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Archive for September, 2007

Aussie crocodiles have swimmers build


Aussie Crocs Found to Swim Up to 24 Miles Daily

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Frog Deformities


Study: Farms Fuel Frog Deformities

Frog-deforming infections caused by tiny parasites are increasing because of North American farms’ nutrient-rich watershed, a new study shows.

The excess nitrogen and phosphorus found in farm runoff causes more algae to grow, which increases snail populations that host microscopic parasites called trematodes, said Pieter Johnson, a water scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

“This is the first study to show that nutrient enrichment drives the abundance of these parasites, increasing levels of amphibian infection and subsequent malformations,” said Johnson.

Johnson noted that he and his colleagues’ work, which is detailed in the Sept. 24 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could also explain “a wide array of diseases potentially linked to nutrient pollution.”

Frog species also are vanishing from Earth in the past few decades for reasons that are difficult to tease apart, including habitat loss, global warming and emerging diseases such as one caused by chytrid fungus. Nutrient pollution and limb malformations also contribute, Johnson said.

A worldwide study of more than 6,000 species of amphibians recently concluded that 32 percent were threatened and 43 percent were declining in population.

History of deformities

Deformed frogs first gained international attention in the mid-1990s, when a group of schoolchildren discovered a pond where more than half of the leopard frogs had missing or extra limbs, Johnson said. Since then, widespread reports of deformed amphibians have led to speculation that the abnormalities were being caused by pesticides, increased ultraviolet radiation or parasitic infection.

Parasite infection is now recognized as a major cause of such deformities, but the environmental factors responsible for increases in parasite abundance have largely remained a mystery.

“What we found is that nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from agriculture, cattle grazing and domestic runoff have the potential to significantly promote parasitic infection and deformities in frogs,” Johnson said.

The trematode life cycle involves three host species. The tiny parasites form cysts in the developing limbs of tadpoles, causing missing limbs, extra limbs and other malformations, Johnson said. Aside from this stage and an infectious one in snails and the cyst stage in frogs, predators complete the trematode life cycle by eating infected frogs and spreading the parasite back into the ecosystem.

Nutritious problem

To discover the link between farms and the trematode infections, Johnson and his team built 36 artificial ponds similar to farm stock tanks, where frogs and salamanders often breed and deposit their eggs.

The researchers then stocked each tank with snails and green frog tadpoles and, in addition to adding nutrients, they dropped in parasite eggs. In ponds with added nutrients, Johnson said, the total mass of snails was 50 percent greater and parasite egg production was eight times as great.

The infection rate in frogs rose between two to five times in those tanks, he added.

“We were able to watch nutrient pollution move through the life cycle of the parasite as it cascaded through the food web,” he said. “Since most human diseases involve multiple hosts, understanding how increased nutrient pollution affects freshwater and marine food webs to influence disease is an emerging frontier in ecological research.”

VOTE: Freaks of Nature GALLERY: New Amphibian Tree of Life
GALLERY: Snakes, Frogs and Lizards Original Story: Study: Farms Fuel Frog DeformitiesVisit for more daily news, views and scientific inquiry with an original, provocative point of view. LiveScience reports amazing, real world breakthroughs, made simple and stimulating for people on the go. Check out our collection of Science, Animal and Dinosaur Pictures, Science Videos, Hot Topics, Trivia, Top 10s, Voting, Amazing Images, Reader Favorites, and more. Get cool gadgets at the new LiveScience Store, sign up for our free daily email newsletter and check out our RSS feeds today!

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Darwin Award Honorable Mention


This was a very stupid thing to do - alcohol is usually involved in most snake bite situations and it’s not the snake who has been drinking…

Man bitten after putting snake in mouth

Wed Sep 19, 4:35 PM ET

Snake collector Matt Wilkinson of Portland grabbed a 20-inch rattler from the highway near Maupin, and three weeks later, to impress his ex-girlfriend, he stuck the serpent in his mouth.

He was soon near death with a swollen tongue that blocked his throat. Trauma doctors at the Oregon Health and Science University saved his life.

“You can assume alcohol was involved,” he said. Actually, not just beer. It was something he called a “mixture of stupid stuff.”

Calls from cable network television stations poured in Tuesday, when he still had sore muscles and nerves from the venom.

It happened at a barbecue with friends.

Wilkinson, 23, had downed a six-pack and his ex-girlfriend asked him for a beer. He handed her one, not realizing the snake was also in his hand.

“She said, ‘Get that thing out of my face,’” Wilkinson said. “I told her it was a nice snake. ‘Nothing can happen. Watch.’”

So he stuck the snake in his mouth.

“It got a hold of my tongue,” he said.

He was having breathing problems when his ex-girlfriend drove him to the hospital. “She was the only one sober,” Wilkinson said.

En route, they spotted a police car and asked for help.

His next memory, he said, was waking up at the hospital.

Doctors could not get a breathing tube down his throat.

Dr. Richard Mullins cut a hole in Wilkinson’s neck to insert the breathing tube. Physicians started giving antivenin, moved him to intensive care and kept him sedated until the swelling went down.

The Poison Control Center sees about 50 people a year with snake bites, usually hikers. Deaths from rattlesnake bites in Oregon are extremely rare.

Wilkinson, who works in construction, has yet to return to work. His three Western diamondback rattlers have been removed from his home.

He says co-workers have been pretty blunt.

“They were like, ‘What the heck were you thinking?’” Wilkinson said.

The answer? “It’s my own stupidity.”


Information from: The Oregonian,


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Salamanders crossbreeding…


Slimy Salamanders Caught Crossbreeding

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Stephen Colbert’s turtle missing


Stephen Colbert’s Favorite Turtle Missing After Great Race

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Sea turtle secrets


We learn more and more every day:  Sea Turtles’ Mystery Hideout Revealed

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Hong Kong Woman Saves Dog From Python



Hong Kong woman fights off giant python


Sun Sep 16, 1:50 AM ET

A woman threw herself into battle with a giant snake after it tried to strangle her pet dog to death, a Hong Kong newspaper reported Sunday.

Catherine Leonard was walking in a country park when the 4.5-metre (15-foot) long Burmese python attacked her beloved Poppy.

Leonard, 41, rushed to the rescue, grappling with the huge snake as one of her other dogs barked furiously in alarm, the South China Morning Post reported.

“I kicked it and I tried to pull Poppy free. The snake was twisted around her, that was the problem,” she said. “Somehow Poppy managed to get away and the python slithered away.

“I was very shaken afterwards and really scared. If I’d had the chance to think about it, I wouldn’t have done what I did, but I heard the dog in distress and I just waded in there.”

The attack on four-year-old Poppy took place in Sai Kung country park, close to where a 22-kilogramme husky dog was crushed to death by a snake last year when the owner’s similar rescue attempt was unsuccessful.

A python caught and ate a calf in the park last month.

“Catherine was very courageous and definitely saved her dog’s life,” professional snake catcher Dave Willott said. “It would have been unconscious within two minutes and dead within five.

“The snake probably thought, ‘I’ve had enough of this’ and let go, which was unusual. They usually don’t let go, not when they’ve locked onto their prey.”

Burmese pythons are one of the world’s largest snakes and can grow to six metres long and weigh over 100 kilos.

Willott advised anyone tempted to rescue a dog being crushed by a python to “start at the tail and get the coils off the dog and leave the head until last.”


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Jack Hanna, flamingo stuck in turnstile


Jack Hanna stuck in airport turnstile with flamingo

Jack Hanna, flamingo stuck in turnstile

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Good advice about rattlesnakes and other snakes


Signs of snakes: Report of rattlesnake on Mount Jumbo prompts officials to post warnings
By PERRY BACKUS of the Missoulian

Whether rattlesnakes actually inhabit Mount Jumbo is in question, but the city posted warnings as a precautionary step after receiving a report of one being spotted on the hillside. Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian

Are there rattlesnakes in the Rattlesnake?

Hikers heading up Mount Jumbo may be watching their step these days, after passing signs on a pair of popular trails warning of the potential of venomous vipers lurking underfoot.

City officials want people to know there’s certainly no reason to panic.

The Cherry and Poplar streets trailheads to Mount Jumbo’s “L? were posted recently after the city received a report of a rattlesnake being spotted on the hillside.

“Right now, we don’t have any confirmation of any rattlesnakes in the Rattlesnake,? said Donna Gaukler, Missoula Parks and Recreation director. “It could have been a bull snake. They look a lot alike.?

This isn’t the first time the city has received reports of rattlesnakes slithering around Missoula’s popular conservation lands. Verifying the sightings has been another matter.

“We decided it was better to be safe than sorry,? said Morgan Valliant, the city’s conservation lands manager. “You certainly would think there’s a chance of seeing a rattlesnake in the Rattlesnake Valley.?

There have been plenty of verified sightings of rattlesnakes in the surrounding area, said Bryce Maxell, the Montana Natural Heritage Program’s senior zoologist.

“They can easily travel over 10 kilometers from their den sites to their summer foraging areas,? Maxell said. “Once they get into an area with plenty of rodent sign, they’ll hang right in there.?

Back in the 1970s, Maxell said he knew of a rattlesnake den near the Marshall Creek drainage. A Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist has seen a couple near Marshall Ski Area since then.

Just because people aren’t seeing them all the time doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not there.

“They are pretty secretive,? Maxell said. “People walk right by snakes all the time and never even know they’re there.?

When people or their dogs do happen to spot a snake putting on a show, it might be a rattlesnake imposter.

“When threatened, bull snakes can put on quite an aggressive display,? Maxell said. “They have the ability to compress their skulls and flatten their heads out in a triangle that mimics a rattlesnake. And they’ll hiss loudly.?

Bull snakes are Montana’s largest snake. Sometimes called gopher snakes, some grow as long as 8 feet. They are not poisonous.

“People see these big animals and they’re actively aggressive,? Maxell said. “It’s easy for them to be mistaken for a rattlesnake.?

The best thing people can do if they do happen to cross paths with either variety of snake is just leave it alone, Valliant said.

“People just need to realize that our conservation lands are home to a lot of different creatures. There are some that will bite or strike you if you’re not careful,? Valliant said. “That’s not a bad thing. Those lands are good habitat for a lot more than whitetail deer.?

Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at 523-5259 or at

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Boa found in Austrian car


Boa makes home of car in Austria

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