Species: Ophiophagus hannah
Description: The longest of all extant venomous snakes, the King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) has been a source of inspiration for numerous myths and legends within its native range. This species is not a true cobra of the genus Naja, instead belonging to a unique genus Ophiophagus. The genera of this species draws its derivation from the Greek ophi signifying snake, and phagus signifying eater. Thus Ophiophagus means “snake-eater”, a reference to the species primary diet.
The head of the King Cobra is broad and flattened with the neck featuring a narrow hood, which with the species will extend when individuals feel threatened. This behaviour serves to make the individual appear larger and is typically employed as a means to ward off threats or predators. The skin of the species may appear olive-brown, tan or black, is typically marked with white or yellow chevrons at the anterior of the body, which become straight bands towards the rear. These bands usually fade with age, and may disappear altogether, though some individuals retain them, this variation appears to relate to a degree to the individuals range. The dorsal scales along the centre of the King Cobra’s body have 15 rows. Males have 235 to 250 ventral scales, while females have 239 to 265. The subcaudal scales are single or paired in each row, numbering 83 to 96 in males and 77 to 98 in females. King Cobra’s possess proteroglyph dentition, which by definition is two short, fixed fangs located in the front of the jaw that channel venom into the body of the prey in a fashion reminiscent of hypodermic needles. Males are typically wider than females and the lifespan of the species in the wild is approximately 20 years.
The hiss of the King Cobra resonates at a much lower pitch than many other snakes, thus people often liken its call to a “growl” rather than a hiss. While the hisses of most snakes are of a broad-frequency span ranging from roughly 3,000 to 13,000 Hz with a dominant frequency near 7,500 Hz, the King Cobra growls consist solely of frequencies below 2,500 Hz, with a dominant frequency near 600 Hz, a much lower sounding frequency closer to that of a human voice. Comparative anatomical morphometric analysis has led to a discovery of tracheal diverticula that function as low-frequency resonating chambers this species.
Habitat and Distribution: The King Cobra has a large range, extending from India, east to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, southern China, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Predominantly a forest-dwelling species, the King Cobra occurs primarily in rainforest, bamboo thickets and mangrove swamps, but has been known to inhabit a range of areas that contain dense undergrowth and adequate heavy rainfall. The species occurs at elevations ranging from sea level to mountainous regions 2,000 metres and above.
Biology and Ecology: A diurnal species, the agile King Cobra is capable of moving swiftly along the ground and through trees or water whilst searching for prey. This species diet consists almost exclusively of snakes. The majority of prey are non-venomous species, e.g. small pythons and rat snakes, a smaller portion of prey also include venomous species, e.g. cobras and kraits. The species has been demonstrated to exhibit cannibalism. Prey is located by smell and sight, and is actively pursued. When in range prey is dispatched by a rapid strike, which injects the prey with a large quantity of neurotoxic venom, causing death via respiratory failure. While the King Cobra’s Venom is not considered to be exceptionally potent, the sheer volume produced in a single bite is enough to kill 20 to 30 adult humans or a single fully-grown Asian elephant.
The reproductive period occurs from January to March. During this period male King Cobras seek out a mate by following pheromones released by the females. Once located, the male employs courtship behaviours including rubbing the head along the female’s body, which may develop into butting and nudging actions if the female shows reticence to mate. If other males are present, they may compete for the female by wrestling and attempting to push each other’s head to the ground. During mating the male and the female’s bodies intertwine, and remain in this position for several hours.The female produces a clutch of 20 to 50 eggs, which are laid between the period of April to June. Eggs are deposited within a nest of twigs, leaves and other vegetation. The nest comprises a lower chamber for the eggs, which is covered over with leaf-litter, and an upper chamber on top, in which the female resides, guarding the eggs from predators and trampling. Such a complex nest is unique among snakes.The eggs, which are incubated by the heat of the rotting vegetation, hatch after a period of 60 to 90 days to hatch. Just prior to hatching the female abandons the nest, ceasing all parental care.
Status and Threats: The King Cobra is classified as Vulnerable under the IUCN Redlist and listed on Appendix II of CITES. Historically, the King Cobra was respected and even revered by some indigenous peoples within its range. Today, however, new generations are less tolerant of living alongside dangerous species, which has led to persecution. Another significant threat to this species is deforestation, which is claiming large tracts of its rainforest habitat to supply timber and to create space for agricultural land and expanding human settlements. The King Cobra is also harvested for its meat, skin and bile which are used in traditional medicine.
Species: Agalychnis annae
Size: Male length 5.7-7.4cm
Female length 6.7-8.4cm
Description: The Blue-sided Tree Frog (Agalychnis annae) is a distinctly colourful amphibian with pink, lavender, orange and blue pigmentation evident on the limbs and sides, contrasting with the uniformly green dorsal surface. The ventral surface of the Blue-sided Tree Frog is a creamy-yellow to orange. Perhaps an interesting notation about colour in this species is their ability to alter their pigmentation during the evening. The species appears to take on a darker green and bluish-purple shade at night. All digits in this species are webbed with large notable discs present on the ends of the digits. The large eyes of this species are yellow-orange, from which the alternative common name of golden-eyed leaf frog is derived. As evident in other Agalychnis species, the eyes have vertical pupils.
There is little variation between males and females of this species are though as with many amphibian species the females are slightly larger than the males. Juveniles lack the blue colouration of the mature adults., The tadpoles of the Blue-sided Tree Frog appear greyish-brown on the dorsal surface, with blue-grey sides and a silvery blue ventral surface.
Habitat and Distribution: The Blue-sided Tree Frog is endemic to Costa Rica, and is found at elevations ranging from 780 to 1,650 metres on the slopes of the Cordilleras of northern and central Costa Rica. This species prefers humid pre-montane and lower montane rainforests.
Biology and Ecology: The Blue-sided Tree Frog is both nocturnal and arboreal, and like other Agalychnis species its primary means of locomotion is walking, though it will also leap between branches. This species breeds during the wet season, between May and November, with mating occurring three to ten metres above the ground. Male Blue-sided Tree Frogs call from vegetation overhanging ponds and producing a repeated ‘wor-or-orp’ sound approximately every 40 seconds.
Females deposit the eggs in trees, securing them to the top of leaves located approximately 3 metres above still water, though the may also be secured to vines or branches. The pale green eggs of this species measure around 4 millimetres in diameter, and are laid in irregularly shaped masses. Clutch size varies from 45 to 162 eggs.Hatching occurs between 5 and 7 days, after which time the tadpoles, intentionally fall into the pond below or are washed down during heavy rainfall. It is unclear how long metamorphosis takes in a natural setting however in captivity it has been demonstrated to take approximately 247 days.
There is little information available pertaining to the diet of this species, though in a captive setting they are fed with a variety of arthropod species.
Status and Threats: The Blue-sided Tree Frog is classified as Endangered under the IUCN Redlist and listed on Appendix II of CITES. This species has suffered a precipitous decline in its population, with an estimated reduction in population size of 50 percent or more loss since the 1990s. No single factor has been conclusively demonstrated to explain this decline though the international pet trade, the fungal disease chytridiomycosis, and larvae predation by an introduced
fish may all have a played a role in reducing the population of this species.
Websites for Blue-sided Tree Frog conservation:
Seeing as I have finally finished my degree (again, at least for now, bring on that PhD) I decided to update the url, so instead of zoologygirl65 I’ll be using lifeasazoologist. Just thought I’d give everyone the heads up :)
Anonymous asked: i love this blog. You take really good photos too. How long does it take you to research each of these animals?
Well thank you anon, that’s very kind. I guess it’s kind of cheating when I take photos though, being a zoologist with a good camera, makes things easier. Most definitely not a photographer. It can take some time, its easy enough to get basic information from wikipedia and arkive (which I find very reliable and the format is what I base my posts on), but I like to do a lot of information checking, so I tend to go through encyclopedias and some of my textbooks to ensure the information is reliable. As we all know, the internet can be a fickle place, its best to not always trust the information and go to a more reputable source. That’s why I’ve been a bit off with posting lately, trying to publish my own research and dedicating my time to uni, my posts have become less consistent, I am really trying to fix that. But I would prefer to post less often then post things without correct information :)
Species: Ailurus fulgens
Size: Length 50-64 cm
Tail length: 28-50 cm
Weight: 3-6 kg
Description: As a result of similarities with both the bear and raccoon family, the classification of the Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) has remained a taxonomic controversy since its original description in 1825. At present it is placed with the raccoons, but in its own separate subfamily, the Ailurinae. The long, dense coat is a rich reddish brown colour on the dorsal surface and black on the appendages and ventral surface. A series of longer, coarse guard hairs cover the dense woolly undercoat, which serves as an insulator, providing the animal with warmth. The coat of the Red Panda provides effective camouflage amongst the trees where branches are often swathed in reddish-brown moss. The face is rounded and predominantly white with reddish brown ‘tear marks’ running from the corner of each eye to the mouth, facial markings vary between indviduals and thus can be used as a means of indentification. The is marked with 12 alternating red and ochre bands. A patch of thick white hair is evident on the soles of the fee to provide warmth.
As also evident in the the Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), red pandas posses a sixth digit. This so called “pseudo-thumb” is formed from an enlargement to the sesamoid bone (write bone), though it is smaller than that of the better-known giant panda. Red pandas have a wide range of vocalisations, the most peculiar of which is a ‘quack-snort’. The red panda has strong, curved, semi-retractable claws modified for both feeding and locomotion. When a Red Panda descends from a tree head first it possesses the ability to rotate its ankle, one of the few species known to do so. There are at present two recognised subspecies of Red Panda; Ailurus fulgens fulgens is smaller and lighter (particularly in the facial region) than the related Ailurus fulgens styani.
Habitat and Distribution: The Red Panda is endemic to the temperate forest of the Himalayas, ranging from the foothills of Nepal in the west to China in the east. The easternmost limit of its range is the Qinling Mountains of the Shaanxi in China. The species range includes Tibet, Sikkim and Assam in India, Bhutan, the northern mountains of Burma, and in the Hengduan mountains of Sichuan and the Gongshan mountains in Yunnan in southwestern China. The range of the species should be considered disjunct rather than continuous.
The Red Panda inhabits elevations of between 2 200 and 4 800 meters of moderate temperatures ranging from 10 to 25 °C. These animals prefer moutainous mixed deciduous and conifer forests, containing trees of considerable age with dense bamboo understorey.
Biology and Ecology: The Red Panda is predominantly solitary, though will interact socially during the breeding season. The species is predominantly crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), though animals in some ranges exhibit more nocturnal behaviour patterns. Males will inhabit a range that overlaps with that of several females. Territories are readily guarded and marked with both urine and a weak musky secretion produced by the anal glands by both sexes. Red Pandas reach sexual maturity at approximately 3 years of age and these animals exhibit multiple matings by both sexes. The breeding period occurs between mid January to early march. A female will produce one to four cubs after a gestation of approximately 112 to 158 days.
Red Pandas are one of the few animals whose diet is comprised almost entirely of bamboo; they grasp stems with their forepaws and shear the leaves off with sharp teeth. Bamboo is low in nutrients so to compensate, Red Pandas are only active for around 56 percent of the day and have an extremely slow metabolism. Other foods such as roots and fruit as well as small lizards and bird’s eggs are also consumed to supplement the diet. Red pandas have an ungainly walk on the ground but are much more agile in the trees, using their tail for balance. The tail is not prehensile; on the ground the tail is carried horizontally away from the body. After eating or resting the Red Panda will tend to groom itself thoroughly.
Status and Threats: The Red Panda is classified as Vulnerable under the IUCN Redlist and listed on Appendix I of CITES. Red Pandas have suffered from habitat loss throughout their range; forests have been cleared for timber extraction, agriculture and development. In China the species is thought to have undergone a decline of around 40 percent over the last 50 years and A. f. fulgens is equally threatened in Nepal. These animals have also been exploited for its pelt; hats made from the lustrous fur are still desired in Yunnan in China for newlyweds, as it traditionally symbolises a happy marriage.
Websites for Red Panda conservation:
(all photos in this profile were taken by me)
Hi there everyone,
It’s been a very long time right?
Well I am finally pleased to say I am back. Unfortunately I had to put this little project of mine on an exceptionally long hiatus owing to the craziness that was my honors year.
I am all finished now and pleased to say I will be graduating with HIIA (First level second class honors) in September. I will also be publishing my thesis shortly, co-authoring another publication and hopefully completing another small project to publish in the coming months. So where do I go from here? Well I am also applying to do my PhD at the beginning of next year so I’ll let you guys know how that goes.
Honors was a very intense time, everything that could and couldn’t go wrong did. But that’s research, one of the best things you acquire from an honors year is some seriously butt kicking crisis management skills. My initial project on water dragon renal structure and vasculature fell through as a result of a plethora of dramas and as such I ended up doing a similar work with a predominantly developmental approach on juvenile loggerhead turtles. These turtles were kindly donated to me after use in another project being conducted by a colleague examining the effects of global warming on hatchling mortality during nest exit.
I’d be happy to share some of my findings with anyone who’s interested, I may even post some of my SEM images here shortly :).
All that aside I will be getting back into things with a new species profile shortly, I will also be endeavoring to post a photo of the day from my own collections :).
I apologise to anyone who has had their messages go unanswered, but I will try my hardest to sort through and respond now I am back. I am also happy to take any suggestions for species from you guys :)