• Tortoises safe as Galapagos volcano eruption ends

    The lava from an erupting Galapagos volcano did not affect the islands' famed giant tortoises as first feared, Galapagos National Park officials said today. The Cerro Azul volcano on Isabela Island erupted between Thursday and Sunday, unleashing a heavy flow of lava, park authorities said in a statement. Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago, is home to rare and unique flora and fauna, including the Galapagos giant tortoise, which can weigh more than 230 kilos and live more than 100 years.

  • More breathing space for reptiles

    If all goes according to plan, the country's only crocodile farm in Phuentsholing will move to a more spacious location, further from the urban centre and allowing elbowroom for its inmates. An acute lack of space has been a longstanding problem for the farm, which was set up in 1976 behind Norgay cinema on a 0.58-acre area with 12 crocodiles (Crododylus palustris) and seven gharials. According to the gharial conservation program in-charge, B P Dhal, the new site planned near Dhoti khola, around a kilometre beyond the present location, will spread over a five-acre area.

  • Forest Dept saved 1020 snakes in 2007

    There are so many misconceptions about snakes that any of the snake species spotted in residential areas cannot escape without harm from man. For many people immensely fear snakes. But, at least, in Goa, people seem to be shaking off their preconceived notions. They call snake rescuers rather than kill the reptiles. The Wildlife Division of the Forest Department last year succeeded in trapping and saving 1020 snakes across the State.

  • Global warming spells bad news for tropical insects

    Tropical insects, amphibians and reptiles will probably never enjoy the status of an environmental poster child, but global warming's impact on them can't be ignored. So say Josh Tewksbury of the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues.

  • New species of lizard found in Pune

    Scientists of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) have discovered a huge 250 mm long lizard, which is said to be the largest in the common gecko family, in the ghats of Pune's Junnar taluka. According to scientist Varad Giri, the lizard was first photographed two years ago by Pune-based herpetologist Ashok Captain, who forwarded the photos to BNHS for identification. "The new gecko has some distinctive features including its large size and unusual scales on the body,' Giri said. So far, a 220-230 mm long spotted rock gecko was the largest lizard discovered in India.

  • Alligator delicacies in Brazil

    Alligator delicacies in Brazil

    Brazil's environmental officials have found the skinned and salted corpses of about 740 alligators in the Piagacu-Purus reserve in the Amazon forests. The dried reptiles, weighing about eight tonnes,

  • Lessons from the lizard on making a good tissue adhesive

    Ants and bees teach us cooperation. Spiders have given us hints about how to make ultra thin and strong fibers. Bacteria and fungi produce molecules that we use as drugs. What has the lowly lizard that we can learn from? Most of us despise it at home, yet it holds a fascination for us. Hindu almanacs (panchamgam) interpret the sounds the lizard makes and the direction from where it falls (on our body), and predict the (often dire) outcome. We grudgingly marvel at its ability to scurry on vertical walls and across the ceiling. Trying to understand It is this ability of the lizard and its larger outdoor cousins

  • Snakes use inner ear to locate prey

    Snakes can't hear as they don't have an ear, it is often believed. But, a new study has found that the reptiles do possess an "inner' ear with a functional cochlea which they use to detect vibrations caused by prey. A team of international researchers has carried out the study and found that the ears of the snakes are sensitive enough to not only hear the prey approaching, but also to allow the brain to localise the direction it is coming from. According to the researchers, any disturbance at a sandy surface leads to vibration waves that radiate away from the source along the surface. These waves behave like ripples on the surface of a pond after a stone is dropped into water. However, these sand waves propagate much quicker (the speed is about 50 metres per second) than at water surface. But on the other hand, much more slowly than, for instance in stone and the amplitude of the waves may be as small as a couple of thousands of a millimetre. "Yet, a snake can detect these small ripples. If it rests its head on the ground, the two sides of the lower jaw are brought into vibration by the incoming wave. These vibrations are then transmitted directly into the inner ear by means of a chain of bones attached to the lower jaw. "This process is comparable to the transmission of auditory signals by the ossicles in the human middle ear. The snake thus literally hears surface vibrations,' the study's lead author J Leo Van Hemmen of the Technical University, Munich was quoted by the ScienceDaily as saying. In their study, combining approaches from biomechanics and naval engineering with the modelling of neuronal circuits, the team has shown that the snake can use its ears to perform the same trick for sound arriving through sand.

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