New Scientist – Good News for Shadow Snakes, How Pufferfish Blink and How Lyrebirds Multiply Themselves

A Fugler’s Shadow Snake (Emmochliophis fugleri), rediscovered in Ecuador after 54 years (Photo by Scott J. Trageser, The Biodiversity Group)

Dear Readers, snakes are a notoriously difficult group of vertebrates to observe – they are secretive, well-camouflaged and often nocturnal, and so it can be hard to assess the status of different species. But in 2019, scientists Ross Maynard and Scott Trageser of The Biodiversity Group in Arizona found a small, dark snake wriggling across some boulders in Ecuador’s Andes mountains. Maynard was finding it tricky to identify the species, but after comparing photographs of the snake to records, it was found to be a Fugler’s Shadow Snake (Emmochliophis fugleri), only the second one ever found after a gap of 54 years. The clue to its low-profile can be found in its common name – it is dark coloured, very shy and only appears at night. No wonder they’re rarely found! However, this snake is positively social compared with the only other member of the genus Emmochliophis miops, who ‘went missing’ for 120 years before reappearing in 2017. Considering the state of the world’s biodiversity, it probably makes sense to keep a low profile.

You can read the whole article here.

Photo One by By Daiju Azuma - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40496121

Fine-patterned pufferfish (Takifugu poecilonotus) (Photo One)

Now, it’s a well-known fact that bony fish don’t have eyelids, and yet pufferfish blink. How do they do that? Keisuke Ogimoto at the Shimonoseki Marine Science Museum in Japan was so taken by the way that pufferfish in the aquarium closed their eyes that he dedided to investigate how they did it, by using slow motion filming, ultrasound and examination of a fish that had died through natural causes.

It appears that although the fish doesn’t have eyelids, it can contract the skin around the eye, in much the same way as the iris in a mammal eye constricts over the pupil. But the pufferfish can also retract its eyeball into its head to a depth of 70% of the eye’s diameter, among the most extreme eye-sinkings of any animal.

The question that I’m left with is this: if other fish don’t need to blink, why does the pufferfish? Now that would be an interesting thing to find out.

You can read the whole article here.

Photo Two By Fir0002 - Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7319898

Superb lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae) (Photo Two)

And finally, the Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae) of Australia is probably the most versatile of all bird vocalists. If you have never heard one before, watch the clip below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjE0Kdfos4Y

Now, Anastasia Dalziell at Cornell University and her colleagues have found that male lyrebirds often copy the calls that other species of birds make when they are mobbing a predator, so that they sound like an entire flock of angry birds, complete with wingbeats. These calls are so accurate that, when played back, birds of other species come to participate in the mobbing.

However, the males tend to make these calls when displaying, and scientists were puzzled as to why this was an attractant. The complexity of the male’s call seems to increase his attractiveness to the opposite sex, but one alternative suggestion was that if it sounds as if a predator is close by, the female is less likely to leave. Could it be that the males are trying to scare the females into staying? Birds are more complex and have more complex social behaviour than we ever used to imagine.

You can read the whole article here.

Photo Credits

Photo One by By Daiju Azuma – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40496121

Photo Two By Fir0002 – Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7319898

2 thoughts on “New Scientist – Good News for Shadow Snakes, How Pufferfish Blink and How Lyrebirds Multiply Themselves

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      I love lyre-birds, though I find it very sad that one of the sounds that they’re imitating is that of the chainsaws that are cutting the forest down around them….

      Reply

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