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News & Events: Herp Photo of the Day: Python . . . . . . . . . .  Herp Photo of the Day: Happy Rattlesnake Friday! . . . . . . . . . .  Chicago Herpetological Society Meeting - June 26, 2019 . . . . . . . . . .  Bay Area Amph. and Reptile Society Meeti - June 28, 2019 . . . . . . . . . .  ReptiDay Gainesville - June 29, 2019 . . . . . . . . . .  ReptiCon Greensboro - June 29-30, 2019 . . . . . . . . . .  ReptiCon Fort Walton Beach - June 29-30, 2019 . . . . . . . . . .  Hampton Roads Reptile Expo - June 30, 2019 . . . . . . . . . .  Central Illinois Herp Society Meeting - July 04, 2019 . . . . . . . . . .  Calusa Herp Society Meeting - July 04, 2019 . . . . . . . . . .  ReptiCon Jacksonville - July 06-07, 2019 . . . . . . . . . .  ReptiCon Fayetteville - July 06-07, 2019 . . . . . . . . . . - Monday, Jun 24, 2019

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News Briefs

First documented parthenogenesis birth in Water Dragons - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2019

The Smithsonian's Reptile Discovery Center recently hatched it's first Chinese Water Dragon from an unfertilized egg. For the species, it was the first recorded parthenogenetic birth. It is not unusual to see unfertilized eggs from a variety of species, just ask any Iguana or bearded dragon owner! Lauren Augustine, a keeper at the Reptile Discovery Center, decided to hold and incubate all eggs from virgin females. What happened next is quite honestly history, and documented at that!

After two weeks of incubation, Reptile Discovery Center keepers candled the eggs; that is, they held them up to a light. The candling process revealed veins—a tell-tale that the eggs were fertile and the embryos were developing. After looking through our Asian water dragon’s records, I immediately suspected parthenogenesis. Before reaching sexual maturity, she was housed either by herself or with other females.

They have actually collected more than 1 fertile egg, however only 1 has hatched. This year the baby is of breeding age, so the team will be monitoring her eggs as well as mom's. They are still looking at the embryos that did not survive to hatching to determine the genetics as well. For more on this fascinating story, visit the Smithsonian Blog here.
lead photo courtesy of Smithsonian Blog
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  - 2018 Herp Symposium Live blog Day 1
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  - Fossil gives insight to Aldabra's historic predator
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Featured Contributors

Cross-country Snake Species
Richard Bartlett - Monday, Jun 24, 2019

This, the western yellow-bellied racer, is the most westerly of the racer clan.

Racers as a group of 11 subspecies, range across the USA from Maine and Florida to California and Oregon. Think about that. Then add to that thought that one subspecies, the eastern yellow-bellied racer ranges from just north of the USA/Canadian border to southern Texas (not quite to the MX border) and both the facts and the snake species itself, Coluber constrictor by name become even more impressive.

Except for 2 subspecies in the southern Midwest the racers are of a rather uniform but variable color both dorsally and ventrally. The dorsal color may be black, olive-tan, blue, or gray, The ventral coloration of many subspecies is the same or slightly lighter than the dorsal color. The common names, such as black racer, blue racer, yellow-bellied racer, tan racer, black-masked racer, even a buttermilk racer the latter being a blue to tan snake with groups of lighter scales that resemble the curds in buttermilk. To these may be added a regional feature such as northern, southern, eastern, western, or a more specific area such as the Everglades. In actuality the names are quite descriptive.

Besides the racers there are several other coast to coast snake species. Among these are the eastern garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis. This variable species starts at the east coast with the eastern, Maritime, and blue-striped garters and terminates on the shores of the Pacific with the more gaudy San Francisco, California red-sided, and Valley subspecies.

Ditto with the ring-necked snakes, Diadophis subspecies, beginning on the eastern seaboard with the northern and southern ringnecks and transitioning on the West Coast into a host of beautiful, subspecies with remarkably brightly colored bellies.

And although there are others, I’ll cease and desist with mention of the hobbyist favorite, the kingsnakes of the genus Lampropeltis. Ignoring the current trend to make species out of subspecies or to not recognize appearance differences at all, we begin on the California coast with the pretty and variable California kingsnake, transitioning eastward first to the desert king, then after a broad area of intergradation to the speckled, black, eastern and Florida races.

The United States, a wonderland of herpetological diversity, no matter what your classification system may be.
Continue reading "Cross-country Snake Species"

The Mexican Short-tailed Snake
Richard Bartlett - Monday, Jun 17, 2019

Sympholis lippiens, another of Mother Nature’s wonderfully secretive creations. The Mexican short-tailed snake is a larger- than- normal insectivore.

Unlike earlier years when herping south of our border was simply a choice of whether or not to just get up and go, today’s decisions are a more complex decision for me. In fact, the last time I traveled into Mexico was about 15 years ago and then I didn’t travel too far to the south. I had initially considered going to Sinaloa, got as far as southern Sonora, and decided that was far enough. And, as it turned out, it actually was far enough for me to interact with the small boas of Yecora, Mexican treefrogs, beaded lizards and other species that I hadn’t seen for years.

And one of these “other” species, one that I found really interesting, was the Mexican short-tailed snake (Sympholis lippiens).

The first of this species on that trip was seen in the headlight glow of oncoming traffic. The little snake was slowly moving across the pavement. And somehow, after the half dozen cars (that’s 24 collective tires) had passed, the snake remained uninjured. I was delighted for this was an enigmatic species that really intrigued me.

That it is patterned for its entire 16- (or so) inch length in rings of jet black and creamy yellow is obvious. That it is of reasonably heavy girth, has a proportionately short tail and feels rather yielding and flaccid when lifted is almost as obvious. It was known (or at least thought) to be a secretive burrower that comes topside primarily when forced to do so by monsoon rains flooding its burrows. But beyond these things everything about Sympholis was conjectural. There was virtually nothing known about its food or feeding habits or its reproductive biology.

Today, thanks to research and compilation by Peter Holm, an Ecologist with Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument we do know a bit more about this little snake.

It is apparently commensal with a Mexican leaf- cutting ant. Leaf-cutters, their larvae, and grubs of a species known to dwell in the detritus of ant-mounds are now known to be eaten by Sympholis. Additionally, it was surmised that the thick skin, the conformation, cloacal discharge and skin secretions of this anthill specialist protected it from ant bites.
Continue reading "The Mexican Short-tailed Snake"
More Featured Articles
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