Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Suizo Report -- Marty Rants and Raves, 28 and 29 September 2012

Howdy Herpers,                                      Tuesday, 2 October 2012

And happy October to all of you. I'm always glad to see October roll around, as the month signifies the end of another miserably hot summer season, as well as the promise of gorgeous weather for at least the next seven months. But October also brings on the realization that soon--very soon, all the action we've been seeing of late will grind to a whimpering halt. Already, the lizard numbers are starting to drop, and all we will be seeing surface-active are Utas by the end of the month. But we can still expect some big things in the days ahead, and anxiously await our next crack at paradise.

My original intent was to do another combination report with Marty. Instead, I choose not to profane Marty's words by adding my own. His latest experience with the ringtail was his alone, and all that he saw should remain intact and unaltered. I'll make a closing comment or two, and leave Marty to do the talking:

It always gives me a good feeling to see something other than the usual suspects - Uta, Callisaurus or Aspidoscelis - driving to the Suizos. Gives me the inspiration that it's going to be a promising trip, even if the promise fails to be delivered upon. This weekend the promise was both made and delivered. Within quick succession neonate Salvadora and Pituophis were encountered on the drive in. 

Arriving at the field site a little while before Roger and HW gave me the time to take pictures of the departing sun and arriving moon, get my boots on, and go for a quick hike and welcome our newest molossus, CM16, into the record books. 

He's a cute little tyke we're estimating to have recently celebrated his second birthday. Roger and HW arrived as I was bagging CM16 so I headed down so we could open the books, decide routes and prepare to get the night underway. Turns out we both had good routes and we go to the pictures to tell the rest of the story.
CM12 9-28-12: CM12 had moved from the north side of IMH, where he was in attendance with female CM10 the previous weekend, to the western slope where he was found in a relaxed and elongate double 'S' shaped hunting posture. One 'S' up front, the second in the rear...which reminds me of...a place I probably shouldn't go. You sick bastards have probably already conjured up enough mental images to make whatever I was thinking seem Catholic by comparison.

CT14 = Ringtail 1-3 9-28-12: On my way to track male tiger CT14 I chanced upon our furry friend from a few weeks back. I startled the ringtail out of a prickly pear as it was poking around for whatever ringtails poke around for. 
Continuing on my way to CT14 the ringtail intersects my route about 4 minutes later and, as seems to be characteristic with this ringtail, disappears only to appear a few minutes later. It does, and it picks up a prickly pear fruit, makes it way towards me with the fruit in its mouth and chooses a dead palo verde to sit on to munch its snack. I watch, take a few pictures and continue on until I get to where I'm confident I'm close to CT14 (I was about 8m away). Since I'm frequently seeing the ringtail as it makes wide circles around me I don't want to immediately go to CT14. I remove the tracking gear and move about 5m away while staying about 8m from CT14 whose flag from the previous week I can see. The ringtail continues making wide circles around me investigating a midden, snags of dead branches at the base of a palo verde, prickly pear patches in addition to climbing several palo verde and a large staghorn cactus...which Roger correctly noted I mis-ID as Chain Fruit and pointed out in a manner as gently as Roger can. Doing its circuits the ringtail came within meters of me on several occasions, encircled CT14's location and investigated the tracking equipment a couple times. It also took a leak near where I was standing. Don't know if I should feel honored or insulted. After about 20 minutes I thought the ringtail moved on so I headed up to collect data for CT14. As I'm writing I hear a noise and out of the bushes comes the ringtail, sticks its nose under the rock where CT14 is, and moves on. It didn't spend any more time nosing the hole under CT14's rock than it did other places it investigated so I took that as a good sign. It visits me once more while I'm taking data and then disappears. CT14 was under the same rock and not visible, same as the previous week.
CM10 9-28-12: CM10's signal appears to be coming from the western slope of IMH and downslope and NW of CT14's location so I take off following the beep...only to cross paths with the ringtail two more times. At this point I'm wondering how the ringtail knows where all the snakes are and which one I'm tracking next. Turns out the little guy isn't omniscient, more than likely just extremely active and covers considerable area when foraging. CM10 was on the northern flank of IMH the previous week; I find her on the crawl in the vegetated area west of and between IMH and Suizo Wash. She's moving at the edge of, and then into, a dense aggregation of creosote and staghorn cactus where she climbs through the lower branches before coiling in the cactus.
CA121: No picture. Still in Suizo Wash on a wash island to the NW of IMH, though she seems to have moved a little closer to the hill. Was visible coiled among creosote and PP.
CT10: No picture. Still on the western slope of IMH though he's moved to a large boulder where he wasn't visible.

CA133: No Picture: Visible in a coil under dense, dead shafts of ragweed. On a wash island to the NE of IMH.

Solare neo: Love these little guys and have only found a few. Found this neonate solare as HW, Ryan and I attempted to track male CM14, the only snake Roger designated as a "MUST GET." Thanks for jinxing me! Roger and HW got his signal the night before so he might have booked and made a significant move or, for some reason, my receiver wasn't picking up his signal. Hopefully Roger was able to locate him Sunday.
CM11: No picture and unable to see. He was in a midden constructed in boulders on the western edge of the wash N of Little Hill. Roger and HW saw him the night before in the company of a big-headed female; possibly the same female he was associated with a couple weeks back.

CM15 9-29-12: CM15 has moved from the midden on the southern flank of IMH where she was accompanied by male CM14 the previous week to an outcrop near the base of the eastern slope of IMH. From the balloon she was coiled next to I can only venture the guess she was sleeping off a hangover from a party we weren't invited to. 
CT12 9-29-12: So much for the idea that the tigers were ready to pack it in and hang out in the rocks on IMH. CT12 moved from near the top of IMH, to ~70% downslope to the lower eastern slope of IMH where she had her posterior half sticking out of a hole associated with PP. She popped her head out once during the time we were observing her but pulled it back in and didn't give any indication that our presence bothered her as she didn't try to pull into the hole. The picture shows she is obviously distended posteriorly. It seemed like an odd position for a snake to put itself in so I had to wonder if she was thermoregulating. Keeping her head cool in the hole while warming her fat nether regions (the sun was within as inch or two before Ryan provided shade for the picture so I could imagine there was radiant heat or the soil she was in contact with was being warmed).
CT11 9-29-12: CT11 has moved from high on IMH near the road to the top the previous week to a wash edge on the bajada east of IMH. He was in the same position under the dead branches as when tracked the previous night.
CT13 9-29-12: Don't think she's moved too far from where Roger saw her last week; maybe uphill a little. On the E/SE slope of IMH ~2/3 the way to the top. She was a couple inches under a flattish granite rock surrounded by PP.
Thanks Marty!

Having the luxury of three trackers has really opened up our ability to catch behaviors we would have otherwise missed. We are often able to track the same animal three times over the course of a weekend. By doing this, we learn much about what individual animals are actually doing--from early evening set up until late morning "time to get back inside" behaviors. I will be pulling some of Marty's images from this report, and combining them with my own with the next report, so that the reader will see what I'm talking about.

For now---C'MON WEEKEND!

Best to all, happy herping, roger

Monday, October 1, 2012

Study finds snakes in the wild harbor deadly mosquito-borne EEEV virus through hibernation

The following is being carried by Medicalpress.com
Snakes in the wild serve as hosts for the deadly mosquito-borne Eastern equine encephalomyelitis Virus (EEEV), possibly acting as a "bridge" to the next season, according to researchers studying endemic areas in the Tuskegee National Forest in Alabama. This sets the stage for mosquitoes feeding on the infected snakes – primarily in the early spring – to become virus carriers. Scientists have been puzzled as to how the virus survived a harsh winter. With this new link established in the transmission cycle, a viable strategy to counter the virus may be at hand. The findings were published today online in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and will be published in the December print issue.

While previous studies demonstrated that snakes experimentally infected with EEEV in laboratories could harbor the virus in their blood through hibernation, this is the first evidence documenting wild-caught snakes with EEEV already circulating in their blood. "This study confirms that the snakes carry the live virus across seasons," said study co-author Thomas R. Unnasch, Ph.D., of the University of South Florida's Global Health Infectious Disease Research Program. "So after hibernating all winter, when they emerge in the sun in the spring, they still have the virus in their blood ready to share with a new crop of mosquitoes which can then spread it on to other animals." "Triple E is one of the most deadly viruses that's endemic to the United States and what this result allows us to do is to start thinking about early season interventions to basically eliminate the virus transmission early in the season and interrupt it before it gets going, before it will be a threat to human beings later on in the season," he said. EEEV has been detected in Central, South and in North America, along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the U.S. as well as Michigan and Ohio. Most human cases have occurred in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. Currently, in Massachusetts public health officials have confirmed that at least seven residents have contracted the virus commonly called "Triple E" (EEE) and two of them have died from the disease. The number of cases in the state alone has already reached the average number of EEE cases reported annually nationwide. 

EEEV is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The virus can be passed to a wide range of animals including birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. But once infected, horses and humans appear to suffer the most adverse effects. For horses with EEE there's a 90 percent chance of death. And although there is a vaccine available, hundreds of horses go un-vaccinated. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), on average 200 EEE horse cases were reported annually over the past five years. For humans EEE is rare, with approximately five to ten cases reported annually in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 35% of the people who contract the disease will die and among those who survive, 35% will have long term severe neurological damage. In severe cases of the virus (involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) symptoms include the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures or coma. There is no cure for EEEV and care is based on symptoms. There is currently no vaccine approved for human use.

Freshwater hardwood swamps in the Northeast are hotbeds for EEEV and the virus is maintained through a cycle of Culiseta melanura mosquitoes which primarily get their blood meals from birds. As infection rates rise among more mosquitoes feeding on their avian hosts, the birds spread the virus rapidly and broadly but it takes a mosquito species (Aedes, Coquillettidia and Culex) capable of bridging the infection from infected birds to uninfected mammals for the virus to be transmitted. Until now, the mystery of how the virus survived the winter has been an outstanding question because the virus has appeared in the same locations in several Northeastern U.S. states from year to year. "There are no mosquitoes there in the winter and not many birds and there's never been evidence that mosquitoes can carry the virus over the winter," Unnasch said. 

For their research for this study, scientists from the University of South Florida and Auburn University wrangled snakes for blood samples from an area in the Tuskegee National Forest where EEEV has circulated for years. They found that the infected snakes, mostly cottonmouths, hibernate the virus in their blood during winter. They also discovered that the virus in snakes peaked in April and September. Unnasch said when the major transmission agents, migratory birds, leave the area in the fall the mosquitoes turn to the snakes—feeding through the eye membranes of the vipers, not their tough skin—which is why infection rates peak in September. He added that there is no research on whether the virus can be transmitted by a snake bite, but they plan to use defanged snakes in their next experiments." Prevention Unnasch and his colleagues believe that the virus can be stopped before it becomes a threat. Further study could prove whether early season interventions could be really useful in eliminating infections in the summer, which may involve humans. "We'd like to test this experimentally by doing some early season insecticide treatments for mosquitoes in Florida," said Unnasch, adding that according to the CDC his home state has far more cases of Triple E virus than any other. "This study not only offers insight into the ways to prevent the outbreaks of deadly mosquito-borne viruses like EEEV and West Nile Virus, it also provides a path toward finding cures and vaccines that will save lives and money," said James W. Kazura, MD, President of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, which publishes the journal, and director of the Center for Global Health and Diseases at Case Western Reserve University. "We must never forget that the lives of real people are at stake here. Each year, through the generosity of the Labell family, ASTMH's American Committee on Arthropod-Borne Viruses awards a $2000 grant to a graduate student conducting research on EEEV or other mosquito-borne diseases in the name of their daughter, Kelly, a New Hampshire teenager who died tragically in 2005 from EEEV. This research is another step closer to preventing tragedy for another family."

Andrea M. Bingham, Sean P. Graham, Nathan D. Burkett-Cadena, Gregory S. White & Thomas R. Unnasch. 2012. Detection of Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis Virus RNA in North American Snakes. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.2012.12-0257

Suizo Report -- 21 through 23 September, 2012

Marty Feldner and I are tag teaming with this report. I'm keeping Marty's writing in the usual black font, while I go to blue. If you can't see color fonts on your screen, well..........then you're out of luck in this regard. No big deal. We're pretty much interchangeable.

On the evening of 21 September, I joined Marty for long enough to mass signal from the top of Iron Mine Hill (IMH). On our way down, we bumped into my shadow Tortoise #505. Or am I his shadow? Whatever that case may be, the number of "recaptures" with this tortoise has been nothing short of incredible. We see him an average of 20 times a year!

Regarding some of the action we're seeing, Marty takes over:
The snakes have made a decision: it's time to move back to Iron Mine Hill. Almost as if coordinated by a directive the 4 remaining tigers that were in Suizo Wash or on the bajada moved back to the mountain to join the two already there. The question is, what triggers the movement? Is it temperatures, day length, reduction in humidity with the end of the monsoon, mom calling them home for dinner? What time of day or night are they making the bulk of their movements? Do those movements coincide with moon phase? Whatever it is it seems obvious that the snakes all receive the message and act on it within a relatively short span of time. Four of the five molossus remained on IMH where CM14 has rejoined CM15 in a midden and, as reported by Roger, when CM12 was viewed during the morning tracking session, he was rejoining CM10. CM11 was all alone this week...or maybe not. We couldn't see him. He was in the wash to the north of Little Hill. The molossus have largely stayed on IMH after a period of time where they were using the wash edges. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a pattern over the next couple of years; hunt the wash edges during the summer and then head back to the mountain to hook up. The two atrox are in their active season ranges - how much longer will it be before they move back to the mountain?...and which mountain does John's bitch go to? Another good weekend. Looking forward to next Saturday.
Me too!Marty

You gotta love how Marty thinks. The guy is really trying to understand what it is like to be a rattlesnake. While I am content to think "tigers move to the hill because it is time for them to do so," Marty seeks the deeper meaning of it all. Of the scenarios Marty presents, I like "Mom calling them back for supper" best!

It's time to let the images tell the story:

Images in order of snakes seen
CT13 9-21-12: First snake tracked Friday night. Was on the cruise when found but set up in a prickly pear a short time later. CT13 has moved to the top of IMH. She was between IMH and Little Hill last week.
CT8 9-21-12: Two images; one a larger context, the second closer up. CT8 has moved from Suizo Wash where she was last week and is now next to the road at the base of IMH. She is using the same area/midden previously used by CA121.

 CA121 9-21-12: CA121 is still in Suizo Wash but has moved a little south. In the picture she is off the ground in vegetation. During ~45 minutes of watching CA121 she was apparently tracking something. She made no less than 4 circuits of an area approximately 6m in diameter including several ventures off the ground into vegetation. During the morning tracking session she wasn't visible but had a male friend waiting outside her refuge.
CRAT_FCA121_Site70_09_22_12: Way to steel my thunder, Marty! This is the male that was poised just outside the soil rodent hole that CA121 was in. What a nice boy he is! Note the how the rattle is just coming out of the coil. As we would approach for pictures, he would flick that rattle ever-so-slightly. Our guests were amazed at the mellow disposition of this snake. Normal stuff to us! I also did a quick tracking job on CA121 the evening of 23 September. She was now in a different soil hole, about 30 meters from the morning before, and the male was tongue flicking her refuge as I arrived. He can track her as well as I can!
CM12 9-21-12: CM12 was in a coiled hunting posture on the western slope of IMH. CM12 has been on the northern slope of IMH for the last couple of weeks where he's repeatedly been associating with CM10.
CM12_CM10_09_22_12 x 2 images: And by the next morning, we caught him moving back in with his girlfriend CM10. She is, as usual, behind him in these two images. He also seems to be good at tracking his lady. On the evening of 23 September, the pair had moved all the way to the bottom of IMH, just above Suizo Wash. They were in a soil hole at the base of a cliff face, surrounded by a lush and fragrant chest-high patch of Mexican oregano. As usual, the massive body of the male blocked the view of the female. I almost feel sorry for CM10. That big boy is not going to let her go until she yields.
CT12 9-21-12: CT12 has moved onto the south facing slope of IMH near the road to the top after having been on the bajada to the southeast of IMH last week. She had an obvious food bolus visible in the coil beneath her head.
CT10 9-22-12: CT10 is on the west facing slope of IMH. He was on IMH last week but has moved to the location where he overwintered. Is he done for the year or just stopping by a familar spot?
CT13 9-22-12: After tracking CT13 the previous night she moved further east to the highest point on top of IMH.
CT13_Site11.....This is an image from 8 September of CT13 on the move. When I tracked her on 23 September, she was on the move as shown here, ~70% downslope from where Marty saw her the morning before. She was traveling across the hill, following a contour, and about 10 meters below her, CM12 was doing the exact same thing. Both were traveling in parallel lines, and moving fast! And going along with Marty's thoughts about mom calling them back for supper--both are thick toward the rear.
CT8_CT14_Spooked: Speaking of thick toward the rear, check out the tail on female CT8 in this image taken 8 September 2012. I think all three of our tigers will have pups next year.
DT on back: Tortoise Ryan found just above where we located CT12. The tortoise stepped off the rock visible in the picture and rolled onto its back. After watching the tortoise try to flip itself for a short time a helping hand was lent and the tortoise went on its way. GREAT SHOT Marty!
CT12 9-22-12: From her position the previous night CT12 moved further up slope on IMH into a small outcrop. Note all the small rodent droppings nearby. Yep--Mom is calling them back for supper, Marty!
Sadly, I think all the tiger pairings are over. We did not see coitus this year, but we can certainly bet our bottom dollar that it happened. With the molossus, the pairings are still going on, and we will keep trying to get--and share, images of any mating that we see.

Thanks to John Slone, Marty, Gordon and typing boy here, we have never been poised better to see how three species of rattlesnake partition the habitat that they occupy. We look forward to next year already. It is likely that we will beef up our N with all 3 species. We do need money to do this. Expect some felonious begging in the months ahead. Before you hit the delete button, bear in mind that this is the premiere rattlesnake study of the southwest. Nobody has ever done it longer, or better.  Nobody has published more than we have, either. No brag, just fact.

If we had to put a price tag on what we've done over the past 12 years, it would be around $250,000. We've done it all out of pocket, and we have freely (emphasis on "free") shared the knowledge gained with the world. I hope you'll help us in the days ahead.

This here is Roger Repp, signing off from Southern Arizona, where the turtles are strong, the snakes are handsome, and the lizards are ALL above average.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Bornean earless monitor lizard in Kalimantan

The Bornean herpetofauna has about 146 amphibians and 254 reptiles – excluding sea snakes and sea turtles. Perhaps the most unusual member of the herpetofauna is the Bornean earless monitor lizard, Lanthanotus borneensis Steindachner 1877; an odd lizard looking lizard with an ancient history. Until now Lanthanotus has been known only from the coastal lowlands of northern Sarawak, but Yaap et al. (2012) report its recent discovery on oil palm development area in the Landak District of West Kalimantan, expanding its known range southward into Kalimantan. 
Photo credit Alain Compost
A single specimen of the lizard was found on 30 May 2008, at 11:28 hrs, in leaf litter in a shallow, rocky creek by a social survey team taking GPS coordinates of locally important cultural sites. The lizard was partially submerged in the creek. The site includes natural forest, secondary forest and isolated bamboo clusters—all located in a recently developed oil palm estate. The estate and its surroundings are a complex mosaic of active or recently abandoned swidden agricultural fields, rubber, agroforestry.

Since its description in 1877, only 12 specimens had been found up until 1961 and only about 100 of these lizards have ever been collected. Much of the information published on L. borneensis are reports on behavioral observations of single specimens kept in captivity and little is actually known about its behavior in its natural habitat.

Yaap, B., G.D. Paoli, A. Angki, P.L. Wells & D. Wahyudi & M. Auliya (2012). First record of The tembawang forms part of a larger forest block. Threatened Taxa 4(11): 3067–3074.

Impact of Harvesting on the Map Turtle

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers studying river turtles in Missouri found populations of the northern map turtle have not recovered from harvesting in the 1970s. 
Scientists used data collected by Florida Museum of Natural History herpetology curator Max Nickerson in 1969 and 1980 as a baseline, then surveyed the same stretch of river in the Ozarks in 2004 to determine the northern map turtles had not recovered from a previous 50 percent population loss caused by harvesting, likely for food. River turtles help ecosystems function by cycling nutrients and maintaining food web dynamics. Assessment of the northern map turtle, a protected species in some states, is essential as increasing human populations and global warming further alter its habitat. The study was published Sept. 14 in Volume 3 of Copeia, and is scheduled to appear online this week.

“The importance of river turtles is really underplayed,” said lead author Amber Pitt, a Clemson University postdoctoral research fellow who conducted research for the study as a UF graduate student. “River turtles are long-lived, rely on the same water resources that we do and can serve as indicators of water quality. People should be concerned if turtles are impacted by poor water quality because we are likely being affected, too.”

Inhabiting river systems from southern Arkansas to Quebec, the northern map turtle, Graptemys geographica, is among the most wide-ranging map turtles in the U.S. They are dietary specialists and depend mainly on snails, making the species especially susceptible to biodegradation. Formally known as the common map turtle due to its wide geographic distribution, its name was changed in 2000 so people would not assume it was abundant, Pitt said. The northern map turtle is listed in Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and this research may be used as a guideline for conservation or protection of other turtle species.

Scientists determined harvesting was likely the cause of the 50 percent population loss between 1969 and 1980 based on analysis of data published by Nickerson and Pitt in the Florida Museum of Natural History Bulletin in August. Data showed fewer adult females, which are larger than males and preferred for the food trade, and local residents confirmed turtle harvesting occurred in the river, Nickerson said.

“This shows that harvesting, even if it’s a one-time event, can cause a turtle population to significantly decline and remain impacted for decades, because this species doesn’t reproduce quickly,” Pitt said. “It was really discouraging to see that even without the pressure of further harvesting, they couldn’t recover over that long time period, which is partially due to their biology but may also be associated with habitat degradation and disturbance.”

Researchers used similar methods to survey the nearly 3-mile stretch of the North Fork of White River in Ozark County, Missouri, in 2004 by snorkeling to locate, tag and record information about the turtles. Based on the 2004 examination of the river, habitat degradation was apparent because of increased siltation, sedimentation and algal blooms.

“What’s happening in these big spring-fed rivers is very important,” Nickerson said. “When you clear the banks of a river, you increase siltation, which affects the food sources, reproduction, plant growth, species composition and basic ecology of that section of the stream, and perhaps the entire river.”

River degradation has been partially caused by human recreation, which drastically increased by 2004, Nickerson said. People swimming and boating also frighten turtles so they may not bask as much as needed to maintain their health and maximize egg production.

Although scientists generally agree many turtle populations are declining worldwide, little has been published on river turtle communities, said Don Moll, a professor emeritus at Missouri State University who co-authored a textbook on freshwater turtles.

“This is a very important study because it follows the dynamics of this turtle community over a more than 30-year time period, and really it’s the only published river turtle study I can think of that does that,” Moll said. “It’s a real contribution in that sense — it’s so unique.”

One concern with attracting conservation efforts to river turtles may have to do with their small size because they do not garner as much public attention as larger marine species, Pitt said. Adult female northern map turtles are about 11 inches long.

“Often times with conservation, you have the charismatic mega fauna that people care about, such as sea turtles — everybody cares about sea turtles, including me,” Pitt said. “But river turtles are facing just as many threats as sea turtles. People are also harvesting river turtles and there are very few laws in place to stop this harvest — it’s a global epidemic that is causing turtle populations to be wiped out.”

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Giant Salamanders and peramorphosis

Giant salamanders (Cyptobranchidae) can live for a century, grow to two meters in length, and have an ancestry that extends back more than 56 million years. Fossils giant salamanders are frequently found in Eurasia and they show little variation from their modern descendants. The early giant salamanders had a body size and lifestyle similar to those alive today and they lived in East Asia and North America. But while modern species inhabit oxygen-rich, fast-flowing mountain streams in China, Japan and the US, their ancestors lived in rivers and lakes in the lowlands.
Ontogenetic development in giant salamanders.

Now, Madelaine Böhme and Davit Vasilyan at the University of Tübingen have discovered the oldest known giant salamander, Aviturus exsecratus, lived on land as well as in water. A reexamination of 56 MY fossil A. exsecratus from southern Mongolia demonstrated that the animal hunted in the water and on land. Making its life style quite different from all the later giant salamanders, which live or lived only in water.

The evolution of a species from a purely aquatic lifestyle to an amphibious-terrestrial lifestyle is linked with gigantism and sustained growth and is called peramorphosis (the opposite of paedomorphosis). It is completely unknown in modern salamanders. However, development like this is only known in palaeozoological amphibians such as Eryops, which lived 300 MYA.

The authors suspect that Aviturus exsecratus fed on fish and invertebrates in the water – as suggested by the shape of its lower jaw, and probably hunted insects on land. Terrestrial adaptation is indicated by the animal’s heavy bones, long hind legs, a well-developed sense of smell, and palatal dentition typical of a terrestrial salamander. Also, fossil remains of this huge, up to  two meters long animal were found in rock typically formed from water’s-edge sediments.

The researchers hypothesize that body size in Aviturus exsecratus was probably due to a short period of global warming 55.8 million years ago: the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. This most sudden climate change since the death of the dinosaurs saw global temperatures rise 6 degrees Celsius within around 20,000 years.

Davit Vasilyan, MadelaineBöhme. Pronounced Peramorphosis inLissamphibians—Aviturus exsecratus (Urodela, Cryptobranchidae) from thePaleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum of Mongolia.PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (9):e40665 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0040665

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A second look at frog reproductive modes

A New Guinea microhylid with eggs.
Photo credit David Bickford

STONY BROOK, NY, September 10, 2012 – All tadpoles grow into frogs, but not all frogs start out as tadpoles, reveals a new study on 720 species of frogs to be published in the journal Evolution. The study, “Phylogenetic analyses reveal unexpected patterns in the evolution of reproductive modes in frogs,” conducted by John J. Wiens, an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University, and colleagues Ivan Gomez-Mestre from the Doñana Biological Station in Seville, Spain, and R. Alexander Pyron from George Washington University, uncovers the surprising evolution of life cycles in frogs.

Roughly half of all frog species have a life cycle that starts with eggs laid in water, which hatch into aquatic tadpoles, and then go through metamorphosis and become adult frogs. The other half, according to the authors, “includes an incredible diversity of life cycles, including species in which eggs are placed on leaves, in nests made of foam, and even in the throat, stomach, or back of the female frog. There are also hundreds of species with no tadpole stage at all, a reproductive mode called direct development.”

For decades, it has been assumed that the typical mode (with eggs and tadpoles placed in water) gave rise to direct development through a series of gradual intermediate steps involving eggs laid in various places outside water. “However, the results show that in many cases, species with eggs and tadpoles placed in water seem to give rise directly to species with direct development, without going through the many seemingly intermediate steps that were previously thought to be necessary,” Dr. Wiens said.

“The results also suggests that there many potential benefits for species that have retained aquatic eggs and tadpoles, such as allowing females to have more offspring and to colonize regions with cooler and drier climates. These advantages may explain why the typical frog life cycle has been maintained for more than 220 million years among thousands of species,” said Professor Wiens.

Ivan Gomez-Mestre, Robert Alexander Pyron, John J. Wiens. Phylogenetic analyses reveal unexpected patterns in the evolution of reproductive modes in frogs. Evolution, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01715.x

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Did advanced snakes evolve from a scolecophidian?

A scolecophidian, Epictia tenella. JCM
STONY BROOK, NY, September 18, 2012 – A new study, published online in Biology Letters on September 19, has utilized a massive molecular dataset to reconstruct the evolutionary history of lizards and snakes. The results reveal a surprising finding about the evolution of snakes: that most snakes we see living on the surface today arose from ancestors that lived underground.

The article, entitled “Resolving the phylogeny of lizards and snakes (Squamata) with extensive sampling of genes and species,” describes research led by John J. Wiens, an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University. The study was based on 44 genes and 161 species of lizards and snakes, one of the largest genetic datasets assembled for reptiles.

The results show that almost all groups of snakes arose from within a bizarre group of burrowing blind snakes called scolecophidians. This finding implies that snakes ancestrally lived underground, and that the thousands of snake species living today on the surface evolved from these subterranean ancestors.

The authors suggest that there are still traces of this subterranean ancestry in the anatomy of surface-dwelling snakes. “For example, no matter where they live, snakes have an elongate body and a relatively short tail, and outside of snakes, this body shape is only found in lizards that live underground,” said Professor Wiens. “Snakes have kept this same basic body shape as they have evolved to invade nearly every habitat on the planet – from rainforest canopies to deserts and even the oceans.”

J. J. Wiens, C. R. Hutter, D. G. Mulcahy, B. P. Noonan, T. M. Townsend, J. W. Sites, T. W. Reeder. Resolving the phylogeny of lizards and snakes (Squamata) with extensive sampling of genes and species. Biology Letters, 2012; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0703

On the trail of herbal snakebite antidote

Puff Adder, Bitis arietans. JCM
PLANT MEDICINE A PhD student at the University of Copenhagen has drawn on nature’s own pharmacy to help improve the treatment of snakebites in Africa.

Marianne Molander from the University of Copenhagen's Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences has been working within a Danish team that has examined various plants native to the African continent in a bid to find locally available herbal antidotes.

“Snake venom antidotes are expensive, it’s often a long way to the nearest doctor and it can be difficult to store the medicine properly in the warm climate. As a result many local people rely on natural resources for treating potentially fatal bites,” says pharmacist and PhD student Marianne Molander.

The Danish researchers are now investigating African plants that have proven effective in treating snakebite. Armed with the results of their research they are set to provide guidance in the use of plants in remote areas where local people have limited access to Western medicine:

“We have particularly focused on the snake species Bitis arietans, which is widespread south of the Sahara. All snake venoms consist of a unique cocktail of enzymes, which results in rapid tissue death. Along with our African partners, we are currently testing plants that act as venom antidotes in remote regions of Africa. A hundred plants from Mali, 27 from South Africa and 13 from the Democratic Republic of Congo are now under the microscope," says Marianne Molander, PhD student in drug design and pharmacology at the University of Copenhagen.

Snake venom as medicine

100,000 people worldwide die each year from snakebites. Three times as many suffer permanent injuries, disability or amputations as a result of a bite to an arm or leg. The problem is greatest in tropical developing countries, where agricultural workers, women and children are the most likely victims. Although a million people in Africa are bitten by snakes each year - only half receive treatment.

But snake venom is not all bad. There are many instances where venom can be developed into drugs used, for example, in the treatment of hypertension, heart failure and diabetic kidney disease. The drug Aggrastat, which is used for chest pain, was developed using a peptide from an African viper.

Herbal healing in Africa

Historically plants have always been a major source of drugs. A quarter of all new medicinal products registered worldwide, come from plants or other natural resources. This impressive potential has its origins in the fact that plants have evolved to contain substances that prevent them being eaten or attacked by diseases. These biologically active defence compounds can sometimes be useful for developing new drugs. And Africa’s poor use nature as their medicine cabinet.

“In Africa where much of the population can’t afford medicine, there is a tradition of seeking out healers and alternative therapists, before turning to conventional medicine. Eighty percent visit the healer before they go to the hospital. Traditional herbal medicine is based on centuries of traditions and achievement, so the local shamans and medicine men are often a good place to start when you are looking for active substances with real pharmaceutical effects,” says Marianne Molander.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Snakes & Spiders in Guam

Boiga irregularis, USGS Photograph
In one of the first studies to examine how the loss of forest birds is effecting Guam's island ecosystem, biologists from Rice University, the University of Washington and the University of Guam found that the Pacific island's jungles have as many as 40 times more spiders than are found on nearby islands like Saipan.

"You can't walk through the jungles on Guam without a stick in your hand to knock down the spiderwebs," said Haldre Rogers, a Huxley Fellow in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Rice and the lead author of a new study this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

The results are some of the first to examine the indirect impact of the brown treesnake on Guam's ecosystem. The snake, which was accidentally introduced to the island in the 1940s, decimated the island's native bird species in one of the most infamous ecological disasters from an invasive species. By the 1980s, 10 of 12 native bird species had been wiped out, and the last two live only in small areas protected by intense snake-trapping.

Rogers and colleagues are investigating whether the loss of birds led to an increase in the spider population on Guam, since many birds consume spiders, compete with spiders for insect prey and utilize spider webs in their nests. Small-scale experiments in other ecosystems have consistently shown a link between the presence of birds and the abundance of spiders, but the new study is the first examine the impact of bird loss on the scale of an entire forest.

Counting spider webs on Guam and on nearby islands in the Marianas Islands chain was the first step. Rogers said the difference between the number of spiders she and her colleagues counted on Guam and three nearby islands that still have birds "was far more dramatic than what any small-scale experiments had previously found." She said the findings underscore the importance of using both observed counts and controlled experiments when attempting to predict how entire ecosystems will react to change.

Rogers landed her first job out of college on Guam in 2002. "I had no idea where it was," she recalled. "I had to look it up on a map." She quickly fell in love with the narrow, 30-mile-long island, a mecca for tourists who are drawn by the tropical island's beaches, diving and snorkeling.

Guam is a U.S. territory, and to prevent brown treesnakes from spreading to other islands, the U.S. spends more than $1 million a year searching airplanes and cargo to prevent the snakes from escaping Guam. However, the reclusive, nocturnal reptiles are extremely hard to find. Rogers said the average resident or tourist on Guam will never see one, and even those who actively hunt them are hard-pressed to find one, which is one reason the snakes have been impossible to eradicate from the island.

Rogers' first job on Guam was to lead the U.S. Geological Survey's brown treesnake rapid response team, a small group of snake hunters charged with capturing brown treesnakes that manage to get off the island. Specifically, the team's mission is to respond within 24 hours of any sighting of a brown treesnake on any island that is served by flights from Guam.

"When I was out there searching for snakes at night, I spent a lot of time thinking about the differences between the forests I was walking through and the forests back on Guam," Rogers said. The spiderwebs were just one difference. The lack of songbirds also make Guam's forests eerily quiet during the day, she said. By the time Rogers enrolled in graduate school at the University of Washington in 2005, she had a number of ideas for ecological field studies aimed at measuring and explaining the differences she'd observed.

"There isn't any other place in the world that has lost all of its insect-eating birds," she said. "There's no other place you can look to see what happens when birds are removed over an entire landscape."

One of the first experiments she had in mind was to investigate all those spiderwebs, which are much less plentiful elsewhere in the Marianas.

"I certainly wasn't the first to notice the incredible number of spiders in the jungles on Guam, but we were the first to quantify the difference between Guam and nearby islands," Rogers said.

Historically, if ecologists wanted to study how insects reacted to the absence of birds, they would build an "exclosure," a covering designed to keep birds out of their study area. Rogers said most exclosures cover a few branches of one tree, and, in rare cases, an entire tree. Building structures large enough to exclude birds from an entire forest simply isn't affordable, so the brown treesnake has effectively set the stage for experiments that ecologists couldn't otherwise do.

To find out exactly how many spiders were on the island, Rogers' team grabbed a tape measure and spent four months hiking through jungles counting spider webs, as a proxy for spiders. She and study co-authors Janneke Hille Ris Lambers and Josh Tewksbury of the University of Washington and Ross Miller of the University of Guam found that spiders were between two times and 40 times more plentiful on Guam than on neighboring islands.

Rogers said the results were a surprise, because they were several times more than would have been predicted from simply scaling up the numbers from small-scale exclosure studies.

"None of the small-scale experiments recorded that kind of increase," Rogers said. "It suggests that the small-scale experiments had gotten the interaction correct -- there is an increase in spiders when you lose birds -- but they may have underestimated the effect size."

Rogers said the result "shows that birds have a strong effect on spiders. Anytime you have a reduction in insectivorous birds, the system will probably respond with an increase in spiders. With insectivorous birds in decline in many places in the world, I suspect there has been a concurrent increase in spiders."

In future work, she plans to conduct exclosure experiments on neighboring islands that still have forest birds and compare those results with observations on Guam to determine the exact links between the lost forest birds and the spider population increases.

"Ultimately, we aim to untangle the impact of bird loss on the entire food web, all the way down to plants," she said. "For example, has the loss of birds also led to an increase in the number of plant-eating insects? Or can this increase in spiders compensate for the loss of birds?"

The research was supported by the Budweiser Conservation Scholarship through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the University of Washington Department of Biology Giles Award, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute undergraduate research fellowship, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and grants from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Haldre Rogers, Janneke Hille Ris Lambers, Ross Miller, Joshua J. Tewksbury. ‘Natural experiment’ Demonstrates Top-Down Control of Spiders by Birds on a Landscape Level. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (9): e43446 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043446

The Bockadams of the genus Cerberus

Thinking about herpetological field work in Thailand brings back a lot of memories. One of the most vivid is arriving at small village on the Gulf of Thailand side of the peninsula and being greeted by two local men with burlap bags filled with snakes, they had more than 50 snakes in the genus Cerberus. When we asked them how they collected them, they explained they gathered them from the mud flat by scooting around on a board and picking them up. We then inquired how long it took to collect the snakes, and they replied, “about half an hour.” 

The evidence now suggests that snakes in the genus Cerberus may be the most abundant aquatic snakes on the planet. They have an unusual coastal distribution that extends from the vicinity of Mumbai, India to Paula, Micronesia a distance equal to about 20% of the Earth’s circumference.
The scientific community first became aware of the snakes now placed in the genus Cerberus through a drawing by Patrick Russell in his 1796, two volume, An Account of Indian Serpents, collected on the Coast of Coromandel. Russell applied the local Telugu name to the snake, the bockadam. Cerberus has a long and debris-filled nomenclatural history. This is highlighted by the fact that 16 species of Cerberus have been described since 1799, with at least 44 combinations of names applied to species within the genus. Gyi’s (1970) review of the homalopsids recognized three species, one of which had two subspecies. Cogger et al. (1983) placed Homalopsis australis Gray in the synonymy of Hydrus rynchops Schneider and reduced the number of recognized species to two. 

Alfaro et al. (2004) analyzed 2338 mtDNA bp from 21 localities and recovered five clades of Cerberus: a South Asia clade (India and Myanmar), a Greater Sunda Island-Sulawesi clade, a Thai-Malay Peninsula, Gulf of Thailand clade, a Philippine clade that included C. microlepis, and an Australopapuan clade, that is quite divergent (0.06 – 0.12) from the Asian clades (the Asian clades are 0.02–0.06 divergent from each other).

In an examination of 22 homalopsid species using three mitochondrial and one nuclear genes, Alfaro et al. (2008) recovered Cerberus as monophyletic. Using Markov Chain Constant Rates (MCCR) to test the times of divergence Cerberus appears to have separated from its sister the puff-faced water snakes of the genus Homalopsis about 14 MYA, while the Asian Cerberus clade diverged from the Australopapuan clade about 3 MYA.
Top to bottom: C. australis, C. dunsoni,  C. microlepis, C. rynchops (photo by A. Lobo),
C. schneiderii. 
Murphy, Voris, and Karns (2012) have now reviewed the nomenclature of the genus and define species based upon morphology and previously published molecular evidence. Three species have been recognized by recent workers, this paper recognizes five species: a South Asian C. rynchops (Schneider 1799); the Southeast Asian-Philippine C. schneiderii (Schlegel 1837); the freshwater Philippine endemic C. microlepis Boulenger 1896; the Australopapuan C. australis (Gray 1842); and C. dunsoni a new species from Micronesia. They also select a lectotype for Homalopsis schneiderii Schlegel based upon a figure published in 1837 and restrict the type locality for this species to Timor. They also discuss the evidence for a population of Cerberus australis in Indonesia, west of Weber’s Line.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Suizo Report -- Paradise in Paradise

Howdy Herpers, 09/10/12

I've got to pinch myself to see if I'm dreaming. When we started to ramp up on tigers and black-tails, I had no idea that so few would lead us to so much!

As we speak, we have three parings going on. Pairing number one is the big guy, CM12 hanging out with female CM10. I can get visuals on both animals, but the male blocks any photo opportunities. He is guarding the entrance to a boulder escarpment, and she is directly behind him.

We have 3 male black-tails with transmitters, and all 3 have visited female CM10. One might snicker and call her a slut, but in reality, she doesn't have much choice.  Those boys are going to come calling, and there isn't much she can do about it.

We have yet another paring of black-tails transpiring. As none of you may remember, we captured female CM15 a few weeks back--had to snatch her from a crevice that her boyfriend CM14 was sharing with her.

Two days later, they were placed back together in that same crevice.  CM14 then left her--to join female CM10!

Now the pair (14 and 15) are back together again, at a different location. They are buried in a massive Neotoma network, out on the Bajada between Iron Mine Hill and Lil Hill.

We've had three separate pairings with the tigers over the past couple weeks as well. Female CT12 was joined by an unknown male. That pairing seems to be over. CT11, "Steven," found himself a girlfriend for a while, and now that pairing is over as well.

This weekend, CT8 "Zona" was joined by our newest transmittered male, CT14. I first found them together Saturday morning, and visited them again that night, and Sunday night.

Backing the train up a bit, on 23 August, I pulled female atrox #133 (Slone's bitch) from the plot to get a transmitter change.

On 24 August, I had not one snake in the hopper--but five! She dropped 4 young (1 male, 3 females) during her first evening of capture. EXACTLY one year ago, CA133 dropped six young under similar circumstances. This is yet another example of atrox giving birth in consecutive years.

There is SO much more to report, but we will keep this one short by going to images.

Image 1: CA133 with her young (the 4th neonate is behind the water bowl)
Image 2 and 3: Images of CT8 Zona and her boyfriend, CT14, 8 September 2012

Image 4: CT8 and CT14, in a different location, still together, 9 September 2012. They had moved a distance of about 30 meters since the night before.
Image 5, by Marty Feldner: CT12 with her unknown (to us) boyfriend, 26 August 2012. We are leaving all pairings alone for the remainder of the year.
Image 6, by Marty Feldner: CT11 "Steven" with as yet unknown (to us) girlfriend, 3 September 2012. Ditto on not disturbing pairings.
It is my sincere hope that the black-tail pairings will be photographable in the days ahead. Thus far, no luck with that. And thus far, no mating with any of the pairings watched. I expect that coitus is happening, but we just haven't been lucky enough to see it--yet!

If nothing else, we can hope for birthing encounters next year!

This here is Roger Repp, signing off from soggy Southern Arizona, where the turtles are strong, the snakes are handsome, and the lizards are ALL above average.

Best to all, roger

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The fangless homalopsid snakes of eastern Indonesia

Snakes in the family Homalopsidae have been long considered semiaquatic or aquatic forms with live birth and rear-fangs. In 2011, Brachyorrhos was confirmed as a member of the family (Murphy et al. 2011), but Brachyorrhos is terrestrial, feeds on worms, and has no rear fangs. The DNA evidence suggested Brachyorrhos was the most basal member of the family. Further investigation into the genus suggested it was restricted to Eastern Indonesia, the Moluccas, Aru, and the Raja Ampat Islands. However, the literature suggested it was also present in western New Guinea, frequently mentioning Brachyorrhos jobiensis, a species described from Yapen Island, known only from the type specimen which was destroyed in World War II.
For all of the 20th century, two species were thought to comprise the genus Brachyorrhos, B. albus  and B. jobiensis because G. A. Boulenger had synonomized several previously described species under the name Brachyorrhos albus. A review of museum specimens found four species of Brachyorrhos in the Moluccas, one species on Seram and nearby Ambon (B. albus), one species on Buru (B. gastrotaenius), one species on Ternate (B. raffrayi), and an undescribed species on Halmahera, that we named B. wallacei (Murphy et al. 2012).  Despite the fact that Ternate (a volcanic island) is only 14 km off the coast of Halmahera, the genetic difference between the snakes on the two islands was 7.2%, suggesting they had separated from their common ancestor quite some time ago.

Within the museum specimens examined were six specimens labeled Brachyorrhos jobiensis, all from extreme western New Guinea, in an area known as the Bird's Head. The Bird's Head is a biodiversity hot spot that has been poorly explored for squamate reptiles. Examination of the six specimens revealed three different undescribed species, based upon their body form. Two of the species had cylindrical bodies and stout tails (about 9 to 12 % of the body length) and appear to be cryptozoic/ fossorial/ aquatic species. The third species has a remarkable lateral compression of the body, an exceptionally abbreviated tail (about 3% of the body length) suggesting it is an aquatic form evolved from a fossorial ancestor (Murphy, 2012).
The differences between jobiensis-like snakes and the Brachyorrhos were striking, while they shared a considerable amount of morphology, the jobiensis -like snakes had rounded heads, a reduced number of scales at the back end of the body, a single internasal scale, and remarkably different looking tails. While the morphology they shared suggested they are related.
It seems likely that more Brachyorrhos species will be found, in eastern Indonesia. And, further investigation into these interesting snakes may provide insight into the evolution of fangs, as well as the shift from terrestrial to aquatic or aquatic to terrestrial life styles.
Literature Cited
Murphy, J. C., Mumpuni & K. L. Sanders, 2011. First molecular evidence for the phylogenetic placement of the enigmatic snake genus Brachyorrhos (Serpentes: Caenophidia). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 61: 953–957.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Revision of the Lizards in the Family Teiidae

Dracaena guianensis and its unusual teeth, used for crushing 
mollusk shells. JCM
Genera in the New World lizard family Teiidae were spread out over several families before 1885 when Boulenger consolidated them  and organized them into four groups; Group I included macroteiids that shared nasals not separated medially by a frontonasal, well-developed limbs and a moderate to large body.  Boulenger's three remaining groups included various genera of microteiids that are currently assigned to the Gymnophthalmidae. Later, the macroteiids were placed in a separate subfamily containing two clades formally recognized as the tribes Teiini and Tupinambini by Presch. Little doubt remains that the Teiidae and Gymnophthalmidae are monophyletic groups, and today Presch’s clades are generally regarded as subfamilies. Recognition of these subfamilies has received mostly support from separate morphological analyses (chromosomal, hemipenial,  osteological,  integumental, myological, neurological) as well as mitochondrial DNA. A third subfamily Chamopsiinae accommodates extinct genera from North America and may be the sister group of the extant subfamilies. The Teiidae is almost certainly the sister group of the Gymnophthalmidae, and teiids likely arose in the middle Cretaceous from a common ancestor shared with the extinct Polyglyphanodontidae this group has been considered an additional subfamily of the Teiidae by some authors. The genus-level taxonomy of the Teiidae has long been unsatisfactory. This problem is particularly acute within the speciose radiation of cnemidophorines in which most tropical species are assigned to the large polyphyletic genera Ameiva and Cnemidophorus. Polyphyly urgently requires resolution, because teiids are often the most conspicuous elements of many New World herpetofaunas and have been the subject of numerous detailed ecological studies. As researchers make ecological comparisons among teiid species, draw inferences about their biogeography, propose conservation strategies, and conduct other studies of their comparative biology, polyphyly of genera such as Ameiva, Cnemidophorus, and Tupinambis will likely produce what have been called “error cascades,” where seemingly trivial taxonomic problems become magnified in the development of scientific knowledge. However, the problem is not just one of polyphyly. Some genera have never been adequately diagnosed, whereas others are defined by apparent symplesiomorphies. These problems contribute to misidentification in the field and incorrect or uncertain assignment of newly discovered species.

Salvator rufescens. JCM

Harvey et al. (2012) found that despite advances within particular groups, systematics of the Teiidae has long been unsatisfactory, because few morphological characters have been described for this family. Consequently, most species have been assigned to the large, polyphyletic, and poorly defined genera of Ameiva and Cnemidophorus. They describe 137 morphological characters and score them for most species of the Neotropical Teiidae. Important, but previously undescribed, character suites are detailed in the article and result in a new taxonomy of the Teiidae based on recovered evolutionary history and numerous morphological characters surveyed in this study. The authors recognize three subfamilies: Callopistinae new subfamily, Teiinae Estes et al., and Tupinambinae Estes et al. They resolve the polyphyly of Ameiva and Cnemidophorus, by establishing four new genera for various groups of Neotropical Teiidae: Ameivula new genus, Aurivela new genus, Contomastix new genus, and Medopheos new genus. They resurrect Holcosus Cope from the synonymy of Ameiva and Salvator Duméril and Bibron from the synonymy of Tupinambis. On the basis of shared derived characters, they propose new species groups of our redefined Ameiva and Cnemidophorus. We incorporate our new characters into a key to the genera and species groups of Teiidae. A phylogenetic hypothesis of Teiidae based on morphological characters differs substantially from hypotheses based on mitochondrial DNA. The phylogeny based on morphology is consistent with well-established biogeographic patterns of Neotropical vertebrates and explains extreme morphological divergence in such genera as Kentropyx and Aurivela.

Harvey, M.B., Ugento, G.N., Gutberlet, RL. 2012. Review of Teiid Morphology with a Revised Taxonomy and Phylogeny of the Teiidae (Lepidosauria: Squamata). Zootaxa 3459:1-156.