tetrapodzoology

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Darren Naish

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December 10, 2009
On Monday 7th December the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) hosted the one-off event 'The Secret World of Naked Snakes' (part of the ZSL's 'communicating science' series): a whole meeting devoted entirely to those bizarre, poorly known, limbless, worm-like amphibians, the caecilians. The meeting…
December 8, 2009
No time for anything substantive lately, though thoughts on the ZSL caecilian meeting coming up soon. Meanwhile, here's another short article in the 'over-enthusiastic swallowing' series: note that the articles aren't all about cases where animals choke to death. Some of them concern cases where…
December 6, 2009
It's well known that herons are gluttonous birds that will catch and eat (or try to eat) pretty much any animal within the right size range. Everyone knows that herons eat fish, but they also eat frogs, snakes, small mammals (including rodents and rabbits), and birds including doves, grebes and…
December 4, 2009
In case it isn't obvious, I've decided to do a little series on 'over-eager swallowing'. And here's the latest instalment. Here's an unfortunate Perentie Varanus giganteus that died after trying to swallow a Short-beaked echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus... The photo is from Kirschner et al. (1996),…
December 2, 2009
Continuing with the theme of over-eager swallowing of large prey, I thought I'd share the following case, reported in the literature by Clark (1967). A Horned or Sand viper specimen belonging to the subspecies Vipera ammodytes meridionalis (sometimes called the Eastern sand viper) was caught on the…
November 30, 2009
After a little delay, it's time to embark once more into the World of Toads!!! Having previously looked at toads in general, and at the toads of Europe, we here continue the series by looking at yet more familiar, northern toads: this time at those of North America. As with some of the other '…
November 29, 2009
Carnivorous animals often die from choking, and field biologists have done a good job of recording many such instances in the literature. This image shows an unlucky young Roadrunner Geococcyx californicus found dead in Brisco County, Texas, in 1998. The bird had tried swallowing a Texas horned…
November 28, 2009
Congrats yet again to Sterling Nesbitt and colleagues on the publication of another one of those insane Triassic hellasaurs, this time the surreal archosauriform* Vancleavea campi (Nesbitt et al. 2009) [adjacent life restoration by Sterling Nesbitt]. Vancleavea was named by Long & Murry (1995…
November 26, 2009
Long-time readers will recall my few articles about the Peter Wellnhofer pterosaur meeting [see links below], held at the Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie (Bavarian State Palaeontological Collection - BSPG) in Munich in 2007. The meeting, organised by Dr Dave Hone, was…
November 25, 2009
I had to scan some hominid pictures today; came across this old classic and thought it worth using here. Produced by Adrienne Zihlman, the picture has been used to support Zihlman's 'pygmy chimpanzee hypothesis' (Zihlman et al. 1978): this being the idea that the Bonobo Pan paniscus is 'the best…
November 23, 2009
As a Tet Zoo regular you'll know and love the remarkable limbless amphibians known as caecilians. In case you don't know, caecilians have sensory tentacles, sometimes have protrusible eyes, sometimes lack eyes entirely, often exhibit sophisticated parental care [maternal skin-feeding is going on…
November 19, 2009
My good friend Luis Rey was kind enough to pass on the following photos, taken at the Jardin Des Plantes in Paris. It's the extinction carousel, (presumably) the only place in the world where you might ride a sivathere... ... or a meiolaniid, or an elephant bird... ... or a dodo... Yes, yes, I…
November 18, 2009
Time only for a picture-of-the-day post... here are portraits of the big animalivorous microbats Otomops (a molossid, of course*), Cheiromeles (also a molossid) and Vampyrum (a phyllostomid). The pic is from Freeman (1984), but you might notice that two of the drawings are based on the photos…
November 16, 2009
You've probably seen - presumably on TV - Nile crocs Crocodylus niloticus interacting with Common hippos Hippopotamus amphibius (if you've seen it in real life, lucky you). By and large the two seem to keep apart. Having said that, there are certainly photos of the two sharing the same sandbanks.…
November 15, 2009
By now you might have read my two previous articles (part I, part II) on the assorted tetrapods I encountered in Libya last month. Here's the third and final part in the series [image below shows chital at left, melanistic fallow top-centre, nilgai bottom-centre, blackbuck at right]. It's a bit…
November 11, 2009
Regular readers will know that I'm not exactly a fan of the idea - discussed here and there in the technical (Russell & Séguin 1982, Russell 1987), popular (Hecht 2007, Socha 2008, Naish 2008) and speculative literature (McLoughlin 1984, Magee 1993) - that non-avian theropod dinosaurs might…
November 10, 2009
After a little delay, I'd like to continue regaling you with, if I may, my assorted musings on my excursion to the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. In other words, I want to talk more about Libya... In the previous article I spoke about some of the animals I saw both in the more…
November 8, 2009
My wife gives money to a cancer charity. She gets literature of some sort for doing this, and here's the front cover of the Christmas booklet she recently received. Why, as a Tet Zoo nerd, do I find it so funny?
November 5, 2009
Goddammit, no time for more reports from Libya, or for more in the toads series, or for articles on hairless Spectacled bears or tiny heterodontosaurids or neovenatorids, or anything really. Here's how things are progressing in view of Saturday's event... Well done if you can work out what the…
November 3, 2009
So, I recently returned from a brief sojourn in Libya. The trip was led by Richard Moody, best known for his work on Cretaceous sea turtles; I was also accompanied by palaeornithologist Gareth Dyke and by a group of people interested in the country's geology. Libya - officially, the Great…
October 30, 2009
On November 7th 2009, the Centre For Inquiry in London is hosting a one-day event titled Monsters From the Deep! It's being held at Conway Hall in Red Lion Square (a venue I know all too well...). I'm giving a talk at the event so wanted to advertise it: for more details please visit the CFI…
October 28, 2009
The Natterjack Epidalea calamita (introduced in the previous article) is a remarkable animal, well adapted for the dry, relatively saline environments it inhabits (there are places where Natterjacks inhabit saltmarshes, moors, and disused industrial areas). A proficient burrower, it starts digging…
October 26, 2009
If you've been following the toad series, you'll have read articles that introduce toads in general, discuss reproductive biology, and look at cranial anatomy. This can all be regarded as background introductory stuff. From hereon, we're mostly going to look at toad diversity in rough phylogenetic…
October 21, 2009
Yes! MORE TOADS. You surely know what a toad's head looks like. But there's a lot about toad skulls that you almost certainly don't know, and the aim of this article is to review toad skull anatomy. This might seem like an arcane subject, but - as we'll see - the diversity of toad skulls is really…
October 18, 2009
After a brief hiatus we return to the remarkable world of toads, and this time round we look at reproductive biology. As a western European person, the toad species I'm most familiar with (the Common toad Bufo bufo and Natterjack Epidalea calamita [see later articles for details on the name…
October 18, 2009
Preparing blog posts for Tet Zoo takes hours, sometimes days or even weeks. It's done in "spare time". Putting crap on facebook takes minutes and can be done during the course of a normal work day. Some of the stuff is soooo hilarious it deserves to be shared... Francisco Gascó (aka Paco) knocked…
October 16, 2009
Regular readers will know that my new book, The Great Dinosaur Discoveries (A & C Black in UK; UCP in US), was released over the last few weeks. By all accounts, it's currently selling well and the reviews that have appeared so far have all been outstandingly positive [example]. Things are…
October 13, 2009
Pterosaurs - the charismatic flying archosaurs of the Mesozoic Era - fall fairly nearly into two great assemblages: the primitive, mostly long-tailed basal forms (or 'rhamphorhynchoids') and the more strongly modified, consistently short-tailed pterodactyloids. Pterodactyloids emerged in the…
October 12, 2009
One of the dirty little secrets of biology is that many groups of organisms have never been 'defined' in the phylogenetic sense: a group grows over time as people add new species to it, but they only do this because it 'feels' about right, not because there's any rigorous way of knowing whether…
October 11, 2009
I forget how it started now, but lately I've been very, very interested in toads (yes, toads), so much so that I've felt compelled to write about them. The problem is that toads - properly called bufonids - are not a small group. On the contrary, this is a huge clade, distributed worldwide and…