the iPad with legs. Click comics to enlarge.

The art style might seem strange to you. The reason is that this is my attempt at anime. Oh, and the developer is male. Not because I'm sexist or anything, but because I usually pair female Program Snakes with male developers. Normally in battle, Pokemon Go would choose her Gyarados, but she knew that its water attacks would kill the iPad.

Here is a #PokemonIRL card for the iPad. Shooting lightning from a USB charger is kind of unusual, but as far as I could tell, pretty much all the Electric Pokemon attack by shooting lightning from some part of their body. Besides, the charger makes a nice tail.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

JMIH 2016:My favorite sessions @SnakeAdvocate @rattlesnake_mel

One of my favorite sessions was on behavior in juvenile Spotted Salamanders and how they used burrows and whether they burrowed separately, together, or randomly. The main thing I liked about this session is the study methods. They needed to test to see if the salamanders would exhibit clumped distribution (burrowing together) in a predation environment. But they didn't want to hurt any salamanders, so they simulated a predation environment and it worked! And yes, the salamanders did exhibit clumped distribution. 

Another favorite was on performance and morphology of rat snakes and king snakes. It concerned how a king snake can overpower and eat a similarly sized or larger rat snake. It actually discussed many things that weren't the reason. Larger snakes are more muscular but king snakes aren't more muscular than rat snakes. King snakes weren't better at escaping constriction than rat snakes. But king snakes constricted much better. More precisely, most rat snakes, when they constrict, are all over the place like this:

Image from
However, when king snakes constrict, they're like this:

Image from
The constriction method of a king snake inflicts much more force than that of a rat snake. This explains how a king snake can overpower a similarly sized and similarly powerful rat snake.

One of my favorites from the entire conference was on whether or not drought drives rattlesnakes into people's yards. During times of drought, the Internet is ablaze with articles about how going into your yard is dangerous because rattlesnakes might go in there looking for water, like this one. (BTW, it's actually a really good article from the Los Angeles Times and involves tips on how to stay safe about venomous snakes.) The researchers in this study decided to test if drought actually drove rattlesnakes into yards. They discovered that coiling and half-burying yourself (sometimes I do this during the summer in Memphis) minimizes water loss. And they discovered that during drought, the rattlesnakes did just that and they sat there. This means that during drought, you're less likely to find rattlesnakes in your yard, not more. So, drought drives media reports about rattlesnakes into your yard, but no actual rattlesnakes. 

Another favorite was on the collapse of a bird-snake mutualism. The collapse was very sad and included some graphic pictures of suffering snakes, but the mutualism itself was fascinating. On this island known as Seahorse Key, there is no fresh water to bring freshwater fish, cottonmouths' usual diet. But there are a ton of cottonmouths. The island was also, before the collapse, frequented by birds. The birds would drop pieces of fish carcasses which provided food for the cottonmouths. In exchange, the cottonmouths would eat nest predators, protecting the birds. So, the snakes got food and the birds got protection. It's kind of like the relationship between a kid and a parent. The parent provides food, water, shelter, clothing, and education in exchange for the child taking care of them when they're older.

 However, my favorite from the entire conference was on social behavior of rattlesnakes. This presentation was in the middle of an incredibly interesting symposium on social behavior in reptiles, hosted by Gordon Burghardt. Yes, the Gordon Burghardt. It contained sessions about cooperative hunting in reptiles, vocalizations in turtles, sociality in pit vipers, and even a session on social behavior in tuatara! Also, I found out that the guy who invented Tabasco sauce was an avid amateur herper and actually was the first person to document maternal and paternal care in alligators in the 1930s. People didn't believe him until the 1970s, though. Oh, and about paternal care in gators? Yes, it's true. You often hear a lot about gators being good moms because they are. But, for all the dads out there, the dad gator does take care of his kids while the mom is hunting or otherwise unavailable. Anyway, back to the social behavior in rattlesnakes session. The main thing I loved about this session was not the topic, but the person who was doing the session. She was Melissa Amarello, the person who created Advocates for Snake Preservation and the reason My Little Python isn't just some 11-year-old's tiny blogcomic. Melissa has done amazing things for the snakes of My Little Python and snakekind. She discovered that rattlesnakes had friends and used this for an absolutely amazing advocacy campaign. She is awesome. Also, ASP has seriously helped My Little Python ascend to its modern form. Way back in February 2015, we created the "Shake My Tail" parody. We happened to be in the right place at the right time because it just so happened that it coincided with ASP's campaigns for rattlesnakes as a response to rattlesnake roundup's campaigns against rattlesnakes. My mom shared it with various rattlesnake pages, including ASP. I had serious doubts that an organization as big as ASP would acknowledge the existence of my tiny blog. And they did. They shared it! This meant that it managed to spread from ASP to people like the Texas Rattlesnake Festival. They asked My Little Python to create a Facebook page so they could feature them. Then, from the Texas Rattlesnake Festival, leading social media pages about reptiles like HerperProps and The Reptile Report to share about My Little Python. ASP kickstarted the My Little Python advocacy and really made My Little Python an advocacy campaign. That's one reason why I changed the slogan from "cute little snakies" to "changing the world one snake at a time". Cute little snakies is this. "We are a webcomic about cute snakes." Which we are, but we're so much more. Changing the world one snake at a time is this. "We're cute, but we're making a difference. We will change your views about snakes. We are awesome, but not as awesome as Melissa Amarello, to whom we owe our existence in our modern form." Thank you, Melissa Amarello. It was an honor to meet you at JMIH. 

And, poster sessions? There's no contest. This was the best poster at JMIH. I think one of the presenter's parent's students was canceled, giving the presenter her place in the sun.

But my favorite poster session from an actual presenter was from a University of Memphis student. A former mammalogist who turned to the snake side and decided to study urban copperheads in cooperation with the main herpetologist at the Memphis Zoo. I am now in contact with her, since she, for me, is local and someone I might be able to do work with. Welcome to the snake side. We have copperheads.

Friday, July 15, 2016

JMIH 2016:Plenary #4

The fourth plenary was about herpetological progress-or the lack thereof. It mainly discussed stuff we don't know about anoles-and stuff we don't know we don't know! This included stuff like four divergences in anoles on just one tiny island, with the same going for all other widespread Carribean anoles. And there's huge amounts of stuff we don't know we don't know, so to know it, we haven't even tried to study it because we don't know we don't know it! Then, Anolis sp. from Hispaniola, an island on which we thought we knew everything about its wildlife. We thought it was, as I put it, "herped-out". And for some reason, the anoles similarly evolved in Cuba and Hispaniola. We don't know that! Now, these anoles were supposed to be territorial. They weren't. They were mating with out-of-territory anoles! Also, we, as in the herpetological community, thought Anolis proboscis was extinct. A group of birdwatchers proved us wrong! Also, there's huge amounts of stuff we don't know about A. proboscis like, say, we thought the horn was stiff. It wasn't! It was flexible and movable. There weren't supposed to be muscles there, so how does it move? We don't know! And what purpose does it serve? Until we discovered it was limp and movable, we thought it was for combat, but a limp, bendy sword wouldn't be useful if you're fighting a war and the same goes for anoles. Also, at one point some people went to a tiny, rocky island. There are no trees and almost no plants on that island. And somehow, there is an anole there. At one point, the tourists dropped an orange peel onto the ground. The anoles swarmed all over it and ate it. So they concluded, "These lizards like orange." So, the anole people tested their conclusion by going there and bringing orange peels. It turns out, the lizards did eat them. Also, they had Chuckles candies and they dropped all the colors on the ground, to test if the anoles had a preference. And they did! The anoles overwhelmingly preferred orange and yellow. And, we still don't know basic aspects of anoles' natural history like how they evolved in all the different places they're native to, the purpose of horns in horned anoles, and so much more.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

JMIH 2016:Plenary #3

The third plenary was an AES plenary involving sawfish conservation. While I was waiting for the presentation to begin, I managed to figure out how to draw sawfish in several different styles, including realistic, anthropomorphic, and 8-bit. The first part of the presentation discussed the history of the AES and mourned the loss of Jeannie Clark in 2015. Jeannie was an incredibly dedicated member of the AES who focused on shark conservation. A truly great  #FisHER. Then, it began to discuss sawfish as a whole. The elasmobrancs are found in estuaries off oceans and coastal rivers. They usually live for 10-12 years and have 8-12 young, born live. Very recently, sawfish phylogeny has been rearranged and redefined due to genetic sequencing. The sawfish rostrum (that's the long snout with all the teeth on it) is used for stunning and killing fishy prey and sensing electrical signals given off by prey. There are currently 5 living species of sawfish, and all 5 are either endangered or critically endangered. The main sources of their decline include commercial fishing outside the US, bycatch mortality, misconceptions and sensationalism, trophy fishing, and habitat loss. Out of all elasmobrancs, sawfish are the most threatened. In Florida, sawfish were listed as protected in 1992, and were officially endangered in 2003. In 2012, a plan was devised to conserve sawfish worldwide. And, in 2016, AES, at JMIH 2016, did a symposium entirely on sawfish and their conservation. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

JMIH 2016:Plenary #2

The second plenary was an ASIH plenary involving oceans and underwater exploration. The presentation began with explaining that we need to get kids connected with nature and that Earth is a system for the support of life that, due to humans, is collapsing and that we need to see all the changes that are happening. This can be difficult because most of the life on Earth lives in "the dark", obscure, shadowy places, like caves, isolated islands, and underwater. But we can light "the dark" and expose its biodiversity with modern technology that allows humans to go into "the dark" and stay there. And with this technology, we can reveal that even though we can't detect animals' feelings, we're still all connected as living creatures on Earth. What we do to the animals eventually gets reflected back at us. In the 1970s, mixed-gender aquarist teams were unthinkable but women were interested. There was a huge amount of questioning because females in science were a rare thing at that time, but eventually, the scientists in charge let them form an all-female team. Because, in their own words, "Well, half the fish are female." Then, the presentation began to discuss how we need to change the world and explained that we, as humans, want to understand things. This means that independent research is some of the most driven research as it is fueled not by grant money, but by the natural human drive to understand things. With enough independent research, we can democratize the sea. The main takeaway from that session was the following. With current technology, we can stabilize the world. Now is our only chance to do that. We know we need to. We know the problems exist. We have the power to fix them and we need to do it now

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

JMIH 2016:Plenary #1

This year at JMIH, there were a ton of plenaries. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but there still were 4 of them. The first plenary was the SSAR President's Travellogue on reptiles and amphibians in the Amazon and Sahara Desert. The speaker and his team of fellow herpetologists had huge amounts of progress in herping the Amazon and Sahara. They were the first herpetologists to sample personal mines. At one point, they were in Africa and heard rumors about big snakes from the locals. This interested them, so they herped it and found pythons in that area for the first time. Then they were reading about biography in National Geographic and biology journals. They were interested in biography, so they did it in the Amazon and managed to find 14 new species in 3 weeks including frogs, lizards, and snakes. After this, they spent 6 more months in the Sahara and found lizards that swim through sand, lizards similar to North American fence lizards, and many species that specifically made their homes in sand dunes. Also, they found sand vipers, rock pools in the desert which contained fish, caecilians, frogs, and monitor lizards. Then they returned to the Amazon again, finding beautiful agamas and geckos in the mountains, and huge numbers of tiny frogs, all coming from different lineages, as well as new lizards, snakes, frogs, turtles, and species that only existed in certain microhabitats. This totaled 187 new species from their expeditions.