The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

The 2017/18  impact factor of The Herpetological Journal is 1.268

ISSN 0268-0130

Volume 30, Number 4, October 2020 Volume 30, Number 4, October 2020

pdf 01. Micro-geographic variation in burrow use of Agassiz’s desert tortoises in the Sonoran Desert of California


Open Access

pp. 177-188

Authors: Kristy L. Cummings, Jeffrey E. Lovich, Shellie R. Puffer, Terence R. Arundel & Kathleen D. Brundige

Abstract: Little has been published regarding the burrowing habits of Agassiz’s desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) in the Sonoran Desert of California. We monitored the interactions of tortoises with their burrows, and other tortoises, via radio-telemetry at two nearby sites between the Cottonwood and Orocopia Mountains, from 2015-2018. We examined how annual cycles of drought and non-drought years, behaviourally affected how tortoises use their burrows (i.e., burrow fidelity, cohabitation,
and location), including the timing of the tortoise brumation period. Burrow locations were strongly dependent on local geology and topography, with a tendency to orientate in conformance with the general aspect of the landscape. The timing of brumation was similar to records for G. agassizii throughout their range (with a few exceptions). There was no difference in the estimated number of burrows used per 30 days between the active seasons (2017 and 2018) at the Orocopia site, despite the occurrence of drought in 2018.

Keywords: Gopherus agassizii, Mojave Desert, hibernation, brumation, drought


pdf 02. Revisiting the generic position and acoustic diagnosis of Odontophrynus salvatori (Anura: Odontophrynidae)


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pp. 189-196

Authors: Felipe de Medeiros Magalhães, Reuber A. Brandão, Adrian Antonio Garda & Sarah Mângia

Abstract:  Herein we evaluate the phylogenetic position, and revisit the generic allocation of Odontophrynus salvatori, which has for long been considered controversial because it exhibits intermediate morphological features between Odontophrynus and Proceratophrys. By assessing a fragment of the 16S mitochondrial gene from topotypical specimens, we confirm that O. salvatori is a member of the genus Proceratophrys and sister to P. moratoi, also forming a clade with P. concavitympanum and
P. ararype. Therefore, we formally transfer O. salvatori to the genus Proceratophrys [Proceratophrys salvatori (Caramaschi 1996) comb. nov.]. Additionally, the calls of Proceratophrys salvatori and P. moratoi, formally compared for the first time, are shown to exhibit similar structures: they both emit single multi-pulsed notes that differ mainly in pulse repetition rate and dominant frequency. Finally, we summarise occurrence records for P. salvatori and P. moratoi and provide a new record of P. moratoi in Mato Grosso State, extending its distribution about 490 km to the north-west.

Keywords: Advertisement call, geographic distribution, phylogenetic position, Proceratophrys, species diagnosis, taxonomy

pdf 03. Changes in plasma oestradiol, testosterone and progesterone concentrations during an annual reproductive cycle in wild Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea)


Open Access

pp. 197-201

Authors: Maya S. Kummrow, Richard Baxter, Gabriela Mastromonaco, Nancy Bunbury, Marcus Clauss, Dennis Hansen & Jean-Michel Hatt

Abstract: Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea) are currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, negative impacts of sea-level rise are predicted to result in an overall population decline of 40-65 % over the next 100 years, rendering the species Endangered. Captive propagation is an important tool for in- and ex-situ species conservation, but breeding success outside the tortoises’ native island habitats has been very limited. Until now, the reproductive cycle of Aldabra tortoises has only been described in anatomic and behavioural studies. During a one-year period, plasma of four female and four male wild tortoises on Aldabra Atoll were examined monthly for levels of gonadal steroid hormones (oestradiol, testosterone, progesterone). Plasma oestradiol and testosterone values as well as meteorological data of the sampling period corresponded to previously published reports on seasonal changes in anatomy, behaviour and climate on the Aldabra Atoll.
Seasonal changes in plasma testosterone were evident in males, with high values from January through April, reflecting previously described testicular growth and breeding season, followed by a nadir in August and September. In females, plasma oestradiol levels displayed seasonal changes, coinciding with reported ovarian growth from January to May. The obtained data provide prerequisite knowledge for endocrinological monitoring of reproductive processes and management of breeding programs, both ex-situ as in-situ, to establish reserve- and rewilded populations.

Keywords: Aldabra giant tortoise, Aldabrachelys gigantea, reproduction, seasonality, steroid hormone

pdf 04. Mitochondrial DNA analysis reveals extremely low genetic diversity in a managed population of the Critically Endangered Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus, Gmelin, 1789)


Open Access

pp. 202-206

Authors: Surya Prasad Sharma, Suyash Katdare, Zenab Zaidi, Mirza Ghazanfarullah Ghazi, Sandeep Kumar Gupta & Syed Ainul Hussain

Abstract: A decline in the numbers of threatened species is often reversed by reintroduction with the aim of repopulating or strengthening the population to reduce the risk of extinction. The success of reintroduction programs is associated with demographic and genetic monitoring of the reintroduced populations. We undertook a genetic assessment of the Critically Endangered gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) to assess the current level of genetic variation using three partial mitochondrial (mt) DNA regions: cytochrome b, cytochrome c oxidase subunit-I and the control region. We sequenced 103 samples collected across 14 nesting sites. A low level of mtDNA variation was observed in the sampled population (hd = 0.462 ± 0.048; Pi = 0.00029 ± 0.00004). Only five distinct haplotypes were observed in three segregating sites. This is the first assessment of the genetic variation in the wild gharial population to be made using mtDNA. Homogeneity in the 520 bp hypervariable control region of the crocodilian mtDNA is reported here for the first time. The low mitochondrial diversity and no genetic structure in the sampled population is indicative of a genetic bottleneck, the founder effect and probably associated with humanassisted augmentation of the population of the gharial. An extremely low level of genetic variation in the largest gharial
population highlights the vulnerability of the gharial population in the wild and calls for immediate genetic assessment of other gharial populations so that a robust conservation plan focusing on connectivity and enhanced protection can be developed for the long-term persistence of the gharial in the wild.

Keywords: haplotype, homogeneity, low diversity, protection

pdf 05. Molecular phylogeny and taxonomic evaluation of the genus Asaccus Dixon and Anderson, 1973 (Reptilia: Phyllodactylidae) in Iran


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pp. 207-214

Authors: Akbar Fattahi, Nasrullah Rastegar-Pouyani, Eskandar Rastegar-Pouyani, Rasoul Karamiani, Seyyed Saeed Hosseinian Yousefkhani & Behzad Fathinia

Abstract: The Iranian species of the phyllodactylid geckos of the genus Asaccus are found only in the valleys of the Zagros Mountains, a region which represents an important area of endemism in western Iran. Recently, many relict species have been described from the central and southern parts of the Zagros Mountains, which were previously known as A. elisae. The recent descriptions of species within this complex suggest that diversity within the genus may be higher than expected and that its taxonomy and systematics should be revised. In the present study, phylogenetic relationships within the genus Asaccus were evaluated using two mitochondrial and one nuclear gene. Genetically, the genus shows high levels of variability. The molecular phylogeny of the genus suggests the presence of three main clades along the Zagros Mountains with the southern population (from the Hormozgan province) and one clade (A. sp8 and A. sp9) being sister taxon to A. montanus from UAE. The remaining samples are separated into two reciprocally monophyletic groups: the northern (Kurdistan, Kermanshah and Ilam provinces) and the central (Lorestan, Khuzestan, Kohgilouye-Bouyer Ahmad and Fars provinces) Zagros groups. The results of the present study suggest that populations attributed to A. elisae in Iran correspond to distinct lineages with high genetic distances. In brief, our results suggest that the genus needs a major taxonomical revision. The Arabian origin of the genus has not been confirmed, because two populations from Zagros were located within the A. montanus, A. gallagheri and A. platyrhynchus clade. Further morphological analyses are needed to systematically define each genetic lineage as a new taxon.

Keywords: Asaccus, genetic variability, Iran, Phyllodactylidae, species diversity, Zagros Mountains

pdf 06. Responses of crocodilians to construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Madeira River in the Brazilian Amazon


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pp. 215-221

Authors: Zilca Campos, Fábio Muniz, Guilherme Mourão & William E. Magnusson

Abstract: The spillways of the Santo Antônio Hydro-electric Dam on the Madeira River in Brazilian Amazonia were closed in November 2011, inundating more than 100 km of river and reducing the annual fluctuations in water level. We surveyed the crocodilians in the affected area for two years before and for eight years after dam filling in order to evaluate the effects of the dam on the size structure of the population, the distribution of each species, and the detectability of individuals to interpret changes
in apparent density. Our methodology was probably not appropriate to evaluate trends in population characteristics of Paleosuchus palpebrosus or P. trigonatus, but there was little evidence of an effect of the dam on the numbers of Caiman crocodilus and Melanosuchus niger in the area, and the distributions of all caiman species along the river changed only slightly after the dam was constructed. However, the proportions of small C. crocodilus and large M. niger detected in surveys increased eight years after dam filling. Despite having detectable effects on some population characteristics, the dam does not appear to represent a threat to the persistence of the species in the area if deforestation along the banks of the reservoir can be avoided.

Keywords: environmental impact, dam, crocodilians, Amazonia, conservation

pdf 07. New insights about ovarian pigmentation in Anura


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pp. 222-226

Authors: Javier Goldberg, Classius De Oliveira & Lilian Franco-Belussi

Abstract: Amphibians have pigmented cells in organs beyond just skin. Their functions involve free radical neutralisation, early innate response, and a relationship with environmental temperature and UV light. In gonads, pigment containing-cells seem to be restricted mainly to the testes and related to sperm production. However, we report for the first time ovarian melanisation in Pseudis minuta and its ontogenetic changes in larval and postmetamorphic stages. Melanin containing-cells on the ovarian surface initially appear at early premetamorphic stages whereas in the cortex they occur later. In consecutive stages, melanin containing-cells were more evident among oocytes but without a clear pattern, being located randomly within the germinal epithelium or in the stroma. Although their function is unclear, a relationship with the fast acquisition of sexual maturity must be further explored.

Keywords: Anuran, germ cells, melanin, ovary, Pseudis minuta

pdf 08. Taxonomic status of the Guyanese endemic caecilian Caecilia pressula Taylor, 1968 (Amphibia: Gymnophiona: Caeciliidae)


Open Access

pp. 227-229

Author: Mark Wilkinson

Abstract: The taxonomic status of the poorly known Neotropical caecilian species Caecilia pressula Taylor, 1968 is reconsidered based on examination of the type series. The single reported diagnostic feature, a laterally compressed body, that purportedly distinguishes C. pressula from Caecilia tentaculata Linnaeus, 1758 is not consistent across the seven specimens that constitute the type series and the only reported specimens, is variable in the Holotype depending on how it is held, and is considered to be artefactual. Caecilia pressula is considered to be a junior synonym of Caecilia tentaculata. Dentitional features of the smallest and presumed youngest specimens in the
type series provide evidence that C. tentaculata practices maternal dermatophagy.

Keywords: Guyana, neotropics, reproduction, systematics


pdf 09. Evidence of the peptide identity of the epidermal alarm cue in tadpoles of the toad Rhinella arenarum


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pp. 230-233

Authors: Marilina Raices, Lucas D. Jungblut & Andrea G. Pozzi

Abstract: Chemical cues associated with predation attempts allow prey to trigger defensive behaviours. Accordingly, tadpoles of several species of anurans display strong behavioural responses to chemical cues of injured conspecifics. As part of the antipredator response, tadpoles show rapid and sustained inhibition of activity when exposed to chemical cues of predation. Although the ability to respond to cues of conspecifics has been confirmed in a wide variety of anuran species, studies about the tissue source and the chemical aspects of the molecules involved are scarce and contradictory. In the present work, we analysed the chemical characteristics, tissue source and release mechanism of the chemical alarm cue in Rhinella arenarum tadpoles. Our results support the hypothesis that a peptide of epidermal origin in mediates amphibian tadpole communication.

Keywords: Amphibia, Anura, tadpoles, anti-predator, behaviours, conspecific cues

pdf 10. Contributions to Lycodon zawi, a little-known colubrid snake (Reptilia: Serpentes: Colubridae)


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pp. 234-237

Authors: Lal Biakzuala, Vanlal Hrima, Michael Vanlalchhuana, Andrew Vanlallawma, Mathipi Vabeiryureilai, Lal Muansanga, Sarathbabu Subbarayan, Nachimuthu Senthil Kumar & Hmar Tlawmte Lalremsanga

Abstract: Since the original description of Lycodon zawi almost two decades ago from Myanmar and north-east India, little is known on the systematics, distributional range as well as the natural history of the species. Hence, this paper attempts to contribute updated information to enhance the genetic data, morphology, distributional records, and natural history on its feeding and the hitherto unknown breeding habit of this species from Mizoram State, north-east India.

Keywords: Diet, eggs, morphology, phylogeny, Zaw’s wolf snake

pdf 11. Volume 30, Number 4 - Full Issue


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Please note that as from Volume 31 Number 1 (January 2021) on, the Herpetological Journal will be available as an online publication only - the last print edition will be Volume 30 Number 4.   

Aligning with this change, it is now no longer possible to purchase a subscription that includes a print copy of the HJ.  All members who have existing HJ print subscriptions that remain active as at end June 2020 will receive the full four 2020 print editions.  New subscribers or renewals after this time will only have option to subscribe to the online only subscription package.  Subscription pricing has been amended to reflect the content changes.