Saving New Zealand skinks


This video from New Zealand is about Otago skinks.

From Wildlife Extra:

Endangered skinks collected in NZ for breeding

Eighty-five endangered grand and Otago skinks have been collected near Wanaka in New Zealand as part of a as part of a breed-for-release programme

Ongoing decline in western grand and Otago skink populations has prompted the Department of Conservation (DOC) and several other agencies to collect the skinks from their Grandview Range habitat in the Lindis. The skinks will be housed temporarily at zoos, wild life parks and eco-sanctuaries throughout New Zealand, as part of a breed-for-release programme.

“This programme aims to increase numbers of both species so they can be released back into secure sites within their former range,” Grand and Otago Skink Project Manager Gavin Udy said. “It is a great example of conservation agencies and individuals working together to ensure the ongoing survival of an iconic, unique and endangered New Zealand species,”

Grand and Otago skinks are two of New Zealand’s most distinctive and impressive lizards. Known as giant skinks, they are the country’s largest lizards, with Otago skinks growing up to 300mm in length and grand skinks 230mm.

These omnivorous lizards are diurnal, and don’t hibernate. They can live for up to 20 years in the wild, and give birth to live young – two or three a year. Both species are unique to Otago and are two of New Zealand’s rarest reptiles. They are now found in only eight percent of their former range and have the highest possible threat status, ‘Nationally Critically Endangered‘.

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Sunbitterns, tiger heron in Costa Rica


Montezuma's oropendola nesting colony, 17 March 2014

Still 17 March 2014 near the Sarapiqui river in Costa Rica. Not only frogs and spiders there; but, of course, also birds. Like this Montezuma’s oropendola nesting colony.

Montezuma's oropendola male at nesting colony, 17 March 2014

Some oropendola males do their mating season gymnastics performances, while singing their songs.

Montezuma's oropendola male, at nesting colony, 17 March 2014

And a female white-necked jacobin hummingbird.

A yellow-crowned euphonia. And an orange-billed sparrow.

Red-throated ant tanager, 17 March 2014

A male red-throated ant tanager, singing on a branch.

Red-throated ant tanager male, 17 March 2014

Red-throated ant tanager female, 17 March 2014

There was a female as well.

Sunbitterns with fish, 17 March 2014

At the river bank, two rare sunbitterns. One of them catches a fish. It is not as dexterous at swallowing it as real bitterns.

Sun bitterns are called “zonneral”, sun rail, in Dutch. But they are not closely related to either rails or bitterns.

Sarapiqui river, 17 March 2014

We go a bit further along the river.

Pug-nosed anole, 17 March 2014

A lizard on a tree trunk. A pug-nosed anole male?

Fasciated tiger heron, 17 March 2014

A fasciated tiger heron among the rocks.

Fasciated tiger heron catches food, 17 March 2014

It catches food from the river.

Fasciated tiger heron, Sarapiqui river, 17 March 2014

A spotted sandpiper.

A neotropic cormorant flies along.

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New lizard species discovery in Sri Lanka


This video is called Monitor Lizards of Sri Lanka.

By Mrinalini Erkenswick Watsa:

Scientists discover new gecko hanging-on in single forest fragment

February 17, 2014

Scientists have identified a new species of day gecko that is the largest in its genus (Cnemaspis) to be found in Sri Lanka. To date, it has been observed only within the Rammalakanda Reserve in southern Sri Lanka, an area spanning just 1,700 hectares, raising questions about the viability of this population and hence the species’ long-term prospects.

The gecko belongs to the enigmatic genus of Cnemaspis, which in 2003 contained only four representative species within Sri Lanka. Since then, scientists have discovered 18 further species in the island country, but none as large in size as this most recent discovery. Known locally as the ‘Rammale day gecko’ (Rammale pahalpalli in Tamil, and Rammale diva huna in Sinhalese), the new gecko measures around 53 millimeters from snout to vent—a small reptile to us, but a giant in comparison to other gecko species in the area.

Its most distinctive features are its large size and numerous scales on the ventral side or belly. In fact, the Rammale day gecko possesses nearly 22 percent more scales than the next closest species, Cnemaspis alwesi, while approaching the size of Cnemaspis sisparensis, the largest gecko recorded to date on the entire Indian peninsula.

Scientist Dulan Ranga Vidanapathirana, and his colleagues from the Herpetological Foundation of Sri Lanka and the Center for applied Biodiversity Research and Education in Kandy, reported this discovery in the journal Zootaxa.

“The occurrence of such a large species in a small forest patch at the edge of the wet zone is unexpected,” they write.

Rammalakanda Forest Reserve spans the border between Hambanthota and Matara districts in southern Sri Lanka, and supports a rich diversity of flora and fauna, including 99 species that can be found only within the reserve and nowhere else. The National Conservation Review recognizes it as one of the top 70 forests requiring conservation action within Sri Lanka.

Despite the Reserve receiving some protection from the government, concerns are high for the future of this rare and cryptic species that has eluded discovery until today.

“Illegal tree felling to cultivate tea has become a major threat in the area, ” write the authors. “Tea plantations and human settlements in the surrounding areas are slowly expanding, and are encroaching towards the forest, slowly destroying the habitat of this species.”

It is unfortunate that the celebration of a newly discovered species must immediately be tempered by anxiety for its future, but this is the increasing reality for scientists and conservationists working in the world’s tropical forests. As for this gecko, in honor of the place in which it was discovered, it has been named Cnemaspis rammalensis.

Citations:

D. L. Vidanapathirana, M. D. G. Rajeev, N. Wickramasinghe, S. S. Fernando and L. J. M. Wickramasinghe. (2014) Cnemaspis rammalensis sp. nov., Sri Lanka’s largest day-gecko
 (Sauria: Gekkonidae: Cnemaspis) from Rammalakanda Man and Biosphere Reserve in southern Sri Lanka. Zootaxa 3755 (3): 273-286.

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Qatar lizards, new research


This video from Qatar says about itself:

Desert Monitor Lizard (Dabb Lizard), Qatar.

29 June 2013

An endangered reptile; needs conservation.

In Qatar, there are not only ugly human rights violations, but also beautiful animals. Including lizards.

From Dr. Essam OH Saifelnasr in Qatar:

4-Feb-2014

Where do lizards in Qatar live? First distribution maps for the state

The state of Qatar occupies a small peninsula of 11,500 km2 within the Arabian Peninsula. Both Qatar’s population and economy have increased rapidly during the last decades, thus putting a strong pressure on native species. The commitment of the Qatari government towards sustainable development has triggered a variety of studies of its dwindling biodiversity.

A recent lizard inventory project has confirmed the occurrence of 21 lizard species, two of them being the first records to the fauna of Qatar, the Persian leaf-toed gecko and the Gulf sand gecko. The Qatari lizards belong to eight different families, but the most abundant family is Gekkonidae with nine species of nocturnal Geckos.

The authors of this study have found that while some lizard species are widespread, others are only present in few locations. In fact, lizard species richness varied between one and eleven species per grid square of 10×10 km. The most abundant lizard species are associated with artificial habitats made by human activities, and some of these are probably introduced. Other lizard species appear to be rare and would require urgent conservation measures. Despite the small size and flat relief of the country, some areas are not easily accessible and were under sampled. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The authors believe that additional lizard species might be present. “Additional efforts and funds are needed for future field surveys including all protected areas and private farms in order to complete the inventory of lizards of Qatar”, explains one of the authors Dr. Cogalniceanu. “The complete distribution database will be valuable to identify and plan adequate conservation measures for lizards. The data will also allow for species distribution modelling and predicting shifts in species range under different climate change scenarios and human impact factors.”

This study was possible thanks to the efforts and close collaboration of a large international team from Qatar (Ministry of Environment, Qatar Foundation and Qatar University) and several European institutions from Spain (University of Zaragoza, Aranzadi Society of Sciences, Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia-CTFC, Spanish National Research Council-CSIC) and Romania (University Ovidius Constanţa).

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New lizard species discovery in Malaysia


This video is about a species, related to the newly discovered lizard. The video is called Cyrtodactylus peguensis male chirping.

From Zootaxa:

A new species of karst forest-adapted Bent-toed Gecko (genus Cyrtodactylus Gray, 1827) belonging to the C. sworderi complex from a threatened karst forest in Perak, Peninsular Malaysia

Abstract

A new species of Bent-toed Gecko Cyrtodactylus guakanthanensis sp. nov. of the C. sworderi complex is described from a limestone forest in Perak, Peninsular Malaysia whose karst formations at the type locality are within an active quarry.

Cyrtodactylus guakanthanensis sp. nov. can be distinguished from all other Sundaland species by having the following suite of character states: adult SVL 77.7–82.2 mm; moderately sized, conical, weakly keeled, body tubercles; tubercles present on occiput, nape, and limbs, and extend posteriorly beyond base of tail; 37–44 ventral scales; no transversely enlarged, median, subcaudal scales; proximal subdigital lamellae transversely expanded; 19–21 subdigital lamellae on fourth toe; abrupt transition between posterior and ventral femoral scales; enlarged femoral scales; no femoral or precloacal pores; precloacal groove absent; wide, dark postorbital stripes from each eye extending posteriorly to the anterior margin of the shoulder region thence forming a transverse band across the anterior margin of the shoulder region; and body bearing five (rarely four) wide, bold, dark bands.

Destruction of the karst microhabitat and surrounding limestone forest will extirpate this new species from the type locality and perhaps drive it to complete extinction given that it appears to be restricted to the particular microhabitat structure of the type locality and is not widely distributed throughout the karst formations. As with plants and invertebrates, limestone forests are proving to be significant areas of high herpetological endemism and should be afforded special conservation status rather than turned into cement.

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Island lizards less scared of people


This video is called Marine iguanas of the Galapagos islandsBBC wildlife.

From Nature:

Islands make animals tamer

Lizard study supports Darwin‘s hunch that lack of predators leads to unwatchful behaviour.

Ed Yong

08 January 2014

When Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands, he noted that many of its animal inhabitants were so unafraid of people that “a gun is here almost superfluous”. He swatted birds with his hat, pulled the tails of iguanas and sat on giant tortoises.

These antics fuelled his famous idea that animals become tame when they live on remote, predator-free islands. Now, William Cooper Jr of Indiana University–Purdue University in Fort Wayne has tested Darwin’s hypothesis on 66 species of lizards from around the world and found that island dwellers tended to be more docile than their continental relatives — the strongest evidence yet for this classic idea. The results are published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B1.

Several studies and unpublished reports have shown that particular species are more approachable on islands where there are fewer predators, or quicker to flee on islands that contain introduced hunters such as feral cats. But despite this largely anecdotal evidence for island tameness, “no one has ever established that it’s a general phenomenon in any group”, says Cooper. “We showed that for a large prey group — lizards — there really is a significant decline in wariness on islands.”

Taming of the few

Island tameness is an old idea, but there have been few tests of it,” says Dan Blumstein, a behavioural biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “This is a needed paper that convincingly shows some of the drivers of island tameness in lizards.”

Cooper and his colleagues scoured past studies and collated data on the distance at which lizards start to flee when approached by a researcher. They took a conservative approach, discarding studies in which researchers had pointed at the lizards, walked towards the animals faster or slower than a particular fixed speed, or studied populations that were habituated to humans.

Cooper and his team ended up with data for 66 species, from the Eurasian common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) to the Galapagos marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). The results clearly showed that humans can get closer to island-dwelling lizards than to mainland ones, and that lizards become more approachable on islands that are farther from the mainland.

Island ecology is so important that it overrides any effect of evolutionary history, Cooper and his co-authors say. They also showed that even closely related lizard species have different escape behaviours depending on where they live, and that their evolutionary relationships were mostly irrelevant.

The results do not explain why island lizards are tamer than those on the mainland, although the relative lack of island predators is the most likely reason. Animals with skittish dispositions can needlessly abandon valuable resources, and natural selection would be expected to weed out such responses if predators are rare or absent.

Cooper wants to test this idea, but says that it is hard to get decent data on the numbers, densities and types of predators on different islands.

See also here. And here.

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Protect beautiful Mozambique rainforest


This video says about itself:

Discovering Mount Mabu

3 March 2011

Earth Focus: Scientists discover new species of wildlife in Mt. Mabu, a remote forest region in Mozambique that was, until recently, one of the few unexplored places left on Earth. Correspondent Jeffrey Barbee follows a research team to Mt. Mabu reporting on their new finds and explaining why this lost Eden is important for conservation.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Protect the Mozambique forest found on Google Earth, scientists say

Mount Mabu rainforest teeming with new and unique species including pygmy chameleons and bronze-colour snakes

Josh Davies

Friday 3 January 2014 07.00 GMT

A remote rainforest in Mozambique discovered using Google Earth has so many new and unique species that it should be declared a protected area, scientists say.

Pygmy chameleons, a bronzed bush viper and butterflies with shimmering yellow wings are among the species in the forests covering Mount Mabu in northern Mozambique.

Discovered in 2005 by scientists using satellite images, the forests, previously only known to local villagers, have proven to be a rich ecosystem teeming with new species of mammals, butterflies, reptiles, insects and plants. The mountain forests have been isolated from a much larger forest block for millennia, meaning there has been no migration between this site and the next mountain for tens of thousands of years, allowing unique species to evolve in isolation.

One such species is a golden-eyed bush viper with bronze-edged scales (Atheris mabuensis) which Julian Bayliss, a conservation scientist for Kew Gardens, found by stepping on during a survey. His team is also waiting to describe a further two species of snake. A new species of chameleon (Nadzikambia baylissi) has already been described from the site, and the researchers are also describing another. The size of a human palm, with a warm yellow chest, green eyes and a spiky crest along its back, Rhampholeon sp. are commonly known as pygmy chameleons.

Bayliss’s team has identified 126 different species of birds within the forest block, including seven that are globally threatened, such as the endangered spotted ground thrush (Zoothera guttata). There are an estimated 250 species of butterfly, including five which are awaiting to be described, like Baliochila sp., a vibrant specimen which has shimmering yellow wings dusted with black. New species of bats, shrews, rodents, frogs, fish and plants are also waiting to be described.

“The finding of the new species was really creating an evidence base to justify its protection,” explained Dr Bayliss, “and now we’ve got enough to declare a site of extreme biological importance that needs to be a protected area and needs to be managed for conservation.”

In first step to making the forest an internationally recognised protected area – such as a national park – the team have submitted an application to have its importance officially recognised . This “gazetting” application has been accepted on a provincial and national level, but is currently waiting to be signed by the government.

If the application is successful, then the forest will be protected from logging concessions seeking valuable hardwoods currently threatening the mountain.

“The people who threaten Mabu are already there, and really what we’re trying to do now is a race against time towards its conservation. It’s getting there early enough to get the wheels in motion to make it a protected area before it’s too late,” said Bayliss.

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Rare wall lizard on New Years Day


This is a wall lizard video from Switzerland.

On New Years Day, three young rare wall lizards were seen in the Twente region in Overijssel province in the Netherlands.

The photo is here.

So far, this species was basically only known from Maastricht in the extreme southern Netherlands.

New lizard species discovery in Peru


This video, in Spanish, is about a relative of the recently discovered lizard species. It says about itself:

Here we report about what appears to be a Wreath Tree Iguana or Elegant Tree Iguana (Liolaemus lesmniscatus), a lizard which lives in different parts of Argentina and Chile.

From Wildlife Extra:

New lizards discovered in Peru

Three previously unrecognised species names after cultural icons

December 2013: Three new lizards have been discovered in the Andes by Peruvian and American biologists from San Marcos and Brigham Young universities respectively. These lizards have been ‘hidden’ and confused with other lizards of the same group because of their overall similar appearance.

However this study, which includes molecular, ecological and more detailed morphological analyses, has identified them as new species. The new study shows that with few resources, multiple different lines of evidence can be integrated to discover new species and provide a basis for more stable scientific names. Species with scientific names tend to become more ‘visible’ to national and international governments and organisations devoted to biodiversity conservation.

Species that are not formally described and without scientific names will often not enjoy the protection of conservation programmes – an issue of pivotal importance in the Andean, Patagonian, and Neotropical regions of South America. The new species are named after and dedicated to two different old Andean civilizations, Chavín and Wari, and an Inca ruler, Pachacutec. Liolaemus pachacutec was found above Písac, an Inca ruin built by Pachacutec. Liolaemus chavin was found in an area close to the center of the Chavín culture, where reptiles and other animals were represented in some remarkable artistic expressions. Liolaemus wari was found close to the center of Wari culture, in Ayacucho department, southeastern Peru. The study was published in the open access journal Zookeys.

Roadrunner feeds chick, video


This video from the USA says about itself:

Roadrunner feeding chick

1 April 2013

One of the parents brings in a zebra-tailed lizard, jumps into the nest, and before the other parent leaves, a chick is fed. The chick isn’t much bigger than the lizard, but it is swallowed. The time taken is about twice the length of this edited video. Tucson, Arizona.

From the NestWatch eNewsletter in the USA, December 2013, about this:

Elusive Roadrunner Captured on Film

Earlier this month, Doris Evans of Tucson, Arizona, submitted a photo of a Greater Roadrunner at the nest, with five chicks. This was the first photo of a roadrunner nest to have been submitted to NestWatch, so we thought we’d share! Doris says that to observe and photograph a pair of nesting Greater Roadrunners from her own yard “was an amazing experience.” She watched the pair building the nest, incubating the eggs, and raising five young.

Roadrunners often situate their nest in a thorny bush, small tree, or cactus 3–10′ high. The nest is usually located near the center of the thorny plant, and is well concealed. Among the more typical nest materials you might expect (twigs, grasses, feathers, and mesquite pods), you might also find snakeskin or dried cow manure.

Old nests are sometimes reused for a winter roost, something most cup-nesting birds don’t do. Another unusual thing about roadrunners is that both parents incubate the eggs. Males and females both develop a brood patch (a wrinkly patch of bare skin on the abdomen) that is used to transfer heat to eggs. The male takes the night shift because, unlike the female, his body temperature will remain constant all night, rather than drop to conserve precious energy.

Speaking of energy, the roadrunner diet is truly cosmopolitan. A startling variety of foods are taken, including some venomous species. Lizards (including horned lizards), snakes (even rattlesnakes), insects, spiders, scorpions, birds, bird eggs, and pet food are all fair game. To fully appreciate their dietary gusto, watch the video that Doris captured of the parents feeding a zebra-tailed lizard to a nestling that is scarcely bigger than the prey.

If you live in the southwestern United States, you might find a roadrunner nest by looking carefully in your thorny shrubs and cacti this winter. Occasionally, they will reuse a nest the next breeding season. Check out more of Doris’ photos to get your “search image,” and then go out and see what you find!