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Radiated Tortoise - Astrochelys radiata
Now listed as Critically Endangered species on the IUCN Red Lit, Astrochelys radiata (Testudinidae), endemic to the spiny forest of southern Madagascar, had virtually never been studied in the wild until the late 1990s.
Recent research projects and surveys have contributed to defining the extent of the decline of the species, and it now appears that A. radiata faces serious extinction risks unless current trends are halted.
This species is heavily harvested for food and for the pet trade. In wild mature females of this species produce up to three clutches per season with only 1–5 eggs per clutch, leading to an estimated average production of two clutches of four eggs each per breeding female.
References: [1] - [2] - [3]
Photo credit: ©Bernard Dupont | Locality: Toliara, Madagascar (2013)

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Radiated Tortoise - Astrochelys radiata

Now listed as Critically Endangered species on the IUCN Red Lit, Astrochelys radiata (Testudinidae), endemic to the spiny forest of southern Madagascar, had virtually never been studied in the wild until the late 1990s.

Recent research projects and surveys have contributed to defining the extent of the decline of the species, and it now appears that A. radiata faces serious extinction risks unless current trends are halted.

This species is heavily harvested for food and for the pet trade. In wild mature females of this species produce up to three clutches per season with only 1–5 eggs per clutch, leading to an estimated average production of two clutches of four eggs each per breeding female.

References: [1] - [2] - [3]

Photo credit: ©Bernard Dupont | Locality: Toliara, Madagascar (2013)

Hey New Englanders: Baby Turtle Search and Release
Sponsored by Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (Cape Cod, MA)
Sat, Sep 13, 2014 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Pre-registration required
In early September, turtle hatchlings come out of their eggshells. We’ll start with a story, then walk through several habitats at the sanctuary, hoping to see young turtles emerging from their nests or crawling on the trails, and possibly even aid in their release. We may see baby box turtles in the field, painted turtles at the pond, and diamondback terrapins in the salt marsh. Everyone will make a turtle craft to take home…
(read more: Mass Audubon)

Hey New Englanders: Baby Turtle Search and Release

Sponsored by Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (Cape Cod, MA)

Sat, Sep 13, 2014 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Pre-registration required

In early September, turtle hatchlings come out of their eggshells. We’ll start with a story, then walk through several habitats at the sanctuary, hoping to see young turtles emerging from their nests or crawling on the trails, and possibly even aid in their release. We may see baby box turtles in the field, painted turtles at the pond, and diamondback terrapins in the salt marsh. Everyone will make a turtle craft to take home…

(read more: Mass Audubon)

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Red-headed Krait - Bungarus flaviceps
The Red-headed Krait, Bungarus flaviceps (Elapidae), is a rare and highly venomous species which inhabits forested lowlands, hills and lower montane areas below 900 meters elevation, in southern Burma, southern Thailand, parts of Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia), Peninsular Malaysia and the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Java.
Kraits (Bungarus species) are one of the better studied snakes of the world because they are highly venomous. β-bungarotoxin is one of the major lethal components found in the venom of Bungarus species. It targets the pre-synaptic terminal, where it causes the massive release of acetylcholine resulting in subsequent exhaustion of acetylcholine and inability to conduct an impulse and finally, paralysis. The venom of B. flaviceps is more potent than B. fasciatus but comparable in potency to B. candidus venom.
References: [1] - [2]
Photo credit: ©N. Weigner | Locality: Borneo (2014)

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Red-headed Krait - Bungarus flaviceps

The Red-headed Krait, Bungarus flaviceps (Elapidae), is a rare and highly venomous species which inhabits forested lowlands, hills and lower montane areas below 900 meters elevation, in southern Burma, southern Thailand, parts of Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia), Peninsular Malaysia and the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Java.

Kraits (Bungarus species) are one of the better studied snakes of the world because they are highly venomous. β-bungarotoxin is one of the major lethal components found in the venom of Bungarus species. It targets the pre-synaptic terminal, where it causes the massive release of acetylcholine resulting in subsequent exhaustion of acetylcholine and inability to conduct an impulse and finally, paralysis. The venom of B. flaviceps is more potent than B. fasciatus but comparable in potency to B. candidus venom.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©N. Weigner | Locality: Borneo (2014)

How To Recycle an Ichthyosaur

by Brian Switek

Whales have very active afterlives. Once they settle on the ocean bottom, their bodies become both food and shelter for a host of different organisms – an oasis of bone and rotting flesh called a whalefall. But whales aren’t the only animals to have enriched the seafloor. During the Late Jurassic, over 90 million years before whales even existed, the bodies of aquatic reptiles called ichthyosaurs hosted a vibrant succession of marine life.

This week, Plymouth University paleontologist Silvia Danise and colleagues have described the ichthyosaur fall in Nature Communications. This isn’t the first time paleontologists have reported such a community. In 2008, Andrzej Kaim and coauthors described a pair of roughly 89 million year old plesiosaurs associated with snails that make their living in ephemeral undersea habitats. But the unfortunate ichthyosaur adds something new. The geologically older marine reptile underwent a slightly different trajectory during its breakdown…

(read more: Laelaps - National Geographic)

photo by Brian Switek

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Golden-tailed Gecko - Strophurus taenicauda
Also referred to as Golden Spiny-tailed Gecko, Strophurus taenicauda (Gekkonidae) is a rare and beautiful species which is only found in Australia, from the Darling Downs to the coastal regions of central and south-eastern Queensland. This gecko’s eyes are especially amazing.
Currently, the Golden-tailed Gecko is listed as Near Threatened species on the IUCN Red List.
References: [1] - [2]
Photo credit: ©Stephen Zozaya | Locality: Arcadia Valley, Queensland, Australia (2013)

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Golden-tailed Gecko - Strophurus taenicauda

Also referred to as Golden Spiny-tailed Gecko, Strophurus taenicauda (Gekkonidae) is a rare and beautiful species which is only found in Australia, from the Darling Downs to the coastal regions of central and south-eastern Queensland. This gecko’s eyes are especially amazing.

Currently, the Golden-tailed Gecko is listed as Near Threatened species on the IUCN Red List.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Stephen Zozaya | Locality: Arcadia Valley, Queensland, Australia (2013)

Spinosaurus is First Known Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur
by Jon Tennant 
The meat-eating dinosaur Spinosaurus rose to terrifying fame in Jurassic Park III, when it took down the comparatively small Tyrannosaurus rex. Now, thanks to a newly discovered partial skeleton, Spinosaurus has an even greater claim to fame: this fearsome sail-backed beast spent much of its time in the water, a definitive first for dinosaurs.

Aquatic Hunter
A global team of paleontologists digitally reconstructed the skeleton of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus based on a new specimen from the Kem Kem beds of eastern Morocco. The fossils confirm that Spinosaurus was more than 49 feet (15 meters) long – at least 8 feet longer than T. rex, in line with previous estimates based on more fragmentary specimens. But the new skeleton was shown to be still growing, so a full adult would have been even bigger.
More unusually, there were signs that the dinosaur was a fantastic swimmer. Researchers determined that Spinosaurus had a suite of adaptations that allowed it to spend much of its time in the water and that, contrary to Jurassic Park’s representation, would have required the animal to walk on all four limbs when it was on land. That makes Spinosaurus the first dinosaur known to be adapted to a semi-aquatic lifestyle…
(read more: Discover Magazine)
illustration by Brian Engh

Spinosaurus is First Known Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

by Jon Tennant

The meat-eating dinosaur Spinosaurus rose to terrifying fame in Jurassic Park III, when it took down the comparatively small Tyrannosaurus rex. Now, thanks to a newly discovered partial skeleton, Spinosaurus has an even greater claim to fame: this fearsome sail-backed beast spent much of its time in the water, a definitive first for dinosaurs.

Aquatic Hunter

A global team of paleontologists digitally reconstructed the skeleton of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus based on a new specimen from the Kem Kem beds of eastern Morocco. The fossils confirm that Spinosaurus was more than 49 feet (15 meters) long – at least 8 feet longer than T. rex, in line with previous estimates based on more fragmentary specimens. But the new skeleton was shown to be still growing, so a full adult would have been even bigger.

More unusually, there were signs that the dinosaur was a fantastic swimmer. Researchers determined that Spinosaurus had a suite of adaptations that allowed it to spend much of its time in the water and that, contrary to Jurassic Park’s representation, would have required the animal to walk on all four limbs when it was on land. That makes Spinosaurus the first dinosaur known to be adapted to a semi-aquatic lifestyle…

(read more: Discover Magazine)

illustration by Brian Engh

Nomad’s Find Helps Solve Mystery of the Spinosaurus
by Kenneth Chang
The first bones came in a cardboard box. Nizar Ibrahim, a paleontologist, was in the Moroccan oasis town of Erfoud at the edge of the Sahara, returning from a dinosaur dig in the sands. Inside the box, brought to him by a nomad, were sediment-encrusted pieces more intriguing than anything he had found himself, including a blade-shaped bone with a reddish streak running through the cross section. He took the bones to a university in Casablanca.
That was April 2008.
The next year, he was in Italy visiting colleagues at the Milan Natural History Museum who showed him bones that looked as if they were part of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, a strange-looking predatory dinosaur larger than Tyrannosaurus rex that lived in northern Africa about 95 million years ago…
(read more: NY Times)
illustration by Davide Bonadonna

Nomad’s Find Helps Solve Mystery of the Spinosaurus

by Kenneth Chang

The first bones came in a cardboard box. Nizar Ibrahim, a paleontologist, was in the Moroccan oasis town of Erfoud at the edge of the Sahara, returning from a dinosaur dig in the sands. Inside the box, brought to him by a nomad, were sediment-encrusted pieces more intriguing than anything he had found himself, including a blade-shaped bone with a reddish streak running through the cross section. He took the bones to a university in Casablanca.

That was April 2008.

The next year, he was in Italy visiting colleagues at the Milan Natural History Museum who showed him bones that looked as if they were part of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, a strange-looking predatory dinosaur larger than Tyrannosaurus rex that lived in northern Africa about 95 million years ago…

(read more: NY Times)

illustration by Davide Bonadonna

The New Spinosaurus

by Brian Switek

Spinosaurus has changed dramatically since I was a kid. The model I used to terrorize my other toys with looked like an overgrown Allosaurus with a giant sail on its back.

As paleontologists rearranged the dinosaur family tree and found new species, however, they realized that Spinosaurus was a very different sort of animal, allied with croc-snouted, heavy-clawed dinosaurs like Baryonyx. When Spinosaurus finally tore up the celluloid in 2001′s Jurassic Park III, it was as a monstrous carnivore with giant claws, an elongated snout filled with conical teeth, and a flashy fin atop its back. And the evolution of Spinosaurus imagery has not stopped.

A paper out in Sciencexpress today proposes that Spinosaurus was far stranger than paleontologists expected.

The core of the new study, led by University of Chicago paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim, is a partial skeleton of Spinosaurus found in the 97 million year old rock of Morocco. The importance of the new specimen is in revealing parts of Spinosaurus never seen before. The skeleton includes parts of the skull and some vertebrae, but the real keys to the new Spinosaurus are the hips and hindlimbs…

(read more: Laelaps - National Geographic)

illustration by Davide Bonadonna; skeletal by Tyler Keillor, Lauren Conroy, and Erin Fitzgerald

Collectors’ trade threatens ‘Holy Grail’ of the reptile world
via: The Ecologist
An earless species of monitor lizard from Borneo has suddenly erupted into the international trade among pet keepers and reptile collectors. Although it is protected within its range, there are no restrictions on international trade in the species. An urgent CITES listing is desperately needed!
An unusual and little-known monitor lizard from Borneo that has captured the interest of reptile collectors is emerging as the latest victim of the global illicit wildlife trade, an investigative report by TRAFFIC warns.
Lanthanotus borneensis or the Earless Monitor Lizard had long remained virtually unknown to the outside world due to its subterranean habits and limited distribution in north-western Borneo…
(read more)
photograph via: TRAFFIC

Collectors’ trade threatens ‘Holy Grail’ of the reptile world

via: The Ecologist

An earless species of monitor lizard from Borneo has suddenly erupted into the international trade among pet keepers and reptile collectors. Although it is protected within its range, there are no restrictions on international trade in the species. An urgent CITES listing is desperately needed!

An unusual and little-known monitor lizard from Borneo that has captured the interest of reptile collectors is emerging as the latest victim of the global illicit wildlife trade, an investigative report by TRAFFIC warns.

Lanthanotus borneensis or the Earless Monitor Lizard had long remained virtually unknown to the outside world due to its subterranean habits and limited distribution in north-western Borneo…

(read more)

photograph via: TRAFFIC

What Do You Get When You Cross a Dragon With a Pelican?
by Sid Perkins
An ancient flying reptile (dubbed Ikrandraco avatar) may have had a feeding style akin to that of modern birds known as skimmers, which occasionally swoop along the water’s surface to snatch fish swimming there, a new study suggests.
Fossils of the newly described pterosaur were unearthed from 120-million-year-old rocks at two sites in northeastern China. The front portion of the creature’s lower jaw had a deep, thin, crescent-shaped keel (artist’s representation above) that may have been covered with keratin, akin to the beaks of modern birds. At the end of that bony keel, researchers noted a peculiar hook-shaped projection—a feature not seen in any other pterosaur, or indeed in any other vertebrate, living or extinct—that might have served as an anchor for soft tissue.
That distinctive bony projection suggests the pterosaur’s most distinct feature may have been a pelicanlike throat pouch that could hold fish gleaned from lakes and rivers, the researchers suggest today in Scientific Reports…
(read more: Science News/AAAS)

What Do You Get When You Cross a Dragon With a Pelican?

by Sid Perkins

An ancient flying reptile (dubbed Ikrandraco avatar) may have had a feeding style akin to that of modern birds known as skimmers, which occasionally swoop along the water’s surface to snatch fish swimming there, a new study suggests.

Fossils of the newly described pterosaur were unearthed from 120-million-year-old rocks at two sites in northeastern China. The front portion of the creature’s lower jaw had a deep, thin, crescent-shaped keel (artist’s representation above) that may have been covered with keratin, akin to the beaks of modern birds. At the end of that bony keel, researchers noted a peculiar hook-shaped projection—a feature not seen in any other pterosaur, or indeed in any other vertebrate, living or extinct—that might have served as an anchor for soft tissue.

That distinctive bony projection suggests the pterosaur’s most distinct feature may have been a pelicanlike throat pouch that could hold fish gleaned from lakes and rivers, the researchers suggest today in Scientific Reports

(read more: Science News/AAAS)