Observation of the Week, 8/10/16

This Langaha pseudoalluaudi snake, seen in Madagascar by victorialnjackson, is our Observation of the Week!

“While I'm by no means an expert on Leaf-nosed Snakes from Madagascar...I can say that her observation is quite exciting,” writes herpetologist Paul Freed (@herpguy). “Of the three species of Leaf-nosed Snakes endemic to Madagascar, her observation is one of the rarest of the three.” Paul notes that in Gerald Kuchling’s paper from 2003, Kuchling says the species was described from only the type specimen, found in 1966! “It is possible that additional specimens have been seen/collected since 2003, but given their limited distribution in remote regions of northwestern Madagascar, and the cryptic appearance of this highly unusual snake, it's not likely that many other specimens have been found,” says Paul. This snake is also the first record of this species on iNaturalist as well.

Victoria Jackson, who posted this observation, is a student of Biological Sciences at the University of Exeter in the UK, and was a research assistant on an expedition that Operation Wallacea was conducting in northwestern Madagascar. “We surveyed everything from the trees and other plants to the invertebrates, herps, birds and mammals,” she says. “One of the herpetologists on the team was out on a survey when they found this Langaha pseudoalluaudi and brought it to the camp to show everyone (they put it back where it had been found afterwards). It was amazing to see, so delicate and beautiful and a very gentle snake.”

Very little is known about L. pseudoalluaudi, but the most common snake of the genus, L. madagascariensis, has been the study of some observation and research. It’s difficult to differentiate sexes in most snake species but in the Langaha genus, females have a more “leafy” snout, whereas the males have a snout that is more smooth and pointed. L. pseudoalluaudi females also have protruding scales above the eye, which L. madagascariensis females lack. Langaha snakes are considered ambush predators (makes sense) and hang from branches and vines in the forest, waiting for reptile and amphibian prey. They have been observed stalking and chasing lizards, however. Like many colubrid snakes, they are rear-fanged, basically meaning they have to chew on prey to envenomate it - which is exactly what this researcher let one of them do. He felt severe pain for hours, enough so that he “found it very difficult to sleep because of the intermittent severe throbbing and tenderness which continued throughout the night.”

Victoria (above, with a male white morph Paradise flycatcherTersiphone mutata) is hoping her studies will lead her to a career in biology, a field which has appealed to her since she was a child, “[and] which grew and grew through watching David Attenborough's nature programmes on TV.” She’s “interested in many aspects of biology, not just zoology and wildlife etc., but also genetics and cells and how everything works together.”

As for iNaturalist, Victoria loves using it to record what she sees every day, in addition to her trips abroad. “It's great when I don't know what something is because the chances are, other users will be able to identify it,” she says. “I think it's a great modern way to record your sightings on a database that scientists around the world can use!”

- by Tony Iwane


- A very nice little article (PDF) about observing L. madagascariensis behavior in the wild, something that has not been done much.

- Speaking of Sir David Attenborough, here’s a nice playlist from his great Life in Cold Blood series.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, August 11, 2016 01:42

Comments

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So cool!

Posted by muir over 3 years ago (Flag)
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Isn't great that in some societies you can go to Madagascar to do studies as an undergrad :)

Posted by langlands 4 months ago (Flag)

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