Posts Tagged ‘Lizards’

Lizard pops a wheelie

June 13, 2008


Why bother running on hind legs when the four you’ve been given work perfectly well? This is the question that puzzles Christofer Clemente. For birds and primates, there’s a perfectly good answer: birds have converted their forelimbs into wings, and primates have better things to do with their hands. But why have some lizards gone bipedal? Have they evolved to trot on two feet, or is their upright posture simply a fluke of physics? Curious to find the answer, Clemente and his colleagues Philip Withers, Graham Thompson and David Lloyd decided to test how dragon lizards run on two legs.

But first Clemente had to catch his lizards. Fortunately Thompson was a lizard-tracking master. Driving all over the Australian outback, Clemente and Thompson eventually collected 16 dragon lizard species, ranging from frilled neck lizards to the incredibly rare C. rubens, found only on a remote Western Australian cattle station. Returning to the Perth lab, Clemente and Withers set the lizards running on a treadmill, filming the reptiles until they were all run-out.

Clemente admits that when he started, he thought that the lizards would fall into one of two groups; lizards that mostly ran on two legs, occasionally resorting to four, and lizards that never reared up. Not so. Even the lizards that he’d never seen on two legs in the wild managed an occasional few steps on their hind legs. In fact, the lizards’ propensity for running on two legs seemed to be a continuum; C. rubens and P. minor spent only 5% of the time on their hind legs while L. gilberti spent 95% up on two.

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Photo: Lizard Lounge

June 9, 2008

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Kangaroos Threaten One Of Australia’s Last Remaining Original Grasslands, And Endangered Animals

May 21, 2008

Australian Department of Defence is currently culling hundreds of kangaroos on the outskirts of the capital Canberra that have produced heated discussions and hit international headlines. Australia’s iconic animal has multiplied so much over recent years that Canberra now has three times as many kangaroos as inhabitants. The situation is particularly critical at two enclosed military sites on the outskirts of the city, which form an ideal refuge for the eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus).

The grasslands there are now completely overgrazed – with dramatic consequences for other species. These areas are some of the few natural grasslands in Australia, making them one of the remaining reserves for endangered animal species, like the golden sun moth (Synemon plana) and the grassland earless dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla), one of the world’s rarest lizards. Around 400 of nearly 600 kangaroos at a 200-hectare military site will be killed during the next days with lethal injections after the government ruled out a resettlement programme as too expensive. Resettlement would only relocate the problem.

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Legless Lizard And Tiny Woodpecker Among New Species Discovered In Brazil

April 30, 2008

Researchers discovered a legless lizard and a tiny woodpecker along with 12 other suspected new species in Brazil’s Cerrado, one of the world’s 34 biodiversity conservation hotspots.

The Cerrado’s wooded grassland once covered an area half the size of Europe, but is now being converted to cropland and ranchland at twice the rate of the neighboring Amazon rainforest, resulting in the loss of native vegetation and unique species.

An expedition comprising scientists from Conservation International (CI) and Brazilian universities found 14 species believed new to science — eight fish, three reptiles, one amphibian, one mammal, and one bird — in and around the Serra Geral do Tocantins Ecological Station, a 716,000-hectare (1,769,274-acre) protected area that is the Cerrado’s second largest.

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T. Rex Protein “Confirms” Bird-Dinosaur Link

April 28, 2008

A new study of ancient proteins retrieved from a Tyranosaurus rex fossil confirms the long-hypothesized evolutionary connection between dinosaurs and modern birds, experts say.

The finding is the first molecular evidence that birds, not lizards or other reptiles, are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs, the researchers note.

A close relationship between the two groups was already widely suspected, based on similarities in skeletal features.

The new research follows a breakthrough study last year in which scientists reported the recovery and partial molecular sequencing of T. rex and mastodon proteins.

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Lizard Hunting Styles Impact Ability To Walk, Run

April 22, 2008

The technique lizards use to grab their grub influences how they move, according to researchers at Ohio University.

A research team led by doctoral student Eric McElroy tracked 18 different species of lizards as they walked or ran in order to understand how their foraging styles impact their biomechanics.

Lizards use two basic foraging techniques. In the first approach, aptly dubbed sit-and-wait, lizards spend most of their time perched in one location waiting for their prey to pass. Then, with a quick burst of speed, they run after their prey, snatching it up with their tongues.

In the other form of foraging, known as wide or active foraging, lizards move constantly but very slowly in their environment, using their chemosensory system to stalk their prey, according to the research team, which included McElroy’s adviser Stephen Reilly, professor of biological sciences, and undergraduate honors thesis student Kristin Hickey.

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Reptiles abandoned at South African airport

March 8, 2008

Three animal transport crates containing endangered reptiles were found abandoned at Oliver Tambo Airport, the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) said today.

NSPCA’s National Inspector Alistair Sinclair said the organisation arrived at Oliver Tambo yesterday after a tip-off and found five crates that were emanating a “nauseating stench”.

Two of the crates, that were destined for Spain, were returned to Madagascar because the transporting agent had not paid the duties.

The three remaining crates, destined for the Czech Republic, were taken to the Johannesburg Zoo and unpacked.

Sinclair said the crates contained “hundreds” of snakes, geckos, lizards, chameleons and arthropods, contrary to the consignment listing lizards and frogs.

He estimated that about 10 to 15 percent of the animals had died during the five to six days they had been in the crates and he expected more to die of dehydration during the following days.

Sinclair said the incident “again” proved that animal welfare concerns were not adequately addressed by the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa).

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