Tag Archives: Reptiles

Crocodile tears please thirsty butterflies and bees

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The butterfly (Dryas iulia) and the bee (Centris sp.) were most likely seeking scarce minerals and an extra boost of protein. On a beautiful December day in 2013, they found the precious nutrients in the tears of a spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus), relaxing on the banks of the Río Puerto Viejo in northeastern Costa Rica. […]

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Blood test developed for devastating disease of boas, pythons

University of Florida researchers have developed a simple immune-based screening test to identify the presence of a debilitating and usually fatal disease that strikes boas and pythons in captivity as well as those sold to the pet trade worldwide. Known as inclusion body disease, or IBD, the highly infectious disease most commonly affects boa constrictors […]

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Living on islands makes animals tamer

Most of us have seen pictures and probably YouTube videos of “tame” animals on the Galapagos Islands, the biological paradise that was Charles Darwin’s major source of inspiration as he observed nature and gradually developed his ideas about the importance of natural selection as a mechanism by which populations of organisms would change — evolve […]

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Why lizards may inherit the Earth

Monitor lizards extract oxygen both when they inhale and exhale, perhaps explaining why they are so successful. A lizard captures oxygen from air both when inhaling and exhaling — a feat normally associated with birds. Many scientists believe birds developed the adaptation to cope with the enormous requirements of energy needed to take flight, and […]

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Snakes control blood flow to aid vision

A new study from the University of Waterloo shows that snakes can optimize their vision by controlling the blood flow in their eyes when they perceive a threat. Kevin van Doorn, PhD, and Professor Jacob Sivak, from the Faculty of Science, discovered that the coachwhip snake’s visual blood flow patterns change depending on what’s in […]

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New approach to treating venomous snakebites could reduce global fatalities

A team of researchers led by Dr. Matt Lewin of the California Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with the Department of Anesthesia at the University of California, San Francisco, has pioneered a novel approach to treating venomous snakebites — administering antiparalytics topically via a nasal spray. This new, needle-free treatment may dramatically reduce the number […]

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Genetic factors shaping salamander tails determine regeneration pace

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Salamanders’ capacity to regrow lost limbs may seem infinite when compared with that of humans, but even amongst salamanders, some species regenerate body parts very slowly, while others lose this capacity as they age. Now, researchers have found that salamanders’ capacity to regrow a cut tail depends on several small regions of DNA in their […]

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The origin of the turtle shell: Mystery solved

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A team of researchers from Japan has finally solved the riddle of the origin of the turtle shell. By observing the development of different animal species and confirming their results with fossil analysis and genomic data, researchers from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology show that the shell on the turtle’s back derives only from […]

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Multi-sensory organs in crocodylian skin sensitive to touch, heat, cold, environment

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Previously misunderstood multi-sensory organs in the skin of crocodylians are sensitive to touch, heat, cold, and the chemicals in their environment, finds research in BioMed Central’s open access journal EvoDevo. These sensors have no equivalent in any other vertebrate. Crocodylians, the group that includes crocodiles, gharials, alligators and caimans, have particularly tough epidermal scales consisting […]

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Turtle genome analysis sheds light on turtle ancestry and shell evolution

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From which ancestors have turtles evolved? How did they get their shell? New data provided by the Joint International Turtle Genome Consortium, led by researchers from RIKEN in Japan, BGI in China, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK provides evidence that turtles are not primitive reptiles but belong to a sister group […]

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An emergency hatch for baby lizards

Talk about hatching an escape plan. Unborn lizards can erupt from their eggs days early if vibrations hint at a threat from a hungry predator, new research shows. The premature hatchlings literally “hit the ground running—they hatch and launch into a sprint at the same time,” says behavioral ecologist J. Sean Doody, who is now […]

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New measurement of crocodilian nerves could help scientists understand ancient animals

Crocodilians have nerves on their faces that are so sensitive, they can detect a change in a pond when a single drop hits the water surface several feet away. Alligators and crocodiles use these “invisible whiskers” to detect prey when hunting. Now, a new study from the University of Missouri has measured the nerves responsible […]

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Getting under the shell of the turtle genome

The genome of the western painted turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii) one of the most widespread, abundant and well-studied turtles in the world, is published this week in Genome Biology. The data show that, like turtles themselves, the rate of genome evolution is extremely slow; turtle genomes evolve at a rate that is about a third […]

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DNA reveals mating patterns of critically endangered sea turtle

New University of East Anglia research into the mating habits of a critically endangered sea turtle will help conservationists understand more about its mating patterns. Research published February 3 in Molecular Ecology shows that female hawksbill turtles mate at the beginning of the season and store sperm for up to 75 days to use when […]

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Extreme ‘housework’ cuts the life span of female Komodo Dragons

An international team of researchers has found that female Komodo Dragons live half as long as males on average, seemingly due to their physically demanding ‘housework’ such as building huge nests and guarding eggs for up to six months. The results provide important information on the endangered lizards’ growth rate, lifestyle and population differences, which […]

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Understanding how salamanders grow new limbs provides insights into potential of human regenerative medicine

Based on two new studies by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, regeneration of a new limb or organ in a human will be much more difficult than the mad scientist and supervillain, Dr. Curt Connors, made it seem in the Amazing Spider-man comics and films. As those who saw the recent “The […]

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Evolutionary history of lizards and snakes reconstructed using massive molecular dataset

A new study, published online in Biology Letters on Sept. 19, has utilized a massive molecular dataset to reconstruct the evolutionary history of lizards and snakes. The results reveal a surprising finding about the evolution of snakes: that most snakes we see living on the surface today arose from ancestors that lived underground. The article, […]

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Sick snakes lead scientists to virus discovery

By investigating the cause of a fatal snake disease, scientists have found a virus that shares characteristics with two known virus families that can cause fatal hemorrhagic fevers in humans. Filoviruses and arenaviruses are genetically distinct and have previously been found only in mammals, but the newly identified virus hints at an evolutionary relationship between […]

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Lizard’s future hinges on voluntary measures

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Finger-sized and sand-coloured, the dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) blends into the scenery in the small pockets of the American southwest that it calls home. But with controversy swirling around a US government decision last week to not list it as ‘endangered’, the diminutive reptile has become a high-profile symbol of a larger question: can […]

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Lonesome George dies but his subspecies genes survive

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The rarest animal in the world is no more. Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta Island tortoises, was found dead on Sunday. But a small hope remains for his subspecies, as its genes have survived. “He was an iconic animal for the Galápagos,” says Robert Silbermann, chief executive of the Galapagos Conservation Trust. “It’s […]

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Turtles more closely related to birds than lizards and snakes, genetic evidence shows

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The evolutionary origin of turtles is one of the last unanswered questions in vertebrate evolution. Paleontological and morphological studies place turtles as either evolving from the ancestor of all reptiles or as evolving from the ancestor of snakes, lizards, and tuataras. Conflictingly, genetic studies place turtles as evolving from the ancestor of crocodilians and birds. […]

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Ancient giant turtle fossil was size of Smart Car

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Picture a turtle the size of a Smart car, with a shell large enough to double as a kiddie pool. Paleontologists from North Carolina State University have found just such a specimen — the fossilized remains of a 60-million-year-old South American giant that lived in what is now Colombia. he turtle in question is Carbonemys […]

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Australian saltwater crocodiles are world’s most powerful biters

In Greg Erickson’s lab at Florida State University, crocodiles and alligators rule. Skeletal snouts and toothy grins adorn window ledges and tables — all donated specimens that are scrutinized by researchers and students alike. Lately, Erickson, a Florida State biology professor, and his colleagues have been pondering a particularly painful-sounding question: How hard do alligators […]

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Unlocking the secrets of sea turtle migration

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Sea turtles have long and complex lives; they can live into their 70s or 80s and they famously return to their birthplace to nest. But new research suggests this isn’t the only big migration in a sea turtle’s life. We’re starting to realize that developmental migrations — ones that sea turtles make before they mature […]

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Vibrating skulls help snakes hear

When a rattlesnake shakes its tail, does it hear the rattling? Scientists have long struggled to understand how snakes, which lack external ears, sense sounds. Now, a new study shows that sound waves cause vibrations in a snake’s skull that are then “heard” by the inner ear. “There’s been this enduring myth that snakes are […]

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Vibrating skulls help snakes hear

When a rattlesnake shakes its tail, does it hear the rattling? Scientists have long struggled to understand how snakes, which lack external ears, sense sounds. Now, a new study shows that sound waves cause vibrations in a snake’s skull that are then “heard” by the inner ear. “There’s been this enduring myth that snakes are […]

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Whiskers marked milestone in evolution of mammals from reptiles

Research from the University of Sheffield comparing rats and mice with their distance relatives the marsupial, suggests that moveable whiskers were an important milestone in the evolution of mammals from reptiles. Using high-speed digital video recording and automatic tracking, the research team, which was led by Professor Tony Prescott from the University Department of Psychology, […]

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Python study may have implications for human heart health

A surprising new University of Colorado Boulder study shows that huge amounts of fatty acids circulating in the bloodstreams of feeding pythons promote healthy heart growth, results that may have implications for treating human heart disease. CU-Boulder Professor Leslie Leinwand and her research team found the amount of triglycerides — the main constituent of natural […]

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Most vertebrates — including humans — descended from ancestor with sixth sense

People experience the world through five senses but sharks, paddlefishes and certain other aquatic vertebrates have a sixth sense: They can detect weak electrical fields in the water and use this information to detect prey, communicate and orient themselves. A study in the Oct. 11 issue of Nature Communications that caps more than 25 years […]

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Lizard genome unveiled

Publication of the genome of the North American green anole lizard has filled a yawning genome-sequence gap in the animal lineage. The paper, which appeared in Nature, is the first to sequence the genome of a non-avian reptile. “This fills out a clade that has been completely ignored before,” says lead author Jessica Alföldi of […]

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