The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

The 2017/18  impact factor of the Herpetological Journal is 1.268

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Folder Volume 29, Number 4, October 2019

Volume 29, Number 4, October 2019

pdf 01. Emerging infectious disease threats to European herpetofauna

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Open Access

https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.189206

pp. 189-206

Authors: Steven J. R. Allain & Amanda L. J. Duffus

Abstract: In the past decade, infectious disease threats to European herpetofauna have become better understood. Since the 1990s, three major emerging infections in amphibians have been identified (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, B. salamandrivorans, and ranaviruses) as well as at least one of unknown status (herpesviruses), while two major emerging infections of reptiles (Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola and ranaviruses) have been identified in wild European populations. The effects of emerging infections on populations have ranged from non-existent to local extirpation. In this article, we review these major infectious disease threats to European herpetofauna, including descriptions of key mortality and/or morbidity events in Europe of their emergence, and address both the distribution and the host diversity of the agent. Additionally, we direct the reader to newly developed resources that facilitate the study of infectious agents in herpetofauna and again stress the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to examining these infectious diseases.

Keywords: Batrachochytrium dendrobatids, B. salamandrivorans, herpesviruses, ophidiomycosis, ranaviruses,
amphibians, reptiles

pdf 02. Microhabitat preference of the critically endangered golden mantella frog in Madagascar

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https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.207213

pp. 207-213

Authors: Wayne M. Edwards, Richard A. Griffiths, Michael J. Bungard, Eddie F. Rakotondrasoa, Julie H. Razafimanahaka, Pierre Razafindraibe Raphali R. Andriantsimanarilafy4 & Joseph C. Randrianantoandro

Abstract: The golden mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) is a critically endangered (CR) frog, endemic to the eastern rainforestsof Madagascar. Although the species is very popular in the pet trade and widely bred in captivity, its specific habitat requirements in the wild are poorly understood. Ten forested sites in the Moramanga district of Madagascar were surveyed for microhabitat and environmental variables, and the presence or absence of golden mantellas in quadrats positioned along transects in the vicinity of breeding sites. Mixed models were used to determine which variables best explained microhabitat use by golden mantellas. Sites where golden mantellas were found tended to have surface temperatures of 20-23 ˚C, UVI units at about 2.9, about 30 % canopy cover, and around 30 % herbaceous cover. Within sites, golden mantellas preferred microhabitats that had 70 % leaf litter coverage and relatively low numbers of tree roots. This information can be used to improve the identification and management of habitats in the wild, as well as to refine captive husbandry needs.

Keywords: mantella, Madagascar, amphibian, montane, rainforest, protected area

pdf 03. Solving species quandary: why awareness programs are pivotal in snake conservation

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https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.214218

pp. 214-218

Authors: Ramesh Roshnath & Nithin Divakar

Abstract: Snakes are feared but largely misunderstood by the public. In India, a country with ancient cultures and traditions, snakes were historically worshiped and their habitats were protected as sacred. However, over time these values have shifted to non-conservative approaches, even with people killing snakes on encountering them. This attitudinal change is an indication of knowledge erosion. A closed-ended survey was conducted for 300 randomly selected people in Kerala, India in the age range of 21-55 years to discern their skills in identifying common snake species, and evaluate their attitudes and knowledge about the importance of snakes in the environment. The study showed a lack of knowledge among the responders regarding snakes. Common snakes were not familiar, venomous and non-venomous snakes were mis-classified, and a lack of knowledge about post-bite treatment was observed. Therefore, there is an urgent need for planned conservation education and awareness programmes to build a snake-friendly society. A better understanding of snakes will supplement conservation in the future, and can minimise human-snake conflicts.

Keywords: snakes, conservation, identification, awareness

pdf 04. Review of chelid and emydid turtle distributions in southern South America with emphasis on extralimital populations and new records for Argentina

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https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.219229

pp. 219-229

Authors: Rocío M. Sánchez, María B. Semeñiuk, María J. Cassano, Leandro Alcalde, Gerardo C. Leynaud & Liliana Moreno

Abstract: There are many cases of animals reported in localities away from natural areas of distribution for the species. With respect to native freshwater turtles of Argentina and bordering countries, several populations (and single specimens) were reported for areas that cast doubts about their origin, due to not only the long distance from other known localities but also the geographical barriers that are in between. The present work provides a review of localities of the native turtle species Hydromedusa tectifera, Phrynops hilarii, Acanthochelys pallidipectoris, A. spixii and Trachemys dorbigni in Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and adds new records for some of these species for Argentina. We also employ an analysis to recognise core and extralimital populations, and a methodology based on five criteria that must be taken into account to elucidate if one extralimital turtle record is the result of anthropogenic action or a case of natural occurrence. Finally, we discuss about the origin of extralimital reports of turtles of the mentioned species.

Keywords: freshwater turtles, distribution, Argentina, bordering countries, translocation

pdf 05. The identity and probable origin of the Hemidactylus geckos of the Maldives

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https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.230236

pp. 230-236

Authors: Ishan Agarwal, Daniel Jablonski & Aaron M Bauer

Abstract: The Maldives are coral reef islands of Holocene origin with no endemic terrestrial herpetofauna. The few species that have been reported from the region have affinities with Sri Lanka, south and south-east Asia, and are considered relatively recent introductions by humans. Recent collections of Hemidactylus geckos from the Maldives allowed us to identify and reconstruct the probable origin of this genus on the islands. We combine mitochondrial DNA (ND2) sequence data for the new collections with published sequences to reconstruct evolutionary relationships. The two species of Hemidactylus in the Maldives are H. frenatus and H. parvimaculatus, with affinities to south-east Asia and Sri Lanka, respectively. Suggestive of multiple introductions, each species included multiple haplotypes, only one of which was previously recorded (in Sri Lanka); other haplotypes showed similarities to records from south-east Asia. Unravelling the colonisation patterns of house geckos in the Maldives requires a more complete knowledge of the natural variation across the range of the widely distributed source species.

Keywords: Hemidactylus brookii; Hemidactylus frenatus; Hemidactylus parvimaculatus; human commensal; India; Sri Lanka

pdf 06. Morphological assessment raises the possibility of cryptic species within the Luristan newt, Neurergus kaiseri (Amphibia: Salamandridae)

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https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.237244

pp. 237-244

Authors: Mansoureh Malekian, Hadi Khoshnamvand & Yazdan Keivany

Abstract: One of the main challenges in the conservation of biodiversity is to overcome inadequate knowledge about species and their intra-specific diversity. In the present study, we attempted to assess morphological distinction of the two previously identified genetic clades within the Luristan newt (Neurergus kaiseri, Schmidt 1952) endemic to Iran, which is essential for its conservation planning. Signals of the morphological variation in N. kaiseri were evaluated using landmark-based geometric morphometrics of body shape and characters of osteological structures. Morphological approaches revealed consistent groupings within the species, confirming the presence of two distinct lineages (previously named as the northern and southern clades). The morphological and genetic data provide evidence for the possible co-existence of two species in N. kaiseri and we recommend assigning the newly recognised forms to the species level.

Keywords: geometric morphometrics, Kaiser's spotted newt, intra-specific diversity, osteology, Zagros Mountains

pdf 07. Movements and habitat choice of resident and translocated adult female Grass Snakes (Natrix natrix) during the egg-laying period

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https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.245251

pp. 245-251

Authors: Johan Elmberg, Mattias Hagman, Kristin Löwenborg, Gustav Pettersson, Anais Voisin & Simon Kärvemo

Abstract: We used externally applied transmitters to study movements of female grass snakes (Natrix natrix) during the egg-laying period in a near-urban landscape in Sweden. Half of the studied snakes were residents while the other half were translocated individuals with no previous experience of the area. As predicted, resident females moved more goal-oriented and shorter distances than did translocated individuals. Habitat use did not differ between resident and translocated snakes; they were typically found in bushes, reeds, and tall vegetation. Habitat preference (use in relation to availability) showed that bushy habitats, tall grassy vegetation and reedbeds were over-used in proportion to availability, whereas forest and open grass lawns were used less than expected based on availability. Our study highlights the importance of preserving and restoring linear habitat components providing shelter and connectivity in conservation of grass snakes. We suggest that externally applied transmitters are a better option than surgically implanted ones in movement studies of grass snakes, and that translocation as a conservation method for snakes has drawbacks.

Keywords: colubridae; external transmitters; oviposition; radio tracking; telemetry; translocation

pdf 08. The enigmatic palaeoecology and palaeobiogeography of the giant, horned, fossil turtles of Australasia: a review and reanalysis of the data

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https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.252263

pp. 252-263

Authors: Lauren E. Brown & Don Moll

Abstract: The distribution pattern of the bizarre Australasian giant, horned, fossil turtles of the clade Meiolaniidae has puzzled biogeographers since their discovery late in the nineteenth century. While their distribution suggests a Gondwanan origin, the lack of fossil evidence from key times and places has inhibited a better understanding of their dispersal pathways to Australia and the south-west Pacific islands in which their fossils have been found. Much palaeoecological speculation related to their dispersal capabilities, ranging from purely terrestrial to freshwater, estuarine, and saltwater lifestyles, has been proposed to explain their enigmatic presence across a wide swath of Oceania. Various lines of fossil, anatomical and ecological evidence now strongly suggest a highly terrestrial lifestyle, and we believe these traits, reinforced by an abundance of marine predators and ever-widening saltwater gaps between land areas during the Late Mesozoic and Tertiary, minimise the importance of saltwater dispersal as an explanation for the observed meiolaniid distribution pattern. Here we propose that the fragmentation of Gondwana provided the main dispersal vehicle for the meiolaniids and that land connections were also used to access suitable habitats and expand their range. The recently recognised continent of Zealandia, along with Australia, South America, and probably Antarctica, transported all known meiolaniid turtles to their present locations. However, ice cover on Antarctica, and the nearly total submergence of Zealandia in essence preclude the current likelihood of fossil discovery in these critical locations. The islands of New Caledonia, Tiga (in the Loyalty Islands), Walpole, and Lord Howe served as refugia for Zealandia meiolaniids as the continent submerged.

Keywords: Meiolaniidae, horned turtles, fossils, Australasia, Gondwana, Zealandia, palaeoecology, palaeobiogeography

pdf 09. An assessment of funding and publication rates in Herpetology

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https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.264273

pp. 263-273

Authors: Bruno de Oliveira Ferronato

Abstract: Currently, herpetofauna worldwide is facing enormous threats; the number of threatened species is increasing at an alarming rate and many species have gone extinct. Despite efforts of institutions and researchers to understand and address the causes of declines and raise awareness of herpetofauna conservation, there has been no systematic study to evaluate the allocation of funding for basic and applied research relevant to conservation, relative publication rates, and the relationship of these measures to a degree of threat among herpetological groups. This study addresses this gap and identifies strengths and weaknesses of herpetological research and conservation over the last 10 years (2008-2018). Frogs had the highest grant-publication index (1384), followed by lizards (695), turtles (678), snakes (461.5), salamanders (366.5), crocodiles (164), caecilians (25.5), worm lizards (23) and tuatara (10). Nonetheless, when the grant-publication index is divided by the number of threatened and data-deficient species within each group, it demonstrates that, proportionally and in ascending order, salamanders, snakes, lizards, worm lizards, frogs and caecilians are in most need of knowledge and on-going funding for their conservation and survival. I was able to document a continued shift in attention in herpetological research owing to the emergence of chytridiomycosis and the global decline of amphibians. Despite some caveats, these findings should represent a proxy for the allocation of research and conservation effort on herpetofauna worldwide. I suggest priorities for research and how to better direct efforts to herpetofauna conservation.

Keywords: amphibians, extinction, IUCN Red List, literature representation, natural history, reptiles

pdf 10. Spatial patterns of snake diversity in an urban area of north-east Brazil

43 downloads

Open Access

https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.274281

pp. 274-281

Authors: Rafaela C. França & Frederico G. R. França

Abstract: The distribution of animal populations within an assemblage includes a wide variety of patterns, which are fundamental to understanding population dynamics and aid in conservation actions. We examined a snake assemblage in an urban area to describe species distribution patterns and to identify which places are more likely to contain snakes, both venomous and non-venomous. The study was conducted in the urban area of the municipality of Rio Tinto in north-east Brazil. We used a geostatistical modelling technique called ordinary kriging to identify which places were more likely to contain snakes, and a statistical spatial method (average nearest neighbour distance) to detect distribution patterns of snake species within the study area. A total of 291 individuals distributed among 28 species were recorded. The snakes were found in streets, homes, churches, university campus, streams, and even in local supermarkets. Ordinary kriging showed that the area of distribution of individuals was concentrated at three distinct points located in the centre of the urban area. The significant results of the average nearest neighbour distance analysis showed a clustered distribution for two species and dispersed distributions for eight species. Information on urban sites where snakes are more likely to be found is important not only for conservation, but also to help local citizens better understand and live amongst snakes.

Keywords: geostatistical, kriging, urban herpetology, interpolation, urbanisation

pdf 11. Incorporating habitat suitability and demographic data for developing a reintroduction plan for the critically endangered yellow spotted mountain newt, Neurergus derjugini

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https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.282294

pp. 282-294

Authors: Somaye Vaissi1, Hossein Farasat2, Azhin Mortezazadeh1 & Mozafar Sharifi1

Abstract: In reintroduction programmes for amphibians, data on age structure in hosting populations and choices of life stage or age groups in releasing captive bred individuals are often missing. Similarly, employing site selection procedures for selecting appropriate reintroduction locations are often neglected. Here, we obtained data on longevity, age at maturation, and age structure from skeletochronological data in a free living population of the yellow spotted mountain newt, Neurergus derjugini. A maximum longevity of 13 years for males and 12 years for females showed that N. derjugini is a long living newt with a stable age structure. We also employed maximum entropy modelling, geographic information system, and multicriteria decision analysis to obtain ranked suitability scores for reintroduction sites. Finally, we determined post-release survival rates for different life stage and age groups of N. derjugini including 30 eggs and 60 individuals of six-months old larvae, one and three-year old juveniles, and six-year old adults (15 each) born and raised in a captive-breeding facility and released into mesh enclosures in a selected stream. Over 10 visits to the site before and after overwintering, the survival rates for eggs, larvae, one and three-year juveniles and six-year old adults were 25, 80, 86.66, 93.33 and 53.33 % respectively. Applying survival rates obtained from current experimental reintroductions through a static life table suggest that an optimal release strategy to arrive at a numerical target of 100 adults aged three can be achieved by reintroduction of 650 fertilised eggs and fostering them in meshed enclosures in the selected stream.

Keywords: reintroduction, life table, GIS, survival rate, critically endangered species, Neurergus derjugini

pdf 12. Local extinction of Scinax caldarum, a treefrog in Brazil’s Atlantic forest

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https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.295298

pp. 295-298

Authors: Lucas Ferrante, Ana Cristina Monteiro Leonel, Renato Gaiga, Igor L. Kaefer & Philip M. Fearnside

Abstract: Here we report the local extinction of Scinax caldarum, an endemic tree frog species of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. We also report a reduction of the geographic range of this species to less than 15 % of the area in which it occurred 27 years earlier. We consider the excessive use of agrochemicals to be the main factor explaining the decline, including in farms with environmental certification. The local extinction of S. caldarum is a bioindicator of the severe impact of crops such as coffee and sugar cane, which heavily rely on agrochemicals. Stricter regulation of pesticides is needed to avoid damage to ecosystems and loss of biodiversity.

Keywords: Amphibia; Anura; conservation; endemism; Hylidae

pdf 13. Wild diet of the critically endangered mountain chicken (Leptodactylus fallax)

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https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.299303

pp. 299-303

Authors: Tom J. M. Jameson, Jay Blankenship, Thomas Christensen, Javier Lopez & Gerardo Garcia

Abstract:  In this study, we provide the most complete review to date of the diet of the critically endangered mountain chicken Leptodactylus fallax in the wild, describing for the first time the composition of the diet from Montserrat. To do this we report the results of two studies carried out on Montserrat that investigated L. fallax diet based on the content of frog gastrointestinal tracts. We found diets on Montserrat to be similar to that recorded for Dominica, typified by opportunism and catholicity, including a wide range of invertebrate prey (dominated by orthopterans) with some small vertebrates eaten too.

Keywords: amphibian, diet, mountain chicken, Monserrat, Dominica

pdf 14. Photo-identification of horseshoe whip snakes (Hemorrhois hippocrepis, Linnaeus, 1758) by a semi-automatic procedure applied to wildlife management

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https://doi.org/10.33256/hj29.4.304307

pp. 304-307

Authors: Andreu Rotger, Victor Colomar, Jorge Enrique Moreno & Luis Parpal

Abstract: Photo-identification is an increasingly used method for the study of animal populations. Natural marks such as coloration or scale pattern to identify individuals provide an inexpensive and less invasive alternative to conventional tagging methods. Photo-identification has previously been used to distinguish individual snakes, usually by comparing the pileus region. Nevertheless, this method is seldom used in capture-recapture studies. We show the effectiveness of photo-identification in snakes using specific software for individual recognition applied to a wildlife control study of horseshoe whip snakes. Photos were analysed with Automatic Photo Identification Suite (APHIS), which allowed us to compare the variability of head scale patterns surrounding the parietal shields instead of the traditional method of using large scale groups of the pileus. APHIS correctly identified 100 % of recaptures of snakes. Although further studies are needed, the variability of the surrounding scales of the pileus region seems a robust method to identify and differentiate individuals.

Keywords: Photo-identification, capture-recapture, scale patterns, invasive snake, wildlife control

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