Florida Pythons: What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

Florida has a python problem which just got worse. According to a story on National Geographic African rock pythons have been found in the wild in Florida
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Some People Never Learn

Last weekend my wife, one of my daughters, my wife’s parents, and I went over to Alton and Grafton to watch the eagles. We saw quite a few bald eagles and a small smattering of golden eagles. Although I have seen both species on TV any number of times, nothing beats seeing them in the wild. We saw quite a few perched in trees along the bluffs overlooking the river and quite a few more out on the river itself (which was mostly frozen that weekend). The eagle that flew over our car (at a height of about 50 feet) on it’s way to the river was quite impressive (and big – makes this more believable). It was very enjoyable. However, there are some sick bastards out there:

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Rungwecebus kipunji Declared an Endangered Species

The discovery of Rungwecebus kipunji was announced in 2005 and placed in its own genus in 2006 (see here for some of the details). Now it is being placed on the endangered species list. Science Daily has the details:

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A Letter to Florida: Please Stop Releasing Snakes Into The Everglades

Dear Florida,
Between 1996 and 2006 an estimated 99,000 Burmese pythons were imported into the US, of these an estimated 30,000 now live in the Everglades. Worse yet, they, along with released Boas, are now breeding.

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Red Knot Update

The Red Knot is a small bird the winters in Tierra del Fuego and Breeds in Canada. Along the way it stops in various places in North America where it feeds on horshoe crab eggs. Unfortunately:

These eggs are being harvested unsustainably (for use as bait for conch and eels), and unless an emergency moratorium on harvesting is implemented, the results could be disastrous for shorebirds, especially the Red Knot.

What can you do?
Go to bootstrap analysis and be educated on the issue, then follow the links and sign the petition – I did!

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Frog Fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) Found in Britain

According to theBBC a deadly frog fungus native to North America has been found in wild populations of British frogs.
The fungus – Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, pictured above – is believed to have been introduced into Britain via american species (Rana catesbeiana) pictured below.

From the BBC:

“This disease is a major cause of amphibian population declines and extinctions worldwide. So it’s pretty bad news that it has been found in the wild in this country.”


The fungus was identified six years ago and is firmly established in parts of the Americas, Australia and Europe. The disease it causes, chytridiomycosis, appears to kill amphibians by damaging their sensitive skins, blocking the passage of air and moisture.

“I think there is great concern,” said Dr Richard Griffiths, an amphibian specialist at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

“It will take more work to see if infected animals can be taken out of the wild, cleaned up and released. At the moment, people are concentrating on keeping [the disease] out.”

The fungus can be spread via the water:

“The fungus has turned up in many captive collections of exotic amphibians. And it can spread by motile zoospores in water,” he explained.

“So someone washing out their vivarium and pouring the water into the garden could inadvertently bring native species into contact with it.”

Below is a diagram of the fungus life cycle.


Endangered Missouri Hellbenders

The above is an Ozark Hellbender below is a picture of an Eastern Hellbender.

Both species are native to Missouri and in the past 10-15 years have suffered serious population declines – estimates range from a 60-80 percent drop in numbers.

Yue-wern Huang, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri at Rolla, says there seems to be a reproductive disruption among the salamanders. However, Huang says he’s unsure what is causing a disruption in the hellbender’s endocrine system, which regulates the secretion of hormones – although his theories include pollution, pesticides and people as possible causes.

Huang hopes water samples from the North Fork will give him insight into what pollutants might be harming hellbenders.

At Southwest Missouri State University, associate behavioral ecology professor Alicia Mathis is also trying to help keep the salamanders from extinction. Mathis and graduate student Shem Unger are raising both Ozark hellbenders and eastern hellbenders, which live between southern New York and eastern Missouri.

Tests suggest that Missouri hellbenders have lower sperm counts than their counterparts in North Carolina and Georgia, Mathis said. A similar study on humans from Columbia, Mo., Minneapolis, Los Angeles and New York City showed the Missouri men tested had the lowest sperm count.

It get’s worse:

Stanley Trauth, a zoology professor at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, showed pictures of hellbenders with open sores, tumors and missing limbs and eyes. He said that nine out of 10 animals found in the Spring River — mainly in northern Arkansas — this year had serious abnormalities.

“I’m at a loss, folks,” Trauth said. “We just don’t have a good explanation for what’s causing this.”

Max Nickerson of the University of Florida, who has worked with hellbenders for three decades, said his early research did not find nearly as many abnormalities. He called the new results baffling.

Other possible causes of the decline include introduced species of trout which juvenile Ozark Hellbenders do not seem to recognize as predators.

Additional information:
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
St. Louis Zoo