Saturday, 28 February 2015

Lizards 2: Blue Spiny Lizard

Blue Spiny Lizard
One of the more obvious lizards as you enter the reptile house at Bristol Zoo are the various members of a colony of Blue Spiny Lizards, Sceloporus serrifer cyanogenys. Also known as swifts or fence lizards, there are more than 90 described species of Sceloporus found in North America south through Mexico down into northern South America. There is a certain amount of debate around the taxonomy of the various Sceloporus species – some seem to intergrade with others and several species are divided into multiple subspecies.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Lizards 1: The Gila Monster

The first lizards that a visitor to Bristol Zoo will encounter are two young Gila Monsters (Heloderma suspectum) as they pass through Twilight World. Unfortunately, although these are fascinating animals, most visitors walk straight past as they are not exactly the most active of animals, in fact they generally behave as though they were stuffed. However, when readers of this blog next see an exhibit, I hope they will at least check them out.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

New Arrival: Eastern Quoll

Eastern Quoll
Just gone on show in Twilight World at Bristol Zoo is a new species of marsupial, the Eastern Quoll Dasyurus viverrinus. These belong to the same family, the Dasyuridae, as the Kowari Dasyuroides byrnei (also on show), buit is much larger, about the size of a small cat.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Book Review: Tuatara: Biology and conservation of a venerable survivor by Alison Cree

There are very few species of small(ish) reptile which are famous outside their native range unless they are venomous or brightly coloured, but the Tuatara Sphenodon punctatus of New Zealand is certainly among that select number. Their fame is due to their being the sole survivor of a unique lineage of reptiles separate from the turtles, the archosaurs, and the lizards, although they are most nearly related to the last, although since they split from the common ancestor with the lizards well over a quarter of a billion years ago even that is not close. The book reviewed here is a summary and survey of the whole of tuatara-related research, and covers not just the biology and ecology of the living animal, but its evolutionary history, interactions with humans, and their past, present, and future conservation status.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Nature of Corsica 10: Birds

Red Kites and crows
With a trip list for the week of only 66 species, Corsica was not the most species-rich place I have been birding, and birds were often hard to find, but we got good views of the endemic Corsican Nuthatch on several occasions, and the also endemic Corsican Finch twice. The Crossbills we found are not classed as an endemic species at present, but are classed as an endemic subspecies Loxia curvirostra corsicana. Taxonomy of the various forms of L. curvirostra is perhaps best described as “challenging” – there are numerous localised forms with different beak sizes depending on the dominant conifer cones they feed on, and many of these are prone to irruptive dispersal when the cone crop fails.