Herpetology Blog

Friday, May 22, 2015

is that a copperhead??
It's that time of year.  In the late Spring every year we receive calls and alarmed emails from residents with reports of "Copperheads," and "Massasauga Rattlesnakes."  Occasionally these reports contain details of snakes vibrating their tails, apparently reinforcing the "rattlesnake" identification.  Here's an image from a Lawrence resident who reported a colorful snake, length of about 18 inches, on their patio (photographed from safety behind the patio door).  Like most of these Spring reports, the snake species involved here is a non-venomous prairie rat snake, Pantherophis emoryi.  This species is brightly colored when they emerge as "young-of-the-year" juveniles in Spring—and their blotched color pattern superficially resembles the general color pattern of a few species of rattle snake, but generally doesn't look much like a copperhead.  Often, they even vibrate the tip of their tail, in apparent mimicry of a rattlesnake (smart, huh?). Although it is wise to avoid contact with snakes unless one's positive of the identification, even vaguely interested parties can benefit greatly by purchasing a basic field guide and checking out the illustrations. Most local Lawrence "rattlesnake" reports are misidentifications, usually ending badly for the unfortunate animal.

Comment count: 0
Thursday, May 14, 2015

Congratulations to Scott, who passed his orals yesterday!  In this picture he celebrates with Herpetology Division members at the Bird Dog Cafe.  Next week, Scott departs for a month of field work in the Solomon Islands.  What a life.   The rest of us will stay put, to take care of the many preparations leading up to the SSAR meetings at KU in late July.  Wait a minute....I see what's happening here!

Comment count: 1
Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Second year KU Herpetology student Carl Hutter has just been awarded a Rosemary Grant Graduate Student Research Award from the Society for the Study of Evolution. This $2500 award will help further Carl's work on the systematics of Madagascan frogs. Congratulations to Carl!

Comment count: 0
Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Several members of the KU herpetology division joined the Kansas Herpetological Society recently for their biannual herp survey which took place near Russell, Kansas from April 24th to the 26th. Russell is in the heart of post rock country. This term comes from the presence of many old limestone fence posts built by the early settlers to this prairie. With few trees, the abundence of limestone just beneath the surface provided an excellent resource for building barbed wire fences. Much of this same rock, having been exposed, cracked and weathered, provides excellent hiding spots for an array of snakes, lizards, and frogs not found in Lawrence, KS.

 

Rafe Brown and Jackson Leibach search beneath exposed rock along a hillside

 

Just one of the many neat finds. This milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum) from just a couple of hours drive to the West looks a bit different than the ones we are used to finding around Lawrence. 

Comment count: 0
Sunday, March 29, 2015

KU Herpetology received this photo recently of a lizard found inside of a shipping container arriving from the Philippines. Can you identify this species? It's unlikely that this lizard did in fact come from the Philippines. How it got into a shippment of goods from Southeast Asia is quite a mystery.

 

 

Comment count: 0
Monday, February 23, 2015

Led by undergraduate collections assistant Matt Buehler, other undergraduate help remove beetles and their frass from a python skin. A recent inspection of the KU Herpetology dry specimen holdings indicated that several specimens were infested with descructive dermestid beetles. The specimens in danger are being frozen to kill all the beetles and cleaned by hand.

Comment count: 0
Thursday, February 12, 2015

The KU Herpetology Division was in attendance at last night's Sexy Science event held at the Natural History Museum.  The event, which was very well attended, invited attendees to explore the suggestive side of natural history and hosted representatives from Herpetology as well as Entomology and Ornithology. Matt Buehler, Andressa Bezerra, Manuella Folly, Jackson Leibach and myself were there with a display of reptile and amphibian specimens which typify some of the fascinating reproductive biology in these organisms. For example did you know that some species of lizards are able to clone themselves? That's right. And you might be surprised that they can be found here in our own backyard. The New Mexico whiptail of the American Southwest is one well studied example. The entire species is composed of females which reproduce by cloning themselves. What makes them even more interesting is that the entire species is the result of a hybridization between two closely related species, the little striped whiptail and the western whiptail. This cloning phenomenon may actually occur more frequently that we thought. Species that typically reproduce through sex such as the copperheads, which are quite common around Lawrence, Kansas, have shown they have the ability to clone themselves as well.  Why they do so is still a mystery. A mystery that if solved may tell us something about the evolution of sex in animals.  

Matt Buehler talking about reproduction in frogs

Matt Buehler talking to some visitors about reproduction in frogs.

 

Jackson Leibach pointing out some snake hemipenes

Jackson Leibach pointing out the hemipenes of a reticulated python

Comment count: 0
Monday, January 26, 2015

News has been circulating recently of work conducted by Dr. Rafe Brown along with other members of the Herpetology Division, which was focused on Philippine wildlife trafficking in Manila's black markets. The story even shared the top of KU's facebook page with news of president Barack Obama's visit to the campus last week. Follow the link to read all about Brown's unexpected findings during a 5 year investigation into Manila's illicit wildlife trade http://bit.ly/15552Sa 

Comment count: 0
Friday, December 19, 2014

PhD student Scott Travers recently shared an article from the Solomon Star featuring a 2 week biodiversity research expedition he took part in while leading his own expedition to the island nation. This two week trip was organized by Ecological Solutions Solomon Islands and along with Travers was composed of a multinational team representing a number of fields in the biosciences.  

   

Comment count: 1
Monday, December 1, 2014

Graduate student Scott Travers has just returned from a very successful expedition to the Solomon Islands. New material acquired during his trip includes two of the most spectacular lizards in the world: the prehensile tailed skink (Corucia zebrata) and a giant crocodile skink (Tribolonotus).

Comment count: 0