Salamanders at Big Cypress Tree State Park, TN

Since our university was on Thanksgiving Break (3rd week of November). I had the honour of visiting Josh Hall’s family in West Tennessee. Josh and I collaborate on a series of projects to study how invasive lizards might be adapted to urban adaptation so we’ve gone down to Miami, FL together a couple times. While we share many common interests and values, one stark difference between us is our views on big cities. I really like big cities because I grew up in one. However, Josh doesn’t share that affinity for busy streets and skyscrapers.

My trip to Josh’s hometown of Milan (pronounce “Mai-Lan” unlike the Italian city) gave me a better idea of our difference! On Thanksgiving Day, Josh showed me the whole town in 20 minutes! Then we came home to celebrate Thanksgiving with the entire family. We had plenty of delicious food and dessert while sharing all sorts of stories.

The day after Thanksgiving we went to Big Cypress Tree State Park. The park was named so because there use to be a Big Cypress tree but it unfortunately burnt down years ago. However, there is still lots of cypress tree and the swamp is great salamander habitat! Joined by Jordan (Josh’s friend) and Hazel (picture below), we went for a stomp in the woods on a cool sunny morning. According to Josh, time seems to slow down in the swamp as you’re surrounded by the serene background of cypress trees.

Without too much effort, we found three species of salamanders, the Mole salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum), a small-mouth salamander (Ambystoma texanum), and the spotted salamander (Ambystoma opacum).

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Hazel with a small-mouth salamander
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A marbled salamander next to mole salamander

We then spent a couple hours enjoying the morning before heading home!

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wonderful cypress grove
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ALAPARC Conference 2017

This past weekend, my advisor – Dan Warner – and I attended the 2017 Alabama Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation meeting at The Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center. While our lab’s research interest is not focused on conservation of reptiles and amphibians in the state of Alabama, we were there to share our work on evolution and ecology of invasive anoles in Florida. I presented a poster about how anole embryos are robust to urban incubation environments and Dan gave a talk about our labs work to investigate how natural selection varies across space and time.

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We learned a lot other important conservation projects that institutions in Alabama (and 1 from Mississippi) are actively involved such as the Indigo snake reintroduction program, the status of Flattened musk turtle (only endemic turtle in the state), and much more.

After the presentations in the morning we all went on a herping excursion in Conecuh National Forest. Led by the likes of Jimmy Stiles, Jim Godwin (AL Natural Heritage Program), and Craig Guyer (Emeritus Professor of Auburn University) and with a little luck we spotted 16 species of amphibians and reptiles in one afternoon. The highlight of the day included a Gopher tortoise, a Diamond-back rattle snake, few water dog juveniles, and an eastern glass lizard. _MG_5281.jpg

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An overall solid weekend of herping and networking with some awesome herpetologist in the region!

Miami 1: First wet week

The first week of setting up the experiment was very productive thanks to Dan, Josh, Nathaniel, and James. We set up our study sites (8 plots) and placed the lizard cages we built in a secure space. We will be working in Matheson Hammock and along Red Road (in Pinecrest and Coral Gables neighborhood). We are also very fortunate that Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens agreed to host us.

Other than that, we spent a lot of time herping and being fascinated by the biodiversity down here! However, it has also been raining a lot and there has only been one day that we returned to the apartment with our feet dry.

I had expectations about this city but the more time I spend here, the more I see how unique it is. One thing is for sure, there are not many cities that harbor as many non-native species of plants and animals.

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Sphaerodactylus notatus

 

-HDTH

Herp note 6: Conecuh National Forest

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Necturus loadingi from the creek named “dog hole”!

Recently the Auburn University Herpetology class took a field trip to the The Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center and bordering Conecuh National Forest. The primary purpose of this trip was to find as many herpetofauna as we could in the span of one day and two nights. While it was a relatively short trip we found over 24 species of herps including frogs, salamanders, turtles, snakes, and lizards (sorry no caecillians)!

My favorite part of the trip was snorkelling and using the seine nets in many of the ponds we visited. Overall, it was a great trip and I got to see many things I have never seen before.

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A male Sceloperus undulatus
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Notohptalmus viridescens
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(Left to right) Apolone ferox, Sternotherus odoratus, and Pseudemys floridana
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Pseudotriton ruber
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Hyla avivoca, found this guy stumbling along the way!

HDTH,

Putter

 

Embryos Don’t Mind the Heat [repost]

[Repost from Anole annals]

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A. cristatellus. Photo by Renata Brandt

Walking down “Red Road” in Pinecrest neighborhood of Miami, FL, it is hard to miss a myriad of lizards on trees and street lamps. Among the many city-dwelling residents, the Cuban brown anole (A. sagrei) and the Puerto Rican crested anole (A. cristatellus) are seen virtually everywhere. While there are evidences that anoles are adapting to urban landscapes, most of past studies have focused on adult stages (Kolbe et al., 2012; Winchell et al., 2016; Lapiedra et al., 2017) and early life stages have been largely ignored. Our recently published study was the first to address how adaptation in the embryonic stage could facilitate establishment of populations in cities.

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