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Superb snake sightings

A thing I love about this time of year is the opportunity to see one of my favorite native species*, the Adder (Vipera berus). This week the weather’s been perfect for spotting the males that have come out of hibernation. Over the past couple of years I have headed for a site I know in Derbyshire, which has proved particularly fruitful for observing both male and female Adders. These are such wonderful creatures, and spotting them as they bask in the spring sun is just superb. The place in Derbyshire is great, but this week I was lucky enough to observe 3 males at a site that’s completely new to me – literally 20 minutes from my home! It was so cool. It’s got me counting down to my visit to Corfu* in a few weeks, where I hope to find and film the Adder’s close and more venomous relative, the Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes). Here’s a clip of a female Adder found last year, which is not quite as conspicuously coloured as any of the males I saw this week, but is still a beautiful looking snake.

Please note: I DO NOT endorse the disturbance or handing of wild snakes. Many are protected, and some are very dangerous and should only be handled, when necessary, by experienced professionals. This clip was made for educational purposes only.

Live learning!

On Friday I delivered a practical teaching session based on adaptation and classification for our 1st year Zoology and Biology students from the Faculty of Life Sciences. Here are some photos from the session:

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One of a Kind!

Even the most experienced frogologist can be forgiven for not recognising this amazing frog – for it is truly one of a kind.

The unique specimen is actually the product of two species, allowed to breed for a special investigation into their relatedness, and as part of research aimed at highlighting the conservation needs of distinct populations of Critically Endangered leaf frogs.  The breeding and DNA testing of the frogs, which uses harmless mouth swabs, has helped in identifying levels of genetic variation between species and also within different populations of the same species of Leaf frogs, including the Endangered Yellow-eyed, Black-eyed, and Lemur Leaf Frog.

Because the findings show that the level of separation between some populations is almost the same as that between some species, it suggests that we should not only be focusing our efforts on saving the Endangered species concerned, but also conserving distinct populations within these species separately. The work also highlights where further research should be concentrated in an effort to support the conservation of these amazing frogs.

Gray, A. R (2011). Notes on Hybridization in Leaf frogs of the genus Agalychnis (Anura, Hylidae, Phyllomedusinae), Cornell University and the National Science Institutes’ ArXiv:1102.4039v1, can be viewed as a high quality printable PDF or online at: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1102.4039v1