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Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals (the tetrapods), living and fossil. Their evolution, ecology, behaviour and biology. Think killer eagles, dinosaurs, giant caimans, mystery cats and lake monsters.
Now that all the fuss about modern-day sauropod dinosaurs has died down, we can get back to the serious business of vesper bats (incidentally, I do plan to cover the mokele-mbembe - in serious fashion - at some point in history). For previous parts in the vesper bats series, please look at the links below.
A group of about 17 species of American bats (occurring from Alberta down to Chile and Argentina) are known collectively as the hairy-tailed bats or hoary bats (Lasiurus*) (together with........ Read more »
Hill, J. E., & Yalden, D. W. (1990) The status of the hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) as a British species. Journal of Zoology, 222(4), 694-697. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.1990.tb06026.x
There's something they don't tell you about freelance writing. It's about all the fails: the many, many projects that get pitched, worked on and made into proper presentations that then get sent to book fairs, interested companies and so on, but ultimately explode on the launch pad, or die a slow, lingering death. I don't know if it's that I'm especially unlucky, or if it's that I've pitched an unusually high number of books, or if it's that I've genuinely worked on a high number of projects tha........ Read more »
Norberg, R. (1977) Occurrence and Independent Evolution of Bilateral Ear Asymmetry in Owls and Implications on Owl Taxonomy. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280(973), 375-408. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.1977.0116
By now you might be relatively familiar with the bizarre soft tissue and bony anatomy of the peculiar, poorly known Pygmy right whale Caperea marginata [a juvenile Caperea that stranded on New Zealand is shown above; original image by New Zealand Department of Conservation, from Te Papa's Blog]. If you missed the relevant articles you might want to check them out here (on the giant, asymmetrical laryngeal pouch), here (on the vertebrae and ribs) and here (on the skull, ribs and tail). These ........ Read more »
FORD, J., & REEVES, R. (2008) Fight or flight: antipredator strategies of baleen whales. Mammal Review, 38(1), 50-86. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2907.2008.00118.x
Another one from the annals of weird deaths. Believe it or don't, wading birds sometimes get their toes or bill-tips caught in bivalve shells, they remain trapped, and they then drown when the tide comes in. Here is rare photographic evidence of this behaviour...
Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Baldwin, W. P. (1946) Clam catches oyster-catcher. The Auk, 589-589. info:/
Once more, we return to those wonderful, phenomenally successful, charismatic beasts.... the toads. As you'll know if you've read the previous articles in the toads series, it seems that most basal divergences within crown-Bufonidae happened in South America. So far as we can tell right now, crown-toads are ancestrally South American, and all of their early history happened on this continent [Rhaebo blombergi image below from here].
All of the basal toads looked at so far - the relatively s........ Read more »
Van Bocxlaer I, Loader SP, Roelants K, Biju SD, Menegon M, & Bossuyt F. (2010) Gradual adaptation toward a range-expansion phenotype initiated the global radiation of toads. Science (New York, N.Y.), 327(5966), 679-82. PMID: 20133569
Among the most iconic and remarkable of dinosaurs are the stegosaurs, a mostly Jurassic group of thyreophorans famous for the rows of spikes and plates that decorated their necks, backs and tails [somewhat inaccurate Stegosaurus stenops shown below. I did it many years ago].
As I'm fond of saying, the stegosaur we know best - Stegosaurus - is an atypical member of the group. It's particularly large and possesses lots of plates and but a few spikes. Stegosaurus may also be unusual in lacking........ Read more »
Maidment, S., Norman, D., Barrett, P., & Upchurch, P. (2008) Systematics and phylogeny of Stegosauria (Dinosauria: Ornithischia). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 6(04), 367. DOI: 10.1017/S1477201908002459
The previous article - part of my now lengthy series on gekkotan squamates (see links below) - provided an introduction to the neat and fascinating near-limbless Australasian gekkotans known as the pygopodids. Disclaimer: the group being discussed here is 'Pygopodidae of tradition', not Pygopodidae as currently formulated. More on this matter later.
One topic that I didn't explore fully in the previous article is pygopodid diversity. These reptiles aren't all samey little generalists; spec........ Read more »
Jennings WB, Pianka ER, & Donnellan S. (2003) Systematics of the lizard family pygopodidae with implications for the diversification of Australian temperate biotas. Systematic biology, 52(6), 757-80. PMID: 14668116
Suppose you're interested in the anatomy and biology of ground hornbills. Now suppose that you get the chance to make physical contact with one of these awesome birds. Here, at least, is the opportunity to get bitten!! Surely you've always wanted to know what it feels like when a ground hornbill bites you. No? Ok, maybe it's just me. Anyway, the opportunity to get bitten by a ground hornbill presented itself to me a few weeks ago, so who was I to miss out? Read the rest of this post... | Read ........ Read more »
van der Meij, M., & Bout, R. G. (2004) Scaling of jaw muscle size and maximal bite force in finches. Journal of Experimental Biology, 207(16), 2745-2753. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.01091
No time for anything new (working on a book chapter and putting the finishing touches to the Tet Zoo book), so here's this, from the archives. NOT properly updated, so please be aware that it's more than four years old...
Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
DOMNING, D. (2005) FOSSIL SIRENIA OF THE WEST ATLANTIC AND CARIBBEAN REGION. VII. PLEISTOCENE TRICHECHUS MANATUS LINNAEUS, 1758. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 25(3), 685-701. DOI: 10.1671/0272-4634(2005)025[0685:FSOTWA]2.0.CO;2
I've mentioned laryngeal and tracheal anatomy a few times on Tet Zoo (see the links at the very bottom for more). Well, time to look at it again. It's (relatively) little known that a long list of mammal species possess an assortment of 'pouches', pocket-like structures and pneumatic sacs and spaces within their throats, skulls, chests, and sometimes on their palates. Some of these are air-filled, epithelium-lined structures that originate as outgrowths of the throat or windpipe, and are hence........ Read more »
Hewitt G, MacLarnon A, & Jones KE. (2002) The functions of laryngeal air sacs in primates: a new hypothesis. Folia primatologica; international journal of primatology, 73(2-3), 70-94. PMID: 12207055
The Pronghorn or Pronghorn antelope* Antilocapra americana is a strikingly unique artiodactyl, endemic to western North America. Historically, it ranged from southern Manitoba and Washington in the north to northern Mexico in the south, and to western Iowa in the east. Between 40 and 50 million Pronghorns were alive in 1850; excessive hunting had reduced this number to 13000 by 1920. Subsequent conservation efforts have resulted in substantial recovery: there are currently between half a mil........ Read more »
I really must get this series on pouches, sacs and pockets finished. Last time, we looked at baleen whales (and then I got distracted by Caperea): in these animals, a large, inflatable laryngeal sac is used in producing loud, resonating noises (though roles in gas storage or the mechanics of exhalation have also been suggested).
Another ventrally located laryngeal sac is present in the Reindeer Rangifer tarandus [photo above, by Karen Laubenstein, from wikipedia, shows an Alaskan reindeer ........ Read more »
Frey, R., Gebler, A., Fritsch, G., Nygrén, K., & Weissengruber, G. E. (2007) Nordic rattle - the hoarse phonation and the inflatable laryngeal air sac of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). Journal of Anatomy, 131-159. info:/
If you’ve been with Tet Zoo since the early days, you’ll have seen this image before – and, even if you haven’t seen it on Tet Zoo you might have seen it anyway, since everyone loves this model and it’s mentioned just about any time that entelodonts are. Yes, it’s an entelodont – a member [...]... Read more »
Joeckel, R. M. (1990) A functional interpretation of the masticatory system and paleoecology of entelodonts. Paleobiology, 459-482. info:/
Here's something you don't see very often...
This illustration (by Peter Trusler) shows the large Pleistocene Cuban owl Ornimegalonyx oteroi battling with a solenodon. Ornimegalonyx has been mentioned here a few times before (use the search bar), but nothing substantive, sorry. Most sources mention O. oteroi as if it's the only named species of Ornimegalonyx. Actually, Arredondo (1982) named three additional ones: O. minor, O. gigas and O. acevedoi. And, by the way, the Ornimegalonyx owls w........ Read more »
Arredondo, O. (1976) The great predatory birds of the Pleistocene of Cuba. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology, 169-187. info:/
I don't do requests on Tet Zoo, but when enough people ask me about the same thing it does get into my head. Ever since the early days of ver 1 people have been asking me about late-surviving sivatheres. What, they ask, is the deal with those various pieces of rock art and that Sumerian figurine - discovered in Iraq - that apparently depict Sivatherium? As most of you will know, Sivatherium was a large, short-necked giraffid, originally described for S. giganteus from the Siwalik Hills of Indi........ Read more »
Colbert, E. N. (1936) Was the extinct giraffe (Sivatherium) known to the ancient Sumerians?. American Anthropologist, 605-608. info:/
In the previous few gekkotan articles we looked at the seriously weird and highly distinctive leaf-tailed geckos of Madagascar. There's another group of especially unusual, highly notable gekkonid gekkotans I want to write about: the flying, gliding or parachute geckos (Ptychozoon) of south-east Asia and India. These geckos are weird: the adjacent pic (widely available online, but only at frustratingly small size; it's credited to Tim Macmillan/John Downer) makes them look like tiny screamin........ Read more »
Brown, R. M., Ferner, J. W., & Diesmos, A. C. (1997) Definition of the Philippine parachute gecko, Ptychozoon intermedium Taylor 1915 (Reptilia: Squamata: Gekkonidae): redescription, designation of a neotype, comparisons with related species. Herpetologica, 373-373. info:/
Before I start, allow me to announce that Tet Zoo merchandise is now available! So far, I've only used the Tet Zoo logo for these products, but I might produce additional designs in time.
Anyway... welcome to another article in the Tet Zoo gekkotan series. I really want to get through to the end without too many distractions (like amphiumas, wayward grey whales, manatees, white rhinos, giraffe-necked tortoises), otherwise I might never finish. Look what happened with toads and temnospondyls........ Read more »
Bauer, A., & Russell, A. (1989) A systematic review of the genus Uroplatus (Reptilia: Gekkonidae), with comments on its biology. Journal of Natural History, 23(1), 169-203. DOI: 10.1080/00222938900770101
Aww, look at that cute little face, those piggy little, opaque eyes, that wrinkled skin. I just know that you want a little refresher on giant salamanders, so - accompanied with new photos taken at the SMNK in Karlsruhe (by Markus Bühler; thanks) - here's a substantially augmented chunk of text that originally appeared here back in January 2008... Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Kawamichi, T., & Ueda, H. (1998) Spawning at Nests of Extra-Large Males in the Giant Salamander Andrias japonicus. Journal of Herpetology, 32(1), 133. DOI: 10.2307/1565495
It's just too good not to mention. Yesterday I re-posted an old article about manatee dispersal across the Atlantic. And on the same day came news that a living Grey whale Eschrichtius robustus has been seen off Herzliya Marina, Israel, meaning that at least one living, breathing Grey whale is currently swimming around in the Mediterranean (in order to make sure that Americans pick up this article while googling: Gray whale Gray whale Gray whale). A team of experts were sent out to look at it:........ Read more »
Wolff, W. (2000) The south-eastern North Sea losses of vertebrate fauna during the past 2000 years. Biological Conservation, 95(2), 209-217. DOI: 10.1016/S0006-3207(00)00035-5
More from the bird book. For the back-story, see the previous owls article.
Hornbills are among the most distinctive and spectacular of Old World tropical birds. Often flaunting bright colours and sometimes reaching huge sizes (the largest species have wingspans of 1.8 m), they're well known for their enormous, curved bills and large bony crests. [Image above shows Great Indian hornbill skeleton Buceros bicornis (l) and male Wreathed hornbill Rhyticeros undulatus (r) (by Blijdorp, from wiki........ Read more »
Viseshakul N, Charoennitikul W, Kitamura S, Kemp A, Thong-Aree S, Surapunpitak Y, Poonswad P, & Ponglikitmongkol M. (2011) A phylogeny of frugivorous hornbills linked to the evolution of Indian plants within Asian rainforests. Journal of evolutionary biology, 24(7), 1533-1545. PMID: 21545425
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