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.

 ISSN 0268-0130

2021 Impact Factor from Clarivate for the Herpetological Journal is 1.194, an increase of 0.332 from 2020.

Volume 34, Number 2, April 2024 Volume 34, Number 2, April 2024

pdf 01. An improved habitat suitability index for the great crested newt Triturus cristatus


Open Access


pp. 55-67

Authors: Emily Seccombe & Roberto Salguero-Gómez

Abstract: Great crested newts Triturus cristatus are a European protected species whose conservation depends on the provision and protection of their breeding habitat. The species is in decline internationally, partly due to loss of suitable breeding habitat (European Environment Agency, 2019). A habitat suitability index (HSI) developed in 2000 is extensively used in great crested newt conservation to assess breeding habitat quality in the UK. Here, we introduce a new HSI with an improved ability to reflect T. cristatus presence/absence in UK ponds. This proposed HSI is easier to use, requires less data and predicts T. cristatus presence/absence better than the previous index. To inform the new index, we used a dual approach to identify the relative importance of environmental criteria to predict T. cristatus presence/absence. Firstly, we conducted a survey of 288 HSI users to assess the perceived strengths and limitations of the existing index. Secondly, we analysed national datasets of T. cristatus presence/absence and associated environmental data. Using these findings, we then tested various index modifications. The final modifications of the new HSI include (i) using an arithmetic (instead of geometric) mean, to reduce calculation errors and allow compensation between variables; (ii) excluding water quality and waterfowl impact, as these lacked significant power to predict T. cristatus presence/absence and were deemed inaccurate by HSI users; and (iii) changing the scoring relationship for pond area to better reflect current data and provide scores for ponds over 2000m2. We compared scores from the new and original HSIs using an independent dataset for validation, showing that the new HSI better reflects T. cristatus presence/absence (larger effect sizes and R-squared values) in comparison to the old HSI. Adopting this improved HSI will enable more effective conservation of the protected species via better-informed decision-making and monitoring.

Keywords: HSI, monitoring, Triturus cristatus, amphibian

pdf 02. Nesting of Caretta caretta in Tuscany area (north-western Mediterranean Sea): insights of a recent colonisation phenomenon


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pp. 68-74

Authors: Cecilia Mancusi, Chiara Caruso, Giuliana Terracciano, Giovanni Raimondi, Lucia Venturi, Laura Tonelli, Alessandra Neri, Ilaria Ceciarini, Enrica Franchi, Sergio Ventrella, Letizia Marsili & Marco A.L. Zuffi

Abstract: From 2013 to 2021 twenty-three Caretta caretta (Loggerhead turtle) nests were found along the coast of Tuscany (Italy, north-western Mediterranean Sea). Loggerhead nesting is a new event for this part of the Mediterranean Sea, which occurred only recently. Laid eggs were 2081 with 943 hatchlings, for an average hatching success of 45.31%, ranging from 0.1 to 95%, depending on the year and the site. After hatching, nest inspection was carried out and, when possible, eggs and hatchlings (dead and alive) were measured (e.g. curved carapace length with calipers in mm, body mass, with an electronic balance in grams) and standard environmental parameters at the nests were registered (e.g. nest chamber depth and width, grain size, sand temperature). We strongly recommend accurate monitoring and observations of the beaches along these coastlines to establish other nesting occurrences of loggerhead turtles in this region.

Keywords: loggerhead turtle, reproduction, clutch size, Tyrrhenian Sea

pdf 03. Are plasticine models efficient to test defensive colouration of snakes?


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pp. 75-83

Authors: Edelcio Muscat, Matheus de Toledo Moroti, Ivan Sazima, Luís Felipe Toledo, Raoni Rebouças

Abstract: Plasticine models are often used to test hypotheses related to defensive colourations. However, the behaviour of natural predators is hardly ever examined in these experiments, which can lead to imperfect conclusions about the interactions. Accordingly, we ran an experiment to test whether plasticine models are an efficient tool to test Batesian mimicry, aposematism and camouflage hypotheses, using Atlantic forest snakes as a model group. We made 150 non-toxic simulacra of four snake species and two generic plasticine models. We placed cameras traps at the study sites to record the behaviour of potential predators towards the models. We classified the predator-simulacrum relations as physically interactive, interactive with no contact, or not visualised, and we examined whether mammals behaved differently from birds towards the plasticine models. We recorded 110 instances of birds or mammals approaching the plasticine models, most of them with models. Most birds presented an interaction with no contact during the day, and mammals presented physical interaction during the night. None of the model types influenced the interaction with predators, but we observed that mammals interacted significantly more with models than birds. While mammals clearly did not behave protectively when interacting with the models, some birds did behave with caution when approaching them. Our results showed that the use of plasticine models may not always result in reliable data to test predator-prey hypotheses.

Keywords: Mimicry, predation, Atlantic forest, aposematic colouration, Serpentes

pdf 04. One gecko’s pain is another gecko’s gain: is the Moorish gecko Tarentola mauritanica becoming invasive in France?


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pp. 84-91

Authors: Julien Renet, Théo Dokhelar & Nicolas Dubos

Abstract: The Moorish gecko Tarentola mauritanica is currently expanding around the Mediterranean basin as a result of natural dispersal and anthropogenic spread. The species is observed at several sites in sympatry with other gecko species. To date, no impact has been observed on the native species and T. mauritanica is not considered invasive. We present an eight-year survey in southern France, where it lives in sympatry with the European leaf-toed gecko Euleptes europaea. The survey started when the Moorish gecko was rare which enabled us to observe an important increase in abundance. This increase was strongly correlated with a notable decline of E. europaea, explaining 49% of transect-specific temporal variation in abundance. We suspect that the increase in T. mauritanica density is causally related to this decline and recommend intensive monitoring of the species throughout the Mediterranean basin to determine whether or not the species should be classified as invasive.

Keywords: Euleptes europaea, Tarentola mauritanica, temporal trends, biotic interaction, competition, invasive alien species

pdf 05. Seasonal variation of the relationship between body condition and fluctuating asymmetry in two sympatric ranid frogs


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pp. 92-99

Authors: Enrique Cante-Bazán & Ricardo Luría-Manzano

Abstract: Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) in organisms is an indicator of disturbances during development. This indicator has been associated with multiple causes, such as presence of metals, and organic and inorganic pollutants. However, the effect of FA on individual traits has been little explored. In this study, we examine the presence of FA in some morphological characters in two sympatric species of ranid frogs, Lithobates spectabilis and Lithobates zweifeli, predicting that L. zweifeli would exhibit more characters with FA and higher levels of FA. We also evaluated whether body condition in the two species differ between seasons and whether body condition is associated with FA of limb characters in two seasons. We predicted that this association would be more pronounced in the dry season. We found FA in tympanum and limb characters in both species, but L. zweifeli exhibited FA in one character more than L. spectabilis, as well as higher levels of FA in the horizontal length of the tympanum. Additionally, the characters exhibiting FA only in L. zweifeli are presumed to be more relevant for locomotor performance, fitness and survival than those exhibiting FA only in L. spectabilis. We did not find differences in body condition between seasons in either species, but we found a negative correlation between body condition and FA of the humerus in L. zweifeli. However, this correlation was detected in the rainy but not in the dry season, which could be related to depletion of energetic reserves associated with reproductive investment. This study highlights the importance of evaluating sensitivity of sympatric species through analyses of FA and its effects on individual traits, as well as the analysis of these effects in seasons with different environmental conditions.

Keywords: Atoyac basin, limb asymmetry, Lithobates, Mexico, tympanum asymmetry

pdf 06. Are fibrocement slabs a useful tool for monitoring reptiles? The case of Hierophis viridiflavus in its south-western limit of distribution


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pp. 100-106

Authors: Iñaki Romero-Iraola, Xabier Rubio, Alberto Gosá & Ion Garin-Barrio

Abstract: The established methodology in detection and long-term reptile monitoring programmes has so far focused on visual encounter surveys (VES), a method that can yield very high capture rates for snakes, but, even when carried out in favourable habitats, can also be very limited. Therefore, one passive sampling method was tested: fibrocement slabs. A total of 81 slabs were placed in nine sampling stations in the southern part of Irún (Basque Autonomous Community, Spain). During the two years of sampling (2020–2021) a total of 79 reptile records were obtained, of which 33 were records of the European whip snake corresponding to 28 individuals. There was at least one reptile record in each transect and 75% of the reptile species present in the study area were detected. However, we did not identify any trend over time that indicated an increase in the number of individuals captured during the second year. All in, the data obtained have provided positive results; therefore, it could prove to be a very useful methodology for reptile studies, in particular for ophidians.

Keywords: European whip snake, conservation, methodology, artificial refuge, capture, detection, Basque Autonomous Community, Spain

pdf 07. Eastern Black Kingsnake Lampropeltis nigra dorsal scale colouration primarily adapted for thermoregulation


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pp. 107-114

Authors: Caleb A. Aldridge & Scott A. Rush

Abstract: The Eastern Black Kingsnake Lampropeltis nigra exhibits variation in colouration and pattern throughout its range. Drivers behind this colour variation remain largely unknown. To elucidate patterns in the percentage of light pigmentation in L. nigra dorsal scales (% light) we compared two primary hypotheses. Our first hypothesis posited that L. nigra colouration has been adapted for thermoregulation (thermoregulation). Alternatively, we hypothesised that L. nigra colouration has been adapted to avoid detection by predators and prey (crypsis). To test our hypotheses, we modeled L. nigra % light from 46 counties within Mississippi as a function of average temperature, average maximum temperature (thermoregulation) and soil value (darkness of soil colour; crypsis). We included percentage forest cover as a modifying variable in the thermoregulation hypothesis and an interacting variable in the crypsis hypothesis. The best competing model included average temperature and percent forest cover as explanatory variables (LOOIC = -291.3, weight = 0.84, Bayesian R2 = 0.37 [fixed] and 0.55 [total]). There was a positive relationship between % light and average temperature (β = 0.23, 95% CIs = 0.13, 0.34) and average maximum temperature (β = 0.11, 95% CIs = -0.00, 0.21), and a negative relationship with percent forest cover (β = -0.14, 95% CIs = -0.23, -0.04). These results support the thermoregulation hypothesis. The climate in Mississippi, as in most of the world, is expected to experience shifts over the next century. If ambient temperatures experienced through these changes are outside of L. nigra’s thermal optima, as based on colour patterns and relationships observed in our study, then behavioural adaptations may result in some individuals experiencing thermal advantages that influence this species’ distribution. The patterns observed in our study, and expected changes in L. nigra behaviour and distribution, are likely to occur among other ectothermic species with relatively static colouration.

Keywords: Colour adaptation, homeostasis, Mississippi

pdf 08. Endemic amphibians of the Cerrado and Caatinga: species richness, geographic range and conservation


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pp. 116-126

Authors: Gisele do Lago Santana, Davi Lima Pantoja, Pedro Peloso, Geovania Figueiredo da Silva, Maiume Silva da Silva & Gleomar Fabiano Maschio

Abstract: The Cerrado and the Caatinga have few formally protected areas and encompass a high diversity of amphibians, which is still relatively unknown. In this study we present the list of amphibian species endemic to the Cerrado or Caatinga and their geographic range, highlighting current conservation status. We obtained the species list from the compilation of scientific publications (up to July 2022). We obtained the occurrence records from the databases SpeciesLink, GBIF, Portal da Biodiversidade and literature. We classified the species in the categories of threat according to the Brazilian list of threatened species and the global list of threatened species. We compiled 2,659 occurrences of amphibians, 1,335 from the SpeciesLink platform, 414 from GBIF, 371 from the Biodiversity Portal and 539 obtained from the literature. We recorded 100 endemic species, 82 from the Cerrado and 18 from the Caatinga. The Cerrado has three species Vulnerable (VU) (Boana buriti, Bokermannohyla napolii and Scinax pinimus), one Critically Endangered (CR) (Proceratophrys moratoi), 14 species Data Deficient (DD), 46 in the Least Concern (LC) category and 18 Not Evaluated (NE). The Caatinga has three species CR (Adelophryne maranguapensis, Proceratophrys ararype, Rhinella casconi), three DD, five LC and seven NE. Threatened, DD and NE species have few records within the protected areas of Cerrado and Caatinga. We consider that the Cerrado and Caatinga present a rich diversity of endemic amphibians, which have a geographic range relatively reduced, especially the threatened ones, DD and NE. Distribution and taxonomy data are essential, because the lack can hinder the assessment of conservation status, since threatened species, DD, NE, including LC, may be undervalued and at risk.

Keywords: amphibia, distribution, endemism, species list, species protection

pdf 08a. Supplementary material for 08. Endemic amphibians of the Cerrado and Caatinga: species richness, geographic range and conservation


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pp. 116-126

Authors: Gisele do Lago Santana, Davi Lima Pantoja, Pedro Peloso, Geovania Figueiredo da Silva, Maiume Silva da Silva & Gleomar Fabiano Maschio

spreadsheet 08b. Supplementary material for 08. Endemic amphibians of the Cerrado and Caatinga: species richness, geographic range and conservation


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pp. 116-126

Authors: Gisele do Lago Santana, Davi Lima Pantoja, Pedro Peloso, Geovania Figueiredo da Silva, Maiume Silva da Silva & Gleomar Fabiano Maschio

pdf 09. First natural history observations of the Critically Endangered Wattle-necked softshell turtle Palea steindachneri in its native range


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pp. 127-129

Authors: Pham Van Thong, Ha Van Ngoan, Vi Van Dinh, Nguyen Huu Trung, Luong Van Nam, Lo Tien Bieu, Pham Thi Ha Nguyen, Pham Minh Phuong, Nguyen Van Thai, Tran Xuan Cuong, Hoang Anh Tuan & Russell J. Gray

Abstract: The Wattle-necked softshell turtle Palea steindachneri is poorly understood in its natural habitat, despite being highly productive in farms and commonly observed in the turtle trade. Field observations conducted in Vietnam's Pu Mat National Park represent the inaugural instance of direct, in-the-wild natural history documentation for the species within its native habitat. In contrast, prior research relied on interview data gathered from local communities. The species was found in slow-moving water in a sandy stream, consistent with previous information from community interview data. The limited range and its frequent appearance in the food and traditional medicine trade have led to the species’ classification as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List.

Keywords: Natural history, observation, Palea steindachneri, Vietnam turtle, Wattle-necked softshell turtle

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