A strange-looking frog with an unfortunate resemblance to a part of human anatomy is facing an even more unfortunate fate: possible extinction. Known as the "scrotum frog," this large South American amphibian (it can grow up to eight inches long!) has seen its numbers decline alarmingly in recent years, mostly likely due to overfishing as a food source and pollution of its habitat, Lake Titicaca (well, it had to be there, didn't it?). Considered an "indicator species," this giant frog's lessening population is a dire forecast of the relative health (or lack thereof) of its ecosystem. Scientists and other organizations across the globe are teaming up to try to save this unique, endangered animal, as well as preserve this important body of water from further degradation. Let's hope they put together a....package deal? You can read the full article here.
Studies of snake metabolism may sound prosaic, but researchers at the University of Alabama are discovering surprising truths about how our scaly legless friends process their food, with a possible big payoff. Snake keepers and reptile fans know that snakes often go fasting for some time before they "feast" on their prey, usually an oversized meal that goes on being digested for some time. Scientists studying python digestion are discovering an enormous spike in the metabolic rate after feeding, in which a "torrent of stomach acid" is produced to break down the prey, and their intestines are engorged several times their normal size. The research is now studying the actual DNA involved in the process, with promising future possibilities for treatment of cancers and other human diseases. The full article (not for the snake-squeamish!) can be found here.
A recently discovered / scientifically described skink's very existence currently hangs in the balance. Australia's recent bushfires have nearly wiped out the habitat of the extremely rare (and nearly legendary) Kaputar rock skink. It is feared that one more fire in its habitat--at the summit of an extinct volcano in New South Wales--may send this very handsome creature into extinction. A very detailed article discussing the skink's unique habitat and history may be found here.
Season 10 (2019-2020) of wacky-family-centric cartoon series Bob's Burgers (Fox) has offered viewers two delightful reptile-positive episodes. Besides one show featuring Pizzilla, the "fearsome-kaiju-that-looks-like-an-oversized-gecko-with-an-overbite" that anchors the story Gene invents to inspire discouraged handyman Teddy (episode 19, "The Handyman Can"), there is a truly heartening episode featuring real (if animated) reptiles. Episode 17, "Just The Trip," sees the entire Belcher family help take an escape-artist snake to an animal sanctuary, to help out a cab driver they've befriended. We all know what happens....But the gentle, friendly creature, which terrifies everyone, is treated with respect and concern, and ultimately finds its way to a happy home. If you don't follow this show regularly, it's worth a look!
The fossil of the largest soft-shell egg on earth has been discovered in Antarctica, and it looks like it might have belonged to a distant ancestor of some of our reptile friends. Discovered in 2011 by scientists from Chile, and then shelved to research (as in Raiders of the Lost Ark) until recently, the fossil egg is the second largest egg of any known animal on the planet. Theories have been posited about how the reptilian parent (presumed to be something like a mosasaur) laid and maintained the egg(s). It's clear we have much to learn about the ancient development of our favorite scaly creatures! The full article may be found here.