Flock of Ancient ‘Butterfly-Headed’ Flying Reptiles Discovered

by Tia Ghose

An ancient flying reptile with a bizarre, butterflylike head has been unearthed in Brazil.

The new-found pterosaur species, Caiuajara dobruskii, lived about 80 million years ago in an ancient desert oasis. The beast sported a strange bony crest on its head that looked like the wings of a butterfly, and had the wingspan needed to take flight at a very young age.

Hundreds of fossils from the reptile were unearthed in a single bone bed, providing the strongest evidence yet that the flying reptiles were social animals, said study co-author Alexander Kellner, a paleontologist at the Museu Nacional/Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil…

(read more: Live Science)

illustration by Maurilio Oliveira/Museu Nacional-UFR; photos: Manzig et al, PLOS ONE 2014

Google Earth spurs discovery of a ‘new’ chameleon species
by Monga Bay staff
Google Earth has spurred the discovery of another new species.  In this case, the creature is a pygmy chameleon, one of four previously unknown Rhampholeon chameleon species described from the remote ‘sky islands’ in Mozambique.

The Mount Mabu pygmy chameleon (Rhampholeon maspictus) was discovered after Google Earth images of a tract of forest led Julian Bayliss, a consultant for Fauna & Flora International, to launch a scientific expedition to the region…

(read more: Monga Bay)
 Image credit: William R. Branch

Google Earth spurs discovery of a ‘new’ chameleon species

by Monga Bay staff

Google Earth has spurred the discovery of another new species.

In this case, the creature is a pygmy chameleon, one of four previously unknown Rhampholeon chameleon species described from the remote ‘sky islands’ in Mozambique.
The Mount Mabu pygmy chameleon (Rhampholeon maspictus) was discovered after Google Earth images of a tract of forest led Julian Bayliss, a consultant for Fauna & Flora International, to launch a scientific expedition to the region…

(read more: Monga Bay)

Image credit: William R. Branch

Secrets of sperm-storing female snakes revealed
by Xavier La Canna
A snake curator studying in Darwin, Australia, may have solved a puzzle that has confused experts for years.
Just how can some female snakes store sperm after mating, sometimes for months, before using it to fertilise their eggs?
The rare phenomenon has been recorded in snakes in different parts of the world. Now Luke Allen, who curates a venom laboratory in South Australia, has used his captive snakes to find out how.
Studying the coastal taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus), Australia’s longest venomous snake and one of the deadliest snakes in the world, he learned that the snakes can store sperm for up to six months after mating.
To do so he believes they use special cells in their bodies that secrete sugars and proteins to keep the sperm alive. The sperm are kept in small pockets along a spongy tube that leads to the snakes’ ovaries…
(read more: ABC News - Australia)
photograph by XLerate

Secrets of sperm-storing female snakes revealed

by Xavier La Canna

A snake curator studying in Darwin, Australia, may have solved a puzzle that has confused experts for years.

Just how can some female snakes store sperm after mating, sometimes for months, before using it to fertilise their eggs?

The rare phenomenon has been recorded in snakes in different parts of the world. Now Luke Allen, who curates a venom laboratory in South Australia, has used his captive snakes to find out how.

Studying the coastal taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus), Australia’s longest venomous snake and one of the deadliest snakes in the world, he learned that the snakes can store sperm for up to six months after mating.

To do so he believes they use special cells in their bodies that secrete sugars and proteins to keep the sperm alive. The sperm are kept in small pockets along a spongy tube that leads to the snakes’ ovaries…

(read more: ABC News - Australia)

photograph by XLerate

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Northern Scarlet Snake - Cemophora coccinea copei 
This colorful snake is scientifically named Cemophora coccinea copei (Colubridae), and is one of the three subspecies of Scarlet snakes native to the United States.
The Northern Scarlet Snake can reach up to 51 cm long, and due to its color pattern may be confused with the Scarlet Kingsnake (Lampropeltis elapsoides) and the venomous Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius). However, unlike the second one, Cemophora coccinea copei is harmless.
This subspecies occurs in eastern Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Virginia.
References: [1] - [2]
Photo credit: ©Matthew J. Sullivan | Locality: New Jersey, US (2014)

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Northern Scarlet Snake - Cemophora coccinea copei 

This colorful snake is scientifically named Cemophora coccinea copei (Colubridae), and is one of the three subspecies of Scarlet snakes native to the United States.

The Northern Scarlet Snake can reach up to 51 cm long, and due to its color pattern may be confused with the Scarlet Kingsnake (Lampropeltis elapsoides) and the venomous Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius). However, unlike the second one, Cemophora coccinea copei is harmless.

This subspecies occurs in eastern Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Virginia.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Matthew J. Sullivan | Locality: New Jersey, US (2014)

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Guatemala Neckband Snake (Half Coral Snake) - Scaphiodontophis annulatus
Though characterized by a coloration and pattern similar to that of the venomous coral snakes (genus Micrurus) and by extremely long and fragile tails, Scaphiodontophis annulatus (Colubridae) is actually a harmless snake, but presumably, both the coloration and the tail structure are putative defense mechanisms that protect the snakes from predatory attack.
In this species the color is variable in the extent of banding pattern, with some individuals showing the brightly colored pattern only on the anterior third or less of their bodies. 
This snake is aglyphous (lacking grooves), which means that it has no specialized teeth and each tooth is similar in shape and often size. In Scaphiodontophis annulatus the maxillary teeth are peculiarly hinged and shovel-like, an adaptation for feeding on skinks.
The Guatemala Neckband Snake is a diurnal species that inhabits the leaflitter of mature wet forest in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Colombia.
References: [1] - [2] - [3] - [4]
Photo credit: ©Josiah Townsend | Locality: La Liberación, 1030 m, Reserva de Vida Silvestre Texiguat, Honduras (2010)

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Guatemala Neckband Snake (Half Coral Snake) - Scaphiodontophis annulatus

Though characterized by a coloration and pattern similar to that of the venomous coral snakes (genus Micrurus) and by extremely long and fragile tails, Scaphiodontophis annulatus (Colubridae) is actually a harmless snake, but presumably, both the coloration and the tail structure are putative defense mechanisms that protect the snakes from predatory attack.

In this species the color is variable in the extent of banding pattern, with some individuals showing the brightly colored pattern only on the anterior third or less of their bodies. 

This snake is aglyphous (lacking grooves), which means that it has no specialized teeth and each tooth is similar in shape and often size. In Scaphiodontophis annulatus the maxillary teeth are peculiarly hinged and shovel-like, an adaptation for feeding on skinks.

The Guatemala Neckband Snake is a diurnal species that inhabits the leaflitter of mature wet forest in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Colombia.

References: [1] - [2] - [3] - [4]

Photo credit: ©Josiah Townsend | Locality: La Liberación, 1030 m, Reserva de Vida Silvestre Texiguat, Honduras (2010)

TSA Turtle Tuesday: Western Tent Tortoise
Did you know that the Western Tent Tortoise (Psammobates tentorius trimeni) gets its name from the tent-like shape of its shell which forms naturally over time? 
Considered an endangered species, this small and colorful tortoise can be found in arid and rocky environments in Namibia and South Africa. They like to feed on small succulents but are generally considered omnivorous. During droughts they will remain dormant for long periods of time by burrowing into sandy soil at the base of low shrubs and emerge after rains return. 
They can drink water by raising their rear legs so that the morning dew which has collected on their shell can drain along its groves to their forelimbs so they can sip it.
 Photograph: TC/BCC Eric Goode
(via: Turtle Survival Alliance)

TSA Turtle Tuesday: Western Tent Tortoise

Did you know that the Western Tent Tortoise (Psammobates tentorius trimeni) gets its name from the tent-like shape of its shell which forms naturally over time?

Considered an endangered species, this small and colorful tortoise can be found in arid and rocky environments in Namibia and South Africa. They like to feed on small succulents but are generally considered omnivorous. During droughts they will remain dormant for long periods of time by burrowing into sandy soil at the base of low shrubs and emerge after rains return.

They can drink water by raising their rear legs so that the morning dew which has collected on their shell can drain along its groves to their forelimbs so they can sip it.

Photograph: TC/BCC Eric Goode

(via: Turtle Survival Alliance)


TSA Turtle Tuesday: Big-headed turtle
The big-headed turtle (Platysternon megacephalum) gets its name from its most distinctive characteristic – its oversized triangular head. 

This shy and endangered turtle from Southeast Asia and China spends much of its day burrowed into gravel and hidden in rock crevices along stream edges. Individuals emerge at night to search for food along the stream bottom. They are almost entirely carnivorous and their strong bony jaws allow them to feed on hard shelled molluscs and crustaceans.
(via: Turtle Survival Alliance)

TSA Turtle Tuesday: Big-headed turtle

The big-headed turtle (Platysternon megacephalum) gets its name from its most distinctive characteristic – its oversized triangular head.
This shy and endangered turtle from Southeast Asia and China spends much of its day burrowed into gravel and hidden in rock crevices along stream edges. Individuals emerge at night to search for food along the stream bottom. They are almost entirely carnivorous and their strong bony jaws allow them to feed on hard shelled molluscs and crustaceans.

(via: Turtle Survival Alliance)

TSA Turtle Tuesday: African soft-shelled turtle

The African soft-shelled turtle (Trionyx triunguis) is the largest of the genus and can reach a weight of over 100 pounds. As juveniles, the upper shell has white spots that may be ringed in yellow. These spots usually fade with age.

The African soft-shell is an omnivorous turtle with a wide distribution in both fresh and brackish waters in Africa and the Near East. It is known to be ambush hunter lying quietly in the muddy stream bottoms then rapidly reaching out with their long, flexible necks grabbing prey with its strong jaws and using its claws to hold onto prey!

Photo credit – Brandon Greaves and Alexander Stream

(via: Turtle Survival Alliance)

Sea Turtle Rehab and Conservation 
Rehabilitated loggerhead sea turtle, Pine Tyme, is enjoying a nice “spa treatment” before her release this Friday! 
The great folks at The Turtle Hospital have been taking excellent care of this juvenile loggerhead, and now that she’s feeling 100% healthy, it’s time to send her back home to the ocean! 
Join us on Friday, Aug. 15 at 1pm on Sombrero Key, FL, to wish her good luck on her Tour de Turtles journey! 
Read Pine Tyme’s full bio online: Here
(via: Sea Turtle Conservancy)

Sea Turtle Rehab and Conservation

Rehabilitated loggerhead sea turtle, Pine Tyme, is enjoying a nice “spa treatment” before her release this Friday!

The great folks at The Turtle Hospital have been taking excellent care of this juvenile loggerhead, and now that she’s feeling 100% healthy, it’s time to send her back home to the ocean!

Join us on Friday, Aug. 15 at 1pm on Sombrero Key, FL, to wish her good luck on her Tour de Turtles journey!

Read Pine Tyme’s full bio online: Here

(via: Sea Turtle Conservancy)

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Critically Endangered Tortoises of Madagascar
On top is the Radiated Tortoise, Astrochelys radiata (Testudinidae), considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful tortoises, whose carapace up to 40 cm long is brilliantly marked with yellow lines radiating from the center of each dark plate of the shell (hence its common name). This “star” pattern is more finely detailed and intricate than the normal pattern of other star-patterned tortoise species.
In the bottom you can see the smaller Spider Tortoise, scientifically named Pyxis arachnoides (Testudinidae), with the typical, attractive spiders-web pattern that adorns the shell.  
Both species are endemic to Madagascar, and are currently classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
In both cases, available information indicates that the two species have disappeared entirely from about 40% of its past range through a combination of habitat loss and exploitation, predominantly for domestic consumption. 
References: [1] - [2] - [3] - [4]
Photo credit: ©peace-on-earth.org | Locality: Île Sainte-Marie (Nosy Boraha), Madagascar (2007)

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Critically Endangered Tortoises of Madagascar

On top is the Radiated Tortoise, Astrochelys radiata (Testudinidae), considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful tortoises, whose carapace up to 40 cm long is brilliantly marked with yellow lines radiating from the center of each dark plate of the shell (hence its common name). This “star” pattern is more finely detailed and intricate than the normal pattern of other star-patterned tortoise species.

In the bottom you can see the smaller Spider Tortoise, scientifically named Pyxis arachnoides (Testudinidae), with the typical, attractive spiders-web pattern that adorns the shell.  

Both species are endemic to Madagascar, and are currently classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

In both cases, available information indicates that the two species have disappeared entirely from about 40% of its past range through a combination of habitat loss and exploitation, predominantly for domestic consumption. 

References: [1] - [2] - [3] - [4]

Photo credit: ©peace-on-earth.org | Locality: Île Sainte-Marie (Nosy Boraha), Madagascar (2007)