Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Herp Club Reptiland Trip, Spring 2014

The herp club was feeling particularly adventurous, and so we went on a second trip for the 2013-2014 school year (the first being our trip to the Staten Island Zoo in October [post]). Our recent excursion was to Clyde Peeling's Reptiland in Pennsylvania.

Our visit was made particularly special through our guided tour, led by none other than the founder of Reptiland, Clyde Peeling. Through the tour he taught us basic biological information about the animals, but also had let us in on some of his personal experiences with herps. And, as the name suggests, the zoo was focused mostly on reptiles (and amphibians) so we were given a tour of all of the exhibits. The best part of it (in my opinion) was our tour of their behind-the-scenes, where we saw a lot of awesome animals, and because we were able to meet the caretakers. This portion of the trip was great because we were taught about how to properly care for the animals as well as meet some of them face-to-face.

A cane toad (Rhinella marina), notorious for being an invasive species in Australia, which is spreading quite rapidly.
Their introduction was intended for insect control, and they had eaten the insects (along with many other things they weren't supposed to).
Two things about this alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii). It was performing a neat prey luring method, where it would wiggle its worm-looking tongue to attract fish. And, yes, it is covered in algae (brings 'sit-and-wait' to a new level).
Although it is hard to tell from this, the mata mata (Chelus fimbriata) has very well adapted camouflage which extends to skin extensions on its head that help it blend in.
 It may be hard to believe that this small juvenile will become an adult which is the largest crocodile (and reptile) species in the world, the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus).
Here is (a headshot of) a young American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), nice eyes!
The slow moving gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) has no need to move quickly,
both from its venom (used mainly for defense) and their skin is made tough by having bones in it (called osteoderms).
Two fence lizards (Sceloporus), common lizards in the U.S.
Without its neck flaps out, this frilled lizard (Chamydosaurus kingii) looks much different than the popular image of them.
A day gecko (Phelsuma), as the name suggests they are most active during the day (diurnal), many geckos are not diurnal.
A baby gecko displaying their wonderful ability to 'stick' to things.
This is made possible through microscopic structures on their feet called setae and the plate-like lamellae.
Most people can recognize these lizards- the komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis).
These two were less than 10 years old, and still had much growing to do.
Here we saw two green anacondas (Eunectes murinus), the heaviest snakes in the world.
The more dull colored one is going through a shed, made more obvious from the 'bluing' of the eyes.

This was a splendidly colored, and quite active reticulated python (Python reticulatus),
which brings in the title of longest snake (and reptile).

 It is not hard to believe why the rhino ratsnake (Rhynchophis boulengeri) got its name.
She was very inquisitive, and well behaved when we got to meet her up close.
A very exciting part for me is shown by the two pictures below, which are the two subspecies of gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica). The top image is of the West African gaboon viper (B. g. rhinoceros), distinguished by the horn-like nasal scales and an unbroken facial mark. Compared to the bottom image, the East African gaboon viper (B. g. gabonica), which lacks the 'horns' and has a split facial marking. (Awesome animals!)
 Again we see the enchanting West African gaboon viper (G. b. rhinoceros). These guys don't move to frequently, so catching one in motion was quite exciting (for me at least). This one is performing what most would call a 'yawn,' but is moreover a realigning of jaws.
It is hard to deny the captivating looks of the eyelash viper (Bothriechis schlegelii).
The lack of eyelids, however, make it difficult for them to 'bat their eyelashes' at you.
A New York state resident: the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus).
It is giving a good view of why they are a 'pit viper,' if you notice the hole (pit) below the nostril, which is a heat-sensing pit organ.
Fast moving, venomous, and beautiful; the Western green mamba (Dendroaspis viridis) has it all.
Their long, thin bodies are typical for arboreal species, as a way to distribute their weight on the branches to prevent breaking them.
Even this innocent-looking baby cobra (Naja) has enough venom to defend itself within a few hours of hatching.
A nice display of turtle, crocodilian, and varanid lizard skeletons, located in the main building.
In the behind-the-scenes we were able to hang-out with other cool (mammals) like this fruit bat (Pteropus).
On the more shy side, was this kinkajou (Potos flavus). We were told it was playing shy,
but it was very convincing when it started to suck on its knuckles.
For more information
Clyde Peeling's Reptiland:
Photos and Post by Joey Chase

Monday, March 17, 2014

Trip to Staten Island Zoo, Fall 2013

For the fall 2013 Herp Club field trip, we found ourselves in Staten Island on October 27th. Our visit to the Staten Island Zoo was a very memorable experience (I, personally, found their viperid collection to be very impressive).

During the visit, we were given the grand tour of their herp collection- including the behind-the-scenes tour. As is shown below, the Staten Island Zoo is well known for their immense snake collection, specifically pit vipers (this was skewed a bit more by my personal bias towards them). The exhibits were beautifully realistic and well made, resembling the animals' natural settings. We had further learned about the unseen workings of a zoo through the behind-the-scenes tour. And, as an extra bonus, we were brought to the nursery to see some baby mammals (see below).

Even though we had a long drive to get there and back, it was definitely worth it. Here are just some of the amazing animals we saw:

One of our local venomous species, the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus).
This one is demonstrating its' wonderful camouflage (also called cryptic coloration), which is useful for being hidden from both predators and prey.
The cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus), another venomous viper found in the U.S., commonly called the water moccasin.
These snakes can look slightly similar to certain nonvenomous watersnakes (Nerodia), which can have big implications if you misidentify them.
Sidewinders (Crotalus cerastes), like the one below, are found in southwestern U.S. deserts.
Their common name is a reference to the unique and efficient way they move across sand (aptly called: sidewinding)
Found in the Great Basin region in the United States, we have the (appropriately named) Great Basin rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus lutosus).
Hopefully a common theme that you can see is the appropriate names that many snakes have.
The speckled patterns help to ID this speckled rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
 A nicely decorated pit viper
 The eyelash viper (Bothriechis schlegelii), found from Mexico to Columbia.
The 'eyelashes' (bristle-shaped scales above the eye) that give it the name are difficult to see in the picture. 
A personal favorite, the West African gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica rhinoceros)- found in... West Africa. 
And, note how the subspecies is 'rhinoceros', this indicates the presence of horn-like nasal scales (as shown here).
We move away from vipers with this elapid. Without a raised hood, this Egyptian cobra (Naja haje) gives us a
more non-aggressive appearance than the popular 'hooded' image of them... either way, they are quite venomous.
 Moving onto a less venomous colubrid, is the Asian vine snake (Ahaetulla prasina).
 Their fangs (unlike all of the snakes shown above) are located in the back of their upper jaw (called: rear-fanged or opisthoglyphous).
A desert exhibit, complete with several rattlesnakes and a beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum).
A horned lizard (Phrynosoma), giving the camera a stink-eye.
A very nicely colored blue tree monitor (Varanus macraei).
Here is a moving display which nicely demonstrated snake jaw movement and how they are able to have such a large gape.
From the nursery: a young binturong (Arctictis binturong), adorable and shy.
From the nursery: A young porcupine (Family: Erethizontidae), very shy.
From the nursery: two-toed sloth (Choloepus), very charismatic and not shy at all.
For More Information 
Staten Island Zoo:
Photos and Post by Joey Chase
P.S. This blog was long, past due, so I apologize

2013 Fall Field Survey at Etna Nature Preserve

For the Fall 2013 semester we had our biannual herp survey on September 15th. For the trip, our dependable partners from the Finger Lakes Land Trust, Betsy and Tom had shown us around a newly acquired parcel of land located just north of the Etna preserve. After searching the parcel for a couple of hours we had decided to see what could be found at Etna as well (so, 2 places in one trip).

On our end, the conditions were great for herping: the temperature was cool, no precipitation, and we had a very large group of hands and eyes (around 30 participants!). However, we had only ended up finding 4 species of herps between the two sites. We like to speculate that the previous rain storms, combined with the overcast skies and cold temperature had prevented herp activity. Despite encountering a relatively low amount of diversity we had a great time. There was also some extreme perseverance, where several members had decided to comb through a wetland to continue the search (and, not to mention the two members [admittedly, myself and our president Brian] who decided to take a quick swim in the murky, organic-smelling water).

Group picture (not everyone was here for the photo, since it was at the end of our survey), at the main Etna Preserve.

Part of the group exploring the new parcel (Etna-North)

Dusky salamander (Desmognathus), a common and dependable survey animal.

We had two spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum), which are great finds because they spend most of the time,
outside of the breeding season, underground.

The other spotted salamander, individuals can be identified from their unique spotting patterns.

A curious snail

A decent-sized spider hanging on the underside of a fern.

Another (cuter) arachnid

Jelly fungus
A great way to end the day: the president (left) and I (right), after emerging from the swampy water..
Photo Courtesy of Sophie Liu
The final species count:
Northern two-lined salamanders, Eurycea bislineata: 19
Dusky salamander, Desmognathus spp.: 3
American toad, Anaxyrus americanus: 6
Etna Main Preserve-
Northern two-lined salamanders, Eurycea bislineata: 6
Spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum: 2
American toad, Anaxyrus americanus: 1
(Plus unidentified tadpoles)
Post by Joey Chase
P.S. This blog was long, past due, so I apologize