Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rochester/Buffalo Trip

On Saturday, October 22, the Cornell Herpetological Society took an all day field trip to the Glor lab in Rochester and to the Buffalo Zoo. It was really exciting to visit the Glor lab because Rich Glor is an alum who was president of the herp club in 1998 and 1999 and who is now a professor at the University of Rochester. His lab focuses on questions of speciation and diversification, mainly in Caribbean Anolis lizards.

Part of the lab consists of a room filled with anoles. Here, lab members can carry out hybridization, behavior, and other types of experiments that require live lizards. Keeping so many live animals in a lab is a lot of work, but it pays off with the ability to do cool studies, like a current one investigating factors influencing male dewlap displays (if you don't know what a dewlap is, check out this clip from Life In Cold Blood:

After visiting the Glor lab, we headed west to Buffalo to check out the zoo. Remember the hellbender trip? Many of the juvenile hellbenders there had been head-started at the Buffalo Zoo, so we got to see where they started out. At the beginning of the program, the zoo collected egg masses and hatched them in captivity. Some of them were released this past summer, more will be released next summer, and the rest will have more time to grow larger before being released. In all cases, they are PIT (passive integrated transponder) tagged before release so that they can be found and identified later.

Behind the scenes, they have quarantine and a breeding program for endangered Puerto Rican crested toads, Bufo lemur. When the eggs hatch, the tadpoles are shipped to Puerto Rico and released. Introductions are more successful for tadpoles than for older toads. Quarantine for amphibians in the zoo is important to prevent the spread of Bd (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), a fungal disease that has been wiping out amphibian populations worldwide.

Venomous snakes are kept in a separate room.

Eastern massasauga (rattlesnake), Sistrurus catenatus

Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, Crotalus adamanteus

Lots of turtles!

Pancake tortoise, Malacochersus tornieri

A big uromastyx, Uromastyx sp.


What's a visit to the zoo without seeing some of the big cats?

Group shot in the reptile house: Zach Hempstead, Sage Hellerstedt, Jessica Tingle, Anna Kusler, Rachel Ruden, Brian Worthington (photo taken by Dr. Kraig Adler)

Glor Lab Website:

Blog on anoles:

Buffalo Zoo:

Photos: Jessica Tingle

Post by Jessica Tingle

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fall Herp Survey at Lick Brook Preserve

On Saturday, September 17 we headed out to the Thayer Preserve at Lick Brook with the Finger Lakes Land Trust. Tom Reimers and Betsy Darlington from the land trust led our group of 29 as we spent the morning flipping rocks and logs in search of herps. With so many people looking, we had lots of great finds.

As always, we found tons of redback salamanders, Plethodon cinereus. These guys supposedly make up more biomass than any other species in this region (pretty impressive for such a small creature). In addition to the normal variety, we also found several leadbacks, the all-gray color morph of the redback.
Surprisingly, we found as many mountain dusky salamanders (Desmognathus ochrophaeus) as we did redbacks. Normally they are found close to water, and you don't find so many duskies by flipping rocks in the forest. Someone in the group suggested that maybe we found so many because heavy rains that week had left the ground much wetter than normal.

In some cases, we found several salamanders under one rock or log.
There were plenty of red efts, the terrestrial juvenile form of the red-spotted newt, Notophthalmus viridescens. These are cool because unlike many other amphibians, which start life in the water and finish it on land, the red-spotted newt starts as an aquatic larvae, then lives on land in the eft form for two to three years before transforming into the aquatic adult form. The juveniles have bright red coloration to warn potential predators of the toxins they secrete.
Another commonly found salamander was the two-lined salamander, Eurycea bislineata.

Although most of the herps found on the trip were salamanders, we also saw some frogs and snakes.

Wood frog, Rana sylvatica

Green frog, Rana clamitans melanota

American toad, Bufo americanus

Ring-necked snake, Diadophis punctatus edwardsii

We also found plenty of cool invertebrates.

Clown millipede



All in all, it was a great day. Our final species count is below:

Redback salamander (Plethodon cinereus): 65, and
   Lead-back morph: 3
Mountain dusky salamander (Desmognathus ochrophaeus): 67
Two-lined salamander (Eurycea bislineata): 21
Red eft, juvenile stage of the Red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens): 18
Spring salamander (larva) (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus): 1
American toad (Bufo americanus): 3
Green frog (Rana clamitans melanota): 3
Wood frog (Rana sylvatica): 1
Spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer): 1
Ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus
edwardsii): 2

Thanks a ton to everyone who came out on a Saturday morning, and to the Finger Lakes Land Trust for leading us!

Photos: Mitch Paine.

Post by Jessica Tingle