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Regal Horned Lizard - Phrynosoma solare | ©Jason Penney   (Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, southwest Arizona, US)
Phyrnosoma solare (Phrynosomatidae) are among the larger species of Horned Lizard. Their Latin name is derived from the meaning “rays of the sun” by referring to four large occipital horns at the base of the head continuous with six temporal horns, form a large crown of ten sharp, pointed horns along the base of the head.
American group of Regal Horned lizards have evolved an exceptionally bizarre defense against predators: when under threat they can restrict blood flow from the head until mounting pressure ruptures small blood vessels in and around the eyes, resulting in a spurt of blood that may leap a meter (3 1/2 feet) or more [source].

o hey, look at that parietal eye!

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Regal Horned Lizard - Phrynosoma solare | ©Jason Penney   (Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, southwest Arizona, US)

Phyrnosoma solare (Phrynosomatidae) are among the larger species of Horned Lizard. Their Latin name is derived from the meaning “rays of the sun” by referring to four large occipital horns at the base of the head continuous with six temporal horns, form a large crown of ten sharp, pointed horns along the base of the head.

American group of Regal Horned lizards have evolved an exceptionally bizarre defense against predators: when under threat they can restrict blood flow from the head until mounting pressure ruptures small blood vessels in and around the eyes, resulting in a spurt of blood that may leap a meter (3 1/2 feet) or more [source].

o hey, look at that parietal eye!

TSA Turtle Tuesday:  Sulawesi Forest Turtle 
 Little is known about the critically endangered Sulawesi Forest Turtle (Leucocephalon yuwonoi). The species occurs in a very remote region of Indonesia, in the forest of North and Central Sulawesi. 
When spotted in the wild, they can be found along heavily wooded banks and in shallow clear streams. It is believed that their natural diet consists of various insects, leaves and fallen fruit. Because this species is so close to extinction in the wild, the TSA has made the management of a sustainable captive population a top priority. 
Read more about our work with this amazing species…
 (Turtle Survival Alliance) 
photograph credit: Sheena Koeth

TSA Turtle Tuesday:  Sulawesi Forest Turtle

Little is known about the critically endangered Sulawesi Forest Turtle (Leucocephalon yuwonoi). The species occurs in a very remote region of Indonesia, in the forest of North and Central Sulawesi.

When spotted in the wild, they can be found along heavily wooded banks and in shallow clear streams. It is believed that their natural diet consists of various insects, leaves and fallen fruit. Because this species is so close to extinction in the wild, the TSA has made the management of a sustainable captive population a top priority.

Read more about our work with this amazing species…

(Turtle Survival Alliance)

photograph credit: Sheena Koeth

WORK IN CURRENT HERPETOLOGY:
Two New Alligator Snapping Turtle Species Announced, Some Face Localized Risks
by Brett Smith, Red Orbit
A new study published in the journal Zootaxa reveals that the alligator snapping turtle is actually three different species – not one as previously thought.The report also indicated that the localized distribution of these species, which includes coastal rivers of the northern Gulf of Mexico, poses a significant threat to their continued survival.
“We have to be especially careful with our management of the Suwannee River species because this turtle exists only in that river and its tributaries,” said study author Travis Thomas, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission scientist, referring to a small river that winds through parts of Georgia and Florida. “If something catastrophic were to occur, such as a chemical spill or something that affects the entire river, it could potentially devastate this species. The turtle is extremely limited by its habitat. All it has is this river and it has nowhere else to go.”
Based on analyses of the fossil record and modern turtle morphology, study researchers revised the genus Macrochelys to include Macrochelys temminkii and the two newly-described species, Macrochelys apalachicolae and Macrochelys suwanniensis. Constrained to river systems that empty into the northern Gulf of Mexico, the species are split by geography, which triggered changes in genetics, according to the study team…
(read more: Red Orbit)
photo: Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

WORK IN CURRENT HERPETOLOGY:

Two New Alligator Snapping Turtle Species Announced, Some Face Localized Risks

by Brett Smith, Red Orbit

A new study published in the journal Zootaxa reveals that the alligator snapping turtle is actually three different species – not one as previously thought.The report also indicated that the localized distribution of these species, which includes coastal rivers of the northern Gulf of Mexico, poses a significant threat to their continued survival.

“We have to be especially careful with our management of the Suwannee River species because this turtle exists only in that river and its tributaries,” said study author Travis Thomas, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission scientist, referring to a small river that winds through parts of Georgia and Florida. “If something catastrophic were to occur, such as a chemical spill or something that affects the entire river, it could potentially devastate this species. The turtle is extremely limited by its habitat. All it has is this river and it has nowhere else to go.”

Based on analyses of the fossil record and modern turtle morphology, study researchers revised the genus Macrochelys to include Macrochelys temminkii and the two newly-described species, Macrochelys apalachicolae and Macrochelys suwanniensis. Constrained to river systems that empty into the northern Gulf of Mexico, the species are split by geography, which triggered changes in genetics, according to the study team…

(read more: Red Orbit)

photo: Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Dipsadoboa aulica - Marbled Tree Snake | ©Tyrone Ping   (Hluhluwe, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa)
The Marbled tree snake is an attractive colubrid native to Southern Africa. Dipsadoboa aulica, as it is scientific named, can be identified by its large eyes (with vertical pupils), a head which is distinct from its body, a white tongue and its nocturnal lifestyle. It grows to an average length of 60 cm and a maximum length of 85 cm [source].

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Dipsadoboa aulica - Marbled Tree Snake | ©Tyrone Ping   (Hluhluwe, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa)

The Marbled tree snake is an attractive colubrid native to Southern Africa. Dipsadoboa aulica, as it is scientific named, can be identified by its large eyes (with vertical pupils), a head which is distinct from its body, a white tongue and its nocturnal lifestyle. It grows to an average length of 60 cm and a maximum length of 85 cm [source].

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Lycodonomorphus rufulus - Common Brown Water Snake | ©Tyrone Ping   (Montague Pass, South Africa)
The Common brown water snake, Lycodonomorphus rufulus (Colubridae) is a common snake in areas with permanent water in the wetter coastal and eastern parts of South Africa [1].
This colubrid can be identified by its uniform olive or light brown coloration, the pink or mother of pearl coloured underside, its good swimming ability and vertical pupils. It grows to an average length of 60 cm but may reach 85 cm [2].
Non-venomous and not dangerous to man and not likely to bite, however in the Zulu culture it is regarded as extremely dangerous.

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Lycodonomorphus rufulus - Common Brown Water Snake | ©Tyrone Ping   (Montague Pass, South Africa)

The Common brown water snake, Lycodonomorphus rufulus (Colubridae) is a common snake in areas with permanent water in the wetter coastal and eastern parts of South Africa [1].

This colubrid can be identified by its uniform olive or light brown coloration, the pink or mother of pearl coloured underside, its good swimming ability and vertical pupils. It grows to an average length of 60 cm but may reach 85 cm [2].

Non-venomous and not dangerous to man and not likely to bite, however in the Zulu culture it is regarded as extremely dangerous.

palaeopedia
palaeopedia:

The swift Seizer, Velociraptor (1924)
Phylum : ChordataClass : ReptiliaOrder : SaurischiaFamily : DromaeosauridaeSubfamily : VelociraptorinaeGenus : VelociraptorSpecies : V. mongoliensis, V. osmolskae
Late Cretaceous (85,2 - 76,4 Ma)
2 m long and 15 kg (size)
Ömnögovi, Mongolia (map)

If all you know about Velociraptor comes from the movie Jurassic Park, put those images out of your head right away: the villains in that blockbuster weren’t really Velociraptors, but the larger (and more threatening-looking) Deinonychus. Velociraptors were vicious, all right, but they were also very small—and it’s unlikely a 35-pound feathered raptor reminiscent of a giant chicken would have elicited all those “ooh“‘s and “aah“‘s at the local cineplex. (See 10 Facts About Velociraptor.)
Jurassic Park aside, much of what makes Velociraptor so popular is the romantic story behind its discovery. The bones of this dinosaur were discovered in the remote Gobi Desert (on the outskirts of Mongolia) in 1922, in an adventure-filled expedition sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Museum president Henry F. Osborn gave this raptor its name, Greek for “swift thief;” as a historical curiosity, he came within a Jurassic inch of choosing “Ovoraptor” (a couple of years later, he did bestow the similarly spelled Oviraptor on yet another feathered Mongolian dinosaur).
Velociraptor is one of the few theropods whose prey has been conclusively identified: paleontologists have found the fossilized remains of a Velociraptor locked in combat with a comparably sized Protoceratops, a pig-sized ceratopsian of late Cretaceous central Asia.
Today, the main controversy about Velociraptor concerns what, exactly, this raptor looked like. This small theropod used to be depicted with boring, green reptilian skin, but lately the fashion has been to portray it with a coat of primitive, downy, brightly colored feathers, which has given artists plenty of leeway in their various depictions. Unfortunately, pending a spectacularly well-preserved fossil find, artists’ conceptions will have to remain just that—conceptions.

palaeopedia:

The swift Seizer, Velociraptor (1924)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Saurischia
Family : Dromaeosauridae
Subfamily : Velociraptorinae
Genus : Velociraptor
Species : V. mongoliensis, V. osmolskae

  • Late Cretaceous (85,2 - 76,4 Ma)
  • 2 m long and 15 kg (size)
  • Ömnögovi, Mongolia (map)

If all you know about Velociraptor comes from the movie Jurassic Park, put those images out of your head right away: the villains in that blockbuster weren’t really Velociraptors, but the larger (and more threatening-looking) Deinonychus. Velociraptors were vicious, all right, but they were also very small—and it’s unlikely a 35-pound feathered raptor reminiscent of a giant chicken would have elicited all those “ooh“‘s and “aah“‘s at the local cineplex. (See 10 Facts About Velociraptor.)

Jurassic Park aside, much of what makes Velociraptor so popular is the romantic story behind its discovery. The bones of this dinosaur were discovered in the remote Gobi Desert (on the outskirts of Mongolia) in 1922, in an adventure-filled expedition sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Museum president Henry F. Osborn gave this raptor its name, Greek for “swift thief;” as a historical curiosity, he came within a Jurassic inch of choosing “Ovoraptor” (a couple of years later, he did bestow the similarly spelled Oviraptor on yet another feathered Mongolian dinosaur).

Velociraptor is one of the few theropods whose prey has been conclusively identified: paleontologists have found the fossilized remains of a Velociraptor locked in combat with a comparably sized Protoceratops, a pig-sized ceratopsian of late Cretaceous central Asia.

Today, the main controversy about Velociraptor concerns what, exactly, this raptor looked like. This small theropod used to be depicted with boring, green reptilian skin, but lately the fashion has been to portray it with a coat of primitive, downy, brightly colored feathers, which has given artists plenty of leeway in their various depictions. Unfortunately, pending a spectacularly well-preserved fossil find, artists’ conceptions will have to remain just that—conceptions.

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Corallus caninus, Guyane | ©Matthieu Berroneau   (French Guiana)
The beautiful Emerald tree boa, Corallus caninus (Boidae), plays an important ecological role in their habitat, helping to control small mammal populations, especially rodents, which can be pests near human settlements.
It is a neotropical species, found in lowland tropical rainforests in the Amazonian and Guianan regions of South America. 
Specimen shown was photographed in wild.
[Source]

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Corallus caninus, Guyane | ©Matthieu Berroneau   (French Guiana)

The beautiful Emerald tree boaCorallus caninus (Boidae), plays an important ecological role in their habitat, helping to control small mammal populations, especially rodents, which can be pests near human settlements.

It is a neotropical species, found in lowland tropical rainforests in the Amazonian and Guianan regions of South America. 

Specimen shown was photographed in wild.

[Source]

Turtles that eat bone, rocks and soil, and turtles that mine

by Darren Naish

My huge friend and colleague Mathew Wedel owns a Box turtle Terrapene carolina. It’s called Eastie… don’t judge; this is because the animal is an Eastern box turtle (or is she? I wonder if Eastie is a Three-toed box turtle). Anyway, Eastie recently found part of a deceased rat’s head while on a backyard jaunt, and proceeded to deliberately snip away at the broken braincase and eat the bone fragments. This bone-eating carried on for about 20 minutes, and Matt thought it interesting enough to take the photo you see here (TL).

The eating of bones – osteophagy – is well known for turtles, has been recorded in several species, and is observed easily enough in species kept in captivity (like Testudo tortoises). Whenever this subject is mentioned (believe me, it’s always cropping up in conversation), many people recall the photo in David Attenborough’s Life on Earth that shows an Aldabran giant tortoise Aldabrachelys gigantea* scavenging on the carcass of a conspecific (Attenborough 1984) (TR).

As you can see here, it’s not entirely clear what the tortoise is doing, but it looks like it’s gnawing at dried skin and muscle, not bone. Incidentally, the photo was taken by Attenborough himself. I did used to have a very neat photo showing gnaw marks that a pet tortoise (belonging to my late friend and colleague David Cooper) left on a cow bone – to my frustration, I can no longer locate it…

(read more: Tetrapod Zoology - Scientific American)

photos: Mathew Wedel, David Attenborough, and Utahcamera

* Yes, it is actually a 3-toed Box Turtle (T. c. triunguis)

The snake is a Great Basin Rattlenake (Crotalus viridis lutosus) from the Wasatch Mountains just east of Salt Lake City, Utah. The snake was a rescue, having been removed from a backyard and returned to the wild. She was curious and good natured and never once rattled at me. What a sweetheart! Photograph and text by David E. Jensen
(via: Center For Snake Conservation)

The snake is a Great Basin Rattlenake (Crotalus viridis lutosus) from the Wasatch Mountains just east of Salt Lake City, Utah. The snake was a rescue, having been removed from a backyard and returned to the wild. She was curious and good natured and never once rattled at me. What a sweetheart!

Photograph and text by David E. Jensen

(via: Center For Snake Conservation)

Matador Wildlife Management Area - Paducah, TX, USA
The nation has Punxsutawny Phil the ground hog to prognosticate the coming of spring. We have Texas horned lizards (Phrynosoma cornutum) to announce spring’s arrival. Horned lizards are starting to come out of hibernation and our first horned lizard encounter this year was on 10 April. 
(via: Texas Parks and Wildlife)

The nation has Punxsutawny Phil the ground hog to prognosticate the coming of spring. We have Texas horned lizards (Phrynosoma cornutum) to announce spring’s arrival. Horned lizards are starting to come out of hibernation and our first horned lizard encounter this year was on 10 April.

(via: Texas Parks and Wildlife)

Men rescue huge alligator snapping turtle that was stuck in drainage culvert

by Tyana Williams

A wrestling match pitting a courageous man against one monster of a turtle unfolded in a drainage canal, but it was for the animal’s well-being.

It happened off Hoo Shoo Too Road in Baton Rouge, LA, USA, and the massive alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) still looked a bit troubling even after it was tucked inside a kiddie pool. Its head is as big as a football.

"You’re looking at about a four foot long turtle," said Martin LeBlanc.

Travis Lewis first spotted the creature when peeking into a canal near his driveway.

"It looked like a log," Lewis said. "So, I took a closer look and it was a big ole turtle, so I jumped up screaming and hollering for Martin to come help me."…

(read more: WLOX - 13)

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Oxyrhopus melanogenys, Guyane | ©Matthieu Berroneau   (French Guiana)
Oxyrhopus melanogenys (Dipsadidae), known as the Tschudi’s False Coral Snake is a nocturnal species which is found in wet and dry tropical forest of South America [1].
The body color pattern in this species is in triads of black bands (black-whiteblack-white-black, separated by red or orange inter-spaces), and the top of the head and the snout are black [2].

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Oxyrhopus melanogenys, Guyane | ©Matthieu Berroneau   (French Guiana)

Oxyrhopus melanogenys (Dipsadidae), known as the Tschudi’s False Coral Snake is a nocturnal species which is found in wet and dry tropical forest of South America [1].

The body color pattern in this species is in triads of black bands (black-whiteblack-white-black, separated by red or orange inter-spaces), and the top of the head and the snout are black [2].

How Pterosaurs Ruled the Skies Above the Dinosaurs
by Wynne Parry
Before birds really took off, the skies of prehistoric Earth belonged to the pterosaurs. These winged reptiles soared around the planet during the time of their relatives, the dinosaurs.
Pterosaurs first appear in the fossil record about 220 million years ago, making them the first vertebrates, or animals with backbones, to evolve the ability to fly on their own power. These creatures also rank as the largest flying animals, ever. Fossils suggest the biggest pterosaur, Quetzalcoatlus northropi, had a wingspan stretching about 33 feet (10 meters), longer than that of a small airplane. Of course, not all were giants. Of the more than 150 known species, some attained birdlike sizes, along the lines of sparrows or seagulls.
With size comes weight. Michael Habib, who studies biomechanics at the University of Southern California, has calculated that one particular group of pterosaurs may have weighed more than 661 pounds (300 kilograms), a weight they managed to consistently foist into the air and keep aloft…
(read more: Discovery News)
image: Thalassodromeus sethi had a crest 3x larger than the entire rest of its skull, when seen from the side, the largest crest of any known vertebrate. - AMNH

How Pterosaurs Ruled the Skies Above the Dinosaurs

by Wynne Parry

Before birds really took off, the skies of prehistoric Earth belonged to the pterosaurs. These winged reptiles soared around the planet during the time of their relatives, the dinosaurs.

Pterosaurs first appear in the fossil record about 220 million years ago, making them the first vertebrates, or animals with backbones, to evolve the ability to fly on their own power. These creatures also rank as the largest flying animals, ever. Fossils suggest the biggest pterosaur, Quetzalcoatlus northropi, had a wingspan stretching about 33 feet (10 meters), longer than that of a small airplane. Of course, not all were giants. Of the more than 150 known species, some attained birdlike sizes, along the lines of sparrows or seagulls.

With size comes weight. Michael Habib, who studies biomechanics at the University of Southern California, has calculated that one particular group of pterosaurs may have weighed more than 661 pounds (300 kilograms), a weight they managed to consistently foist into the air and keep aloft…

(read more: Discovery News)

image: Thalassodromeus sethi had a crest 3x larger than the entire rest of its skull, when seen from the side, the largest crest of any known vertebrate. - AMNH

The Trouble With Turtles: Paleontology at a Crossroads

Scientists debate whether modern turtles are more closely related to snakes and lizards or birds and crocodiles.

by Naomi Lubick

Traditional paleontological research has been upended over the past few decades, as less traditional fields, such as genomics and developmental biology, have weighed in on vertebrate evolution. Researchers have examined the lingering color elements in dinosaur feathers, the genetics of woolly mammoths, purported proteins and blood from dinosaurs, and other ancient fossil signatures using modern tools. But the question of turtle evolution has remained resistant to both traditional and novel methods.

More than 300 species of turtles exist today, but where they came from isn’t entirely clear. Turtles are the last big living vertebrate group to be placed firmly on the tree of life, and the arguments are getting messy. Three fields in particular — paleontology, developmental biology and microbiology/genomics — disagree about how, and from what, turtles may have evolved.

Traditional paleontologists have placed turtles, which are indisputably reptiles, in relation to a group of mostly extinct reptilian animals called anapsids, which don’t have holes in their skulls; however, analyses in the 1990s put turtles in the diapsid camp, which originally had two holes in their skulls, and closer to modern reptiles like snakes. Morphology places them near the group made up of lizards and birds and crocodiles…

(read more: EARTH Magazine)

images: T - Kathleen Cantner, AGI.; Bottom 3 - Tyler Lyson, NMNH