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Art by Allison Julien

Jellyfish are beautiful. Scary. But beautiful. Natural works of art. No one I know appreciates this more than the artist Allison Julien. She captures their delicate, beautiful forms and adds a touch of whimsy.

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“Jellyfish Dreams” 

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“Jellyfish Salesman” (This is my favorite)

She also captures other, less appreciated natural wonders and presents a sense of mythology and mystery.

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“Scarab”

Prints of Allison’s works can be found and purchased at https://society6.com/ajulieninks

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Book of the Month: Frog Alphabet Book

*Featured Image: Frog Alphabet by Fruitful Designs

This month’s book of the month falls under the category of both art and book- it is one of Jerry Pallota’s Alphabet book series , illustrated by Ralph Masiello: “The Frog Alphabet Book.” This book is impressive, not only in artistic design, but in educational value. It uses specific species to represent letters of he alphabet and gives fun facts about each one. While it should be called the amphibian alphabet book (it uses newts, salamanders, and even caecilians), I like that it uses more than just frogs. As an aspiring herpetologist when I was a child, I would have LOVED this book. As an adult, and a herpetologist, I LOVE this book. Truly something all ages can enjoy.

 

Bottom line… “The Frog Alphabet Book” is awesome, for adults and kids  (this is coming from an adult who has no children, so take that as you will). I recommend it.

 

 

 

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Book of the Month: The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smugglers

I know… I am awful at keeping Caudatart up to date. I live for the salamanders, and they keep me away from the computer. I hope you can forgive me.

That being said…

During my recent travels, I was able to read a wonderful piece of non-fiction: The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smugglers, by Bryan Christy.

I actually listened to the audiobook. The narration was excellent, I recommend it.

I actually listened to the audiobook. The narration was excellent, I recommend it.

For many people, this book may be eye-opening. It may reveal to you how easily people become involved in trafficking of reptiles, and then how easily that becomes linked to more intense crimes. It may be shocking how little protection is provided for rare and endangered animals and, frankly, just how easy it is to smuggle them around the world. If you are not aware of these things, it will be a thrilling read that is more like a riveting crime drama than a non-fiction.

For me, and probably for many of you, none of what I just mentioned above comes as a surprise. As someone in the business of protecting rare and endangered animals, I am too familiar with how animal trafficking works. It’s a matter of understanding the “other side” of things. Frankly, many people who started out in the conservation business end up in the smuggling business, due to circumstances and personal choices. The point is… it is a world that is very close to home.

Bottom line, my understanding of how these operations work did not change the entertainment value of this book, and if you are also familiar with these concepts, do not think it will be a bore. The book is not written just for the shock value, or to surprise those who had no idea how over the top reptile smuggling can be. While it will certainly appeal to that audience, it will also be a pleasure for the audience who is familiar to the subject.

The book tells the story of the rise and fall of an empire in the reptile smuggling business over a few generations. Through telling both sides of the story, it pulls you into the drama. The smugglers are ingenious, loyal to family, and frequently very likable. The USFWS agents are the driven, passionate types, working at a goal that is viewed as worthless by most others. It is easy to empathize on both accounts. It is hard to believe, at many points, this is a non-fiction, due to the excitement, intrigue, and character of the story.

As a person with a passion for reptiles, I found myself intensely  absorbed in the tale.

If you enjoy any or all of the following: crime dramas, reptiles, justice, wildlife, conservation, good books…. I recommend reading The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest reptile Smugglers

 

This Lizard King

This Lizard King

 

Not this Lizard King.

Not this Lizard King.

 

 

 

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(Belated) June Species of the Month: Carpathian Newt

Sorry, still busy and behind, and this will be a brief species of the month…

For June of 2015: The Carpathian Newt (Lissotriton montandoni)!

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Vigo the Newtpathian

These little Carpathian newts are conquerors… That’s not really the right word, but I like the image. They are survivors. They appear to have adapted well to humans encroaching on their habitat (compared to most amphibians). Sometimes population densities can get up to 20 newts per meter square, which is pretty great.

Like most newts (for the difference between Newts vs. Salamanders see this post), the Carpathian newt has 3 life stages: larvae, eft, and adult. As the namesake suggests, these little guys range throughout the Carpathian mountains and are frequently found in the Ukraine and Romania.

Range of Carpathian newt.

Range of Carpathian newt.

The Carpathian newt seems to be more active during the daytime hours than any other species of newt (most newt species are moderately nocturnal).

Their breeding season varies based on how high they live in the mountains (groups living higher up the mountains will breed mid through late summer, vs. animals living in the foothills which will breed in late spring through mid summer). Efts usually start to climb out of the water in mid/late summer.

Adult newt in breeding colors.

Adult newt in breeding colors.

This is a brumating (brumation= mild form of hibernation) species that will brumate late fall through late spring.

Handsome newt.

Handsome newt.

All glory to the Carpathian newt!

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Vampire Bat Running

After seeing the vampire bat art here, I needed to post this video. It’s an old video from a study done on the mobility of vampire bats… Since vampire bats often nibble on the ankles of big cows who may flick their big ankles at the little bat, or wake up and move around on the bat, these little dudes need to be able to hoof it. This is the craziest, like, reverse-crab-walk ever. I love it. Enjoy an old science video of a vampire bat running.

 

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Unken pose art!

I found this SUPER AMAZING print of a firebelly newt doing an unken pose:

Unken reflex!!

Unken reflex!!

and it led me to the Etsy shop Oni Oni Oni Art by SAG. Go check it out for art like these adorable works below!! I want them all… OOO, I think I have a frame that will fit all of them…

 

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(Belated) May Species of the Month: Laos Newt!

The May species of the month: the Laos Knobby/Warty Newt (Laotriton laoensis). Getting up to speed…

This species of the month may end up more of a rant than anything… You see, the Laos Newt was discovered just over 10 years ago (not surprisingly, in Laos). It very rapidly became endangered in the wild, partially due to a small distribution (just over 4000 square kilometers) and habitat fragmentation, but almost exclusively due to capture and exportation for the pet trade.

People also eat them. However, Loatians have begun to discourage this practice since the newt has become endangered.

People also eat them. However, Loatians have begun to discourage this practice since the newt has become endangered.

The Laos Newt is a very beautiful and charismatic creature, from a beautiful country. They live in headwater streams in Northeast Laos and breed in the leaf litter of the pools at the headwaters. They breed in the cool fall season. They are a stunning and mysterious, new creature that any collector would want to have. This doesn’t make it OK to purchase a wild Laos Newt.

There is a difference between a “Laos Warty Newt” and a “Warty Newt.” Warty newts refer to a genre of newt from all over Asia, and while the ethics of trading wild caught Warty Newts are questionable, these are frequently captive bred. All Laos Newts I have ever seen on the market have been wild caught, and very few collectors have successfully bred them in captivity (I have begun to finally see some pictures of captive bred animals pop up). Despite the endangered status of the animal, and that there are Laotian people who have actual started acting as sentries to protect these animals from being poached, these animals still turn up for sale. I just saw a wild one for sale yesterday.

Handsome little devils.

Handsome little devils.

All we can really do for this species now is try to reclaim it, and try to reintroduce it. What is horribly depressing in this case is that there are so many wild animals still living in captivity, and we are having to reintroduce captive bred animals with a decreased genetic pool in their place.

Someone studying the newts.

Someone studying the newts.

I am not against the pet trade (I personally try to stay away from purchasing or collecting wild caught animals that are not for conservation purposes, but I can understand rare cases where this is appropriate), but this type of thing happens all the time when a new species is discovered in a nation that does not have the governmental infrastructure to prevent mass exportation. Please be aware of this sort of thing, and please do not support importation of rare wild animals. If you do purchase a non-rare wild caught animal, be certain it was obtained under ethical circumstances (I would say legal, but much of the time this sort of thing is, sadly, legal).

Help keep species safe! Buy captive bred!

Help keep species safe! Buy captive bred!