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kingsnake.com - Wednesday, Mar 22, 2017

Let's go Hog Wild for this Eddy County New Mexico Locality Hognose in our Herp Photo of the day, uploaded by kingsnake.com user nearhoofm ! Be sure to tell them you liked it here!


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Featured Contributors

The Four Fs: The Struggle is Real!
Mayra Oyervides - Wednesday, Mar 22, 2017


Amplexed Gulf Coast Toads
In evolutionary biology we always discuss animal’s basic needs and instinctual behaviors used to satisfy these needs. The Four F’s (fleeing, fighting, feeding, and well reproduction), are great drivers of some of the extreme or even awkward behaviors we sometimes see in nature. “Gotta do what you gotta do right?”

One day back in May of 2010 I was road cruising and a ton of rain had just fallen, the roads were thick with amphibians of all kinds. I drove down a dirt road on which both of the sides of the roads were flooded by ephemeral pools of water. The calls of Sheep Frogs (Hypopachus variolosus), Narrow-mouth Toads (Gastrophryne olivacea), Cane Toads (Rhinella marina), Couch’s Spadefoots (Scaphiopus couchii) and Gulf Coast Toads (Incilius nebulifer) among some were so loud the chorusing was deafening.

Shortly into my drive I found a very strange little scenario going on. Right next to the roadside ephemeral pool I noticed a pair of amplexed Gulf Coast Toads. Around the pair, like the scene out of some strange ritual, were 3-4 other male toads standing close by just watching, as if waiting for their turn. Well in fact, it turns out they probably were! They seemed to be acting out what would typically occur had they been just a few inches further in the actual water body. When a male and female amplex, satellite males sneak nearby trying to fertilize some of the eggs to pass on their own genetics. In this case they were just outside the water body.

However, what was the big deal with the deal female, how could that even work right? Well back in 2012 (Izzo et al. J. Nat. Hist. 46:47–48) observed similar behavior playing out. They termed it “functional necrophilia” in which even when the female is already dead, the male is able to massage the still viable eggs, out of her fresh body and fertilize them. Thereby, benefiting both individuals including the dead female, as her genes also get passed on along with his own.

The instinct of the fourth F, ‘reproduction,’ is a strong one. I guess one can relate, right? Nevertheless, we reported the first case of necrophilia in Incilius nebulifer in the journal Herpetological Review (2013, 44:4 pp. 655-656).

The force is strong with the four Fs! Of course since then (and prior to this publication) we’ve learned of necrophilia in lizards, snakes, other anurans, and it likely occurs in other taxa as well, and if we haven’t reported it, we’ll stumble upon it eventually. How successful the strategy is among other vertebrates is still a topic of discussion, but at least with some anurans we know it works!

As for the creepy satellite males standing by on watch, well, they’re just going to have to keep watching until the amplexed male works his magic massage!



The Variable Yellow Rat Snake
Richard Bartlett - Tuesday, Mar 21, 2017


This pretty yellow rat snake is from southcentral Florida.

Although the range of the yellow rat snake, Pantherophis obsoletus quadrivittatus, extends far north of FL, let’s just take a quick look at some of the color variations of this pretty constrictor in the Sunshine State. Generally speaking, the snake is least colorful (olive yellow) in northcentral FL and most richly hued (bright yellow) in seFL. The keywords in the last sentence are “generally speaking” for variations within any geographic area are not only possible but should be expected.

Just as the ground color varies from north to south, so, too, does the color, thickness, and intensity, of the four dark stripes that provide the alternate name of “four-lined rat snake” for this subspecies. The stripes may be black, brown, buff, or orange. Thickest and darkest in ncFL, the lines may be well defined or barely visible in central FL and very poorly defined in the seFL. But again, let me emphasize, variation is the rule of thumb. One of the prettiest and most precisely striped yellow rat snakes I have seen in recent times has been from Polk County—right on the heart of the peninsula.

And now that I’m thinking about yellows, I guess I’ll head to Polk County in the AM!
Continue reading "The Variable Yellow Rat Snake"
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