Tag Archive: reptiles

Komodo Dragon

Komodo dragon, resting on a rock. Image taken at Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle.

Komodo dragons are crazy cool lizards, with no natural enemies. They’re only found on a few small islands in Indonesia and most of what we know about them we’ve only learned in the last 30 years. They are the largest living lizards in the world, averaging 150 lbs (68kg) and 8 ft. (2.4m) in length, though they’ve been known to grow as much as 300 lbs and 10 ft. in length. And actually, since they can eat 80% of their body weight in one sitting (!!), a male that just finished a large meal can be weighed at more than 550 pounds. This big lizard had big ancestors. Their largest ancestor was the Megalania prisca, which grew to over 23 ft and 1,400 pounds and was the largest venomous animal to have ever lived (as far as we know).

Sleeping Dragon

A resting Komodo dragon. Image taken at the Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle.

Predominantly ambush predators, these lizards can hunt animals 5 times larger than themselves and 15 times their weight, including deer and water buffalo.  Although they appear toothless, because their gums cover their teeth until they’re ready to bite, they have 60 inch-long teeth and deliver deeper and more damaging wounds than a crocodile. When they eat, their gums tear and bleed. The blood mixes with the saliva and makes a slime that allows them to swallow their food whole. Every part of the prey is eaten, even hooves, and it all gets dissolved in their strong stomach acids. The lizard may have to sleep for up to an entire week while its food digests after eating a big meal.

Sleepy Komodo Dragon

Resting Komodo dragon at the Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle.

Oh and they’re venomous. What’s that you say? No they’re not? You learned a long time ago that the Komodo dragon has bacteria in its mouth and it’s a bacterial infection that causes the slow, agonizing death of the prey? Yeah, so did I. It wasn’t until 2009 that scientists discovered that they are venomous. They have venom glands in their mouth and venom causes their prey to continuously bleed. They die from blood loss and infection.

Cutey Pie

Komodo dragon. Image taken at the Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle.

Nothing is safe from a Komodo dragon-not even Komodo dragons. They are cannibalistic, with healthy dragons eating the young, old or injured dragons. Young Komodo dragons make up about 10% of an adult dragon’s diet. For this reason, when young dragons hatch, they dash up into the trees to avoid being eaten. But many won’t make it. Birds, snakes and other Komodo dragons-sometimes even their mothers- will catch them before they can reach the safety of the tree. They have to be cautious and quick when they come down for water and sometimes they may roll around in feces to mask their odor from adults.

I see you

A Komodo dragon. Image taken at Los Angeles Zoo.

One reason why they eat their own young may be that they need to in order to reach their huge size. The young eat insects, and small lizards and mammals, but there are very few medium sized animals on the islands. Those that are there were introduced and so weren’t always around. Perhaps eating their own young gets them to the next size level where they can go after bigger animals.

adorable lizard

Komodo dragon resting on a big rock. Image taken at the Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle.

These predators have excellent senses. They have a forked 16-inch tongue that works like a snake’s tongue-flicking it out into the world, they can taste/smell with their tongue. They can find carrion more than 5 miles away. They are covered in hard scales, each one with a sensory plaque for increased sensitivity. On their face and feet, each scale has 3 or more sensory plaques, further heightening their sensitivity. They can see in color. We used to think they were deaf, but that was disproved by a zookeeper that trained one to come when it heard her voice. Now we know that they only hear sounds in the low range of pitches. They can even distinguish between different human voices.

I see you

A Komodo dragon checking us out. Image taken at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Male Komodo dragons are territorial. Females and young can inhabit their territory, but males are only allowed to pass through when the visitor is tracking prey. They will fight other males to breed, standing on their hind legs and balancing on their tales. After the loser falls, he will lie still while the winner scrapes his claws along the loser’s back and tail as a sign of dominance.

Females use their claws to dig egg chambers. Since Komodo dragons will raid each others’ nests, the mother dragon will dig mazes of false tunnels to confuse any would-be egg raiders.

dragon claws

Komodo dragon claws, front foot. Females use their claws to dig egg chambers. Males will scrape them across defeated Komodos. Image taken at Los Angels Zoo.

dragon claws

Front feet of the Komodo dragon.  Image taken at the Los Angeles Zoo.

back claws

Komodo dragon claws, hind leg. Image taken at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Females will also guard their nests for up to 3 months. She’ll leave once the rainy season hits, since the chances of her eggs being disturbed are substantially less.

In 2006, we discovered another surprising fact about Komodo dragon reproduction. The females can be parthenogenetic! In London’s Chester Zoo, a female produced 8 offspring without ever having met a male, giving us our first glimpse at this cool adaptation.

Komodo dragons can live 50 years in the wild and up to 9 months without water. They are strong swimmers, able to travel between islands and dive to depths of 15 feet.

Swim time

Time to cool off. A Komodo dragon about to take a swim. Image taken at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Komodo Swimming

Komodo dragon going for a swim. Image taken at the Los Angeles Zoo.

People in Komodo and Rinca take precautions to avoid attacks from Komodo dragons. They don’t wander into the forests or grasslands alone and they never antagonize or approach the dragons. They’ve also had a long-held belief that if they feed the old dragons that could no longer hunt, throwing them old deer heads and hides and fish heads and guts, it was sort of a peace offering and it kept them and their children safe from getting attacked. Younger dragons sometimes ate the food as well. There was only 1 human death recorded in 30 years (since records started) from 1965-1995.

However, in 1995 Komodo park authorities banned the feeding of Komodo dragons, which environmentalists thought would make them grow lazy and forget how to hunt themselves. They also outlawed the dogs, which are considered an invasive species, which have been used to keep the dragons out of the villages. Since these things have been put in place, several people have been killed by Komodo dragons since 2000 and some dragons have recently begun to enter school buildings and homes. That’s right. Imagine a giant 8-foot venomous lizard walking down your school hallway.

K. dragon

Komodo dragon. Image taken at the Los Angeles Zoo.

It may surprise you to know that King Kong was actually based on an expedition to collect Komodo dragons. The best trappers had extreme difficulty and the dragons were escaping. The movie producer Merian C. Cooper took the story and changed the giant lizard to an ape.

Komodo dragons appear in a few other movies as well. In The Freshman they used an Asian water monitor to be a “Komodo dragon.” In Komodo Dragon, the dragons are computer generated. It turns out that real Komodos don’t do well with handling.

You can also find cool Komodo dragon art, like this awesome statue that lives at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, that kids are allowed to climb on.

Dragon statue

A Komodo dragon statue in Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle. There are brightly colored tiles along its back. Children are allowed to play on it.

Alright, one last cool tidbit on this really long post. At a Singapore Zoo, they’ve used acupuncture to treat a sick dragon. It’s thought to have been successful.

Have one last photo of these beautiful animals.

Komodo Dragon

Komodo dragon, clearly contemplating the meaning of life. Image taken at the Los Angeles Zoo.


Invisibility is Not a Super Power

Mossy Leaf Tailed Gecko

Mossy Leaf tailed Gecko. Image stolen from greenwalla.

This link has some of the most amazing photos of animal camouflage I have ever seen. Also, just in case you haven’t seen this amazing video yet:

Lest you think these animal have us beat in this category, check this out. We will catch up someday…

What’s going on?

Dear Backyard Zoologist readers,

You’ve probably noticed a huge drop off in posts recently and I wanted to let you know what’s going on. In all honesty, I began this blog over a year ago because I enjoy sharing information and pictures of awesome wildlife. I still do, but at the moment I have a lot of cool but time consuming things going on and creating these posts on a regular schedule is starting to become more of a chore than something I do for fun. So, I’ve decided to only write new posts when the spirit moves me instead of on a regular schedule, to eliminate the dreaded deadline of Monday and Friday. Still, I hope you’ll check in periodically to see what’s new or better yet, sign up for e-mail notifications to let you know when I do post something new.

I still have lots to share…for example, did you know that this animal:


A giant green Anemone. Image taken at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve tidepools in California.

is used as a vertebrate heart stimulant? Or that this animal:


A 9 banded armadillo. Image taken at the San Francisco Zoo.

always gives birth to identical quadruplets? And naturally grows the bacteria responsible for leprosy on its feet? Scientists couldn’t cultivate this bacteria in a lab, so they brought in live armadillos to collect the bacteria to work with.

Or that this animal:

tree shrew

A tree shrew. Image taken at the Oregon Zoo.

Is very smart and has a larger brain size to body mass than humans do?

Or that this animal:


California kingsnake, Kali, my personal companion.

Is called a kingsnake because it eats other snakes, including rattlesnakes and is immune to rattlesnake venom?

Or that these animals:

rock doves

Rock doves, a.k.a. pigeons. Image taken in San Francisco.

are one of the few birds that feed their young a type of milk?

Or that this animal:

marine toad

A marine toad. Image taken at the San Francisco Zoo.

is one of the only toads that will sometimes eat vegetation and dead things? While other frogs and toads want to eat only moving things, this toad is even attracted by dog and cat food left in yards.

Or that this animal:


A lionfish. Image taken at the California Academy of Sciences.

is covered in highly venomous barbs and that dolphins will sometimes grab these fish by their tummies and use them as weapons to catch fish hiding in crevices?

See You Later…



An up close shot of a baby alligator. Image taken at the San Francisco Zoo.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing this blog for so long and yet I haven’t written about alligators until today. There are so many cool and amazing things about alligators, a lot of which are adaptations that are so efficient, they have been around in some form for millions of years.

Take the little dots all over their face, which you can see on Lafayette, the alligator shown above. Those little dots can feel vibrations in the water. Obviously this can help them find moving food. But it may also play a role in courtship. When alligators are courting, the males will make a low bellowing sound and blow bubbles and the vibrations these actions make in the water can be felt by other alligators. When they’re courting, they’ll also rub each others backs. Here is a great video of alligators making their bellowing sounds. I know is sounds really ferocious, but this is not the sound to worry about. When an alligator is feeling threatened (and therefore can be dangerous, although very few people are attacked and killed by alligators), they make a hissing sound. Hiss=bad.

I will reiterate, alligators are really not usually aggressive. They are territorial, so you want to leave them their space, but they don’t usually see people as food. We’re too big. It’s crocodiles you gotta watch out for. So…how do you tell the difference? Well, where are you? If you are not in the Southeastern United States or in the Yangtze River in China then you are looking at a crocodile. But if you are in the south east of the U.S., then you can encounter both. Crocodiles are generally going to be much bigger, although a small crocodile and a large alligator will be very close. Crocs will have a narrower snout and at least two of their lower teeth will be visible when their mouth is closed. Alligators have a more rounded snout and their bottom teeth don’t show when their mouth is closed.



Claude, an albino alligator. Notice his "U" shaped snout and the lack of visible bottom teeth. Image taken at the California Academy of Sciences.

Still, my advice is to not get close enough to check out their dentition.

So, humans are not really on the menu for alligators, but as opportunistic carnivores, they will eat just about any appropriate sized meat, including fish, turtles, birds and whatever else they can grab. But, if not eating them for dinner or feeling threatened by them, alligators can sometimes live closely with other animals without any danger. Claude (above) got along quite well with his snapping turtle tank mates. And this baby alligator is enjoying a turtle bed:


alligator and turtles

Alligator Lafayette using his turtle tank mates as a bed. Image taken at the San Francisco Zoo.

While we’re looking at a baby alligator, their is a lot to be said about how these little cuties come about. As reptiles go, the alligator mom is very attentive to her young. She starts by making a nest for them. She makes a nest out of decaying material and in the decaying process it gives off heat. In a sense she makes a natural incubator. Whether or not a young alligator is hatched a male or a female depends on the temperature (one of the concerns about climate change is that it will skew the ratio of males and females for animals with temperature dependent sex determination) they are incubated at. Since the ones at the center of the nest will typically be warmer than those at the outside, this usually leads to a pretty decent mix of males and females. When the young are ready to hatch, they will start making hatching calls that sound like a video game laser or a chirp. They make these sounds while they are still inside of their egg! The sound lets mom know that it’s time to unbury her nest and carry her little hatchlings to the water very gently in her mouth. She will care for her young for up to 2 years after they are hatched, which is very important since there are many predators for a young alligator, including other alligators. If a young alligator makes a distress call, the females in the area that have young will come to the aid of that youngster, whether it’s their young or not.

Lafayette and turtle

Lafayette on his turtle tank mate. Lest you think that the alligator is always on top, I have definitely observed turtles climbing over their alligator tank mates as well. Image taken at the San Francisco Zoo.

This young alligator was not even two years old when this picture was taken. For alligators, that is just a baby. They can live to be 65-80 years old in the care of a zoological facility and even in the wild they are very long lived. And they are survivors. Because they have low energy demands and relatively slow metabolisms they can even go up to 2 years without eating at all, just relying on the stores of fat in their tails. 2 years! These traits plus one other really cool adaptation also gives them the ability to hold their breath in warm water for up to 30 minutes. That other adaptation? Well it’s a little piece of their anatomy that is very special. They breathe and circulate blood pretty much just like we do. They breathe air into their lungs. Blood comes through the lungs to get oxygen and then gets pumped out to the body then back to the lungs, to the body, to the lungs and so on. But their 4 chambered heart (like ours and their relatives the birds but different from other reptiles) has a shunt in it that allows them to bypass their lungs entirely. They can keep recirculating their blood through their body and getting every last bit of oxygen out of it without it going to the lungs to refill. What a cool trick! In fact if you lower the water temperature, because they are cold blooded their metabolism drops even more. The record for an alligator staying under water, albeit in near freezing temperatures was 8 hours! 8 hours without breathing!

Their lungs are no less special than their heart shunt when it comes to assisting them in their aquatic lifestyle. Their lungs, filled with air, provide quite a lot of buoyancy. The alligators use this to their advantage. When they want to dive under the water, they can shift their lungs towards their tail. This lifts their lower regions up and dips their head downwards, giving them the first little dive they need. They can also shift their lungs from side to side, to allow them to roll. If anyone reading this was a fan of the crocodile hunter, you’ll remember him talking about the animal’s “death spiral.” That was achieved by moving their lungs around inside of their chest cavity.


albino alligator

Claude's rock is heated and he enjoys basking on it, especially after a big meal. Image taken at the California Academy of Sciences.

albino alligator and turtle

See I told ya. A turtle climbing on an alligator. Image taken at the California Academy of Sciences.

As well adapted as alligators are, there has been just one force of nature that almost proved to be too strong for them. Yup. You know it. Us. Believe it or not, there was a time when alligator skin purses, belts and boots were super fashionable-to the point where alligators were declared “endangered” even before the Endangered Species Act was passed. Fortunately, protections were put in place and alligator farms were established. These farms were allowed to operate as long as they released at least 25% of their alligators into the wild. With all of the protections in place, alligators flourished again and they are doing really well. Although, they certainly still have some human induced problems…the most interesting one being an introduction of non-native ginormous snakes, Burmese pythons, in Florida. Alligators can eat the young of these snakes but the adult snakes can take on alligators. The fascinating part about it is that alligators, when stressed, can lower their metabolism substantially and reduce their heart rate. When a snake is constricting, and the alligator drops its heart rate to just a few beats per minute, the snake assumes it’s dead and begins to swallow it. However, the alligators sometimes seem to come back from the dead and begin to fight the snakes from the inside out! There have actually been instances where the snake finished eating the alligator and it burst open from the inside! You can see a great video of a partially swallowed alligator fighting back here.


Copulating Flies. Image taken in Iquitos, Peru.

While this video has penguins mating, which is clumsy comedy, my favorite part is the little bit of penguin voyeurism. Watch the behavior of the penguins around the young couple.

Don’t have a Valentine? Don’t worry. This leopard tortoise can show you how it’s done. He just found himself a nice log…

Last, but not least, the delicate dance of mating cuttlefish:

On a side note, Backyard Zoologist is going to be updated two days a week now, on Mondays and Fridays. I will resume the three-days-per-week schedule in the fall.

desert tortoise

A desert tortoise cruising around in the Mojave Desert.

This cutey is a desert tortoise, a beloved species that is the state reptile of both California and Nevada. I ran into this individual with my herpetology class in the Mojave Desert, near the Zzyzx desert station. It was my first ever glimpse of a wild tortoise! Despite the fact that they are large and slow moving (they “run” at between .13 and .3mph), I considered myself quite lucky to get a chance to spot one. Because of the harsh desert climate that can reach up to 140° F (!!), the desert tortoise survives by digging underground burrows to escape the incredible heat. And still, from November through February, it can get really cold, so the tortoises remain dormant and protect themselves from freezing by living in burrows. These things together means that these tortoises will spend 95% of their life in a burrow. So seeing one out and about was quite a privilege, though we increased our odds by  choosing a good time of day and season.

desert tortoise

This picture shows two important features of the desert tortoise-its gular horn and its long digging nails. Image taken in the Mojave Desert.

This picture shows two important features of the desert tortoise. Notice the long nails on its feet for digging those oh so important burrows I was talking about. But they dig for another reason too.  As they live in an environment that has very little rainfall, water is incredibly scarce. These tortoises get most of their water from the vegetation they eat. But, they have an extra trick to get some extra water-they dig catchment basins in the soil. They will remember the location of the basins that they created and can even be found waiting by them when rain is near!

The second feature is its gular horn, which is the part of its shell poking out from under its head. Both sexes have a gular horn, but it’s larger on the males. Males will use these to fight other males by trying to flip their opponent onto their back. The males will fight at any time of year and usually the fight ends with one of the tortoises running away. Despite their fighting, where there are burrows that can hold several individuals, the tortoises will share. As soon as they leave the burrow, the males will begin fighting again, but protection from the extreme heat is just too important.

Aside from the extreme climate, desert tortoises have another struggle. Getting enough calcium for those shells, which make up approximately 80% of their skeleton, can be very difficult. Although they are herbivores, because of their need for calcium, they will occasionally chew on bones to help meet that need.

I mentioned earlier that these animals are beloved and I was serious. They have some pretty powerful friends. In particular, Dianne Feinstein has a fondness for the tortoise (in fact one of the desert tortoises at the San Francisco Zoo has the middle name “Dianne Feinstein” as a recognition for all of her tortoise support). Desert tortoises are listed as threatened both federally and by the state of California and they played a key roll in the passage of the California Desert Protection Act in 1994, which has just been updated this year to include more protections, again specifically because of the desert tortoise. The reasons for their declining populations are many, including the usual culprits. They live a really long time (60-80 years in the wild, longer in captivity.) and they are late to reproduce. When they are younger, for the first few years they have a soft shell and predation is a major problem; in particular an increase in the raven population due to an increase of food from people’s garbage has led to an increase in predation on tortoises. But one of the worst problems to date has been problems with pets. People collect the tortoises as pets and when they don’t want them anymore or when they outlive the original owner some folks have thought it a wonderful idea to release the former pets into the wild. This has led to the spread of a horrible respiratory disease that has been fatal to many wild tortoises. These tortoises are not good pets and because of their protected status, it is illegal to collect a desert tortoise. So remember:


desert tortoise sign

This sign is a reminder that it is illegal to even touch a wild desert tortoise. Image taken at Zzyzx research station.

If you are lucky enough to come across a wild desert tortoise, don’t touch it! It is illegal and can be fatal to the tortoise. These tortoises store extra water in their bladders, which can still be used, but if they are scared, they will sometimes release this excess water, increasing their likelihood of dehydration. With all of the natural problems they have to face, the last thing they need is avoidable human caused problems.

Green mantella

The green mantella. Image taken at the California Academy of Sciences.

Once again, this is a post that is highlighting animals that are listed as endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN red list. You can find part one of this group here. In the first part, I wrote about the purpose of these posts and I’d like to reiterate that:

“This post was not meant to be so sad, but to be a chance to learn more about animal species that aren’t doing so well and to see and appreciate them while we still can. There have been many species that were endangered, but thanks to strong conservation efforts, are surviving or even thriving again (buffalo, bald eagles, brown pelicans, American alligators, peregrine falcons, Canada geese, gray wolves, gray whales-to name a few). In fact, these species are the face of conservation and can really bring about the best in people. We just have to continue to fight.”

Now to begin with the first endangered animal, pictured above. The green mantella is a small frog found mostly in northern Madagascar. Although they are very similar to poison dart frogs, in that they have toxic skin and are brightly colored, they are not closely related. Like much of the wildlife on this island, this frog is IUCN red listed as endangered mostly due to habitat loss, but also because of international trade from before the 90s, when they became protected. Although there are many problems facing wildlife in Madagascar, amphibians in general are facing major declines across the globe, not just on this one isolated island. To find out more about how and why we can and should stop amphibian decline, please check out save the frogs. If you’ve been following this blog for a while now, you have seen this name many times already. Save the Frogs has been working to tackle the amphibian decline problem from many fronts-by education, research, legislation and market pressure. They have accomplished a lot with relatively little. Their site has tons of helpful information on what you can do to save the frogs.

Visayan warty pigs

Visayan warty pigs, a critically endangered species. Image taken at the Oregon Zoo.

These sweet pigs are found only on a few islands in the Philippines. They are listed as critically endangered because their numbers are dropping rapidly due to habitat loss, hunting and interbreeding with domestic pigs. The few zoos that are housing these pigs are participating in an emergency breeding program to save these pigs from extinction. The Oregon Zoo’s website has some wonderful pictures of these pigs, including a male that has its breeding mane, which is a giant spiky poof of hair and quite an amusing sight, and it has a video of 3 unbearably adorable piglets born at the zoo as well as more information on the tragically named warty pigs.


A coelacanth specimen. Image taken at the California Academy of Sciences.

The coelacanth is an interesting fish. It’s thought to have existed over 400 million years ago and was believed to have gone extinct 70 million years ago, since all we’d ever found was fossils. But, in 1938, a fisherman hooked one. Now more have been discovered. We still have a lot to learn about this critically endangered fish and scientists are eager to find out the secrets to its survival.

Sea otter

This sea otter is one of many from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's sea otter research and conservation program.

Sea otters have been facing all sorts of problems, both natural and human caused. Natural problems include predation and disease (although human pollution may also be partly responsible if it hinders their immune systems.) Of the current human caused problems, the worst is oil spills, which is particularly bad for them because unlike most marine mammals, otters don’t have a thick layer of blubber for insulation, but incredibly dense fur, which doesn’t work when it’s covered in oil. Being captured in nets and being hit by boats also pose problems. Still, there have been many protection efforts in place, including international agreements. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s sea otter and conservation program is just one example of these efforts. They raise and release stranded pups, treat and release injured otters, take care of otters that can’t return to the wild and conduct scientific research. (You can support this program here.) Otters are major predators of marine invertebrates and one of the problems we’ve seen because of their decline is an increase in sea urchins. Since sea urchins eat the holdfasts of kelp (the part that keeps them anchored down), they are tearing through kelp forests, which is also a hiding place and food source for a lot of other wildlife.

radiated tortoise

A young boy watches a critically endangered radiated tortoise. Image taken at the California Academy of Sciences.

Radiated tortoises are critically endangered tortoises from Madagascar. This picture, with the little boy watching the tortoise moving about its exhibit, stood out to me when I read about the projections for this species. Without additional protection, these tortoises will become extinct in the little boy’s lifetime. In fact, at the current rate of decline, they’ll probably be extinct by the time he has grandchildren. Destruction of habitat is one of the problems facing this tortoise. So is collection, both for the pet trade and for their livers (why livers? I don’t know). But one of the biggest problems is from local people using the tortoises, mostly for food. This hasn’t been a problem in the past, because the Mahafaly and the Antandroy have a taboo against touching or eating the tortoises and their land covers the range of the radiated tortoises. But more people have moved to this region that will eat the tortoises, as well as Malagasy people who are just passing through. As far as future protection goes, Madagascar has been expanding its protected areas. Providing education and alternatives for local people is considered essential and so is careful monitoring of markets, traders, restaurants and the international pet trade. Perhaps with a lot of work, we can stop this species from going extinct.

Ball python

Ball python, Cuddles, sticks his tongue out to investigate. Image taken at the San Francisco Zoo.

Cuddles definitely deserved his name. He is a very sweet Ball python.


AAhh! I can never quite reach it! A goat at the West Coast Game Park Safari in Bandon, Oregon.


elephant seal

An elephant seal at Ano Nuevo in California. Ano Nuevo is a protected breeding site for these marine mammals and one of my favorite places to explore nature.

monkey and anteater

The yummy rice milk was meant for Rosie, the anteater. But this mischievous monkey wouldn't let her have it all to herself. Image taken at Pilpintuwasi, in the Amazon rain forest near Iquitos, Peru.

Pilpintuwasi is a fantastic refuge for orphaned and abandoned wildlife. The monkeys are free to come and go, but they usually will stay and hang out here. They are very used to humans. Here’s a link to find out more about Pilpintuwasi.


The curly mouthparts on the butterfly's face is called a proboscis. It unrolls and sucks up food like drinking through a straw. Image taken at Pilpintuwasi, in the Amazon rain forest near Iquitos, Peru.

New Discovery: Your Dinner

New lizard

Lizard dinner. Image by Dr. Lee Grismer.

New to science, this lizard managed to escape “discovery,” despite being on the menu in diners in southern Vietnam. They found that this is another reptile that produces asexually-the females (and only females) all clone themselves. Read about the discovery here.

boa constrictor

The female boa constrictor that has found away to reproduce without mating. Image by Warren Booth.

A female boa constrictor is found to have reproduced without the help of her male counterparts. Despite my catchy title, they are really only half clones-they got two copies of half of her chromosomes, which in my estimation is even more striking than a straight clone. Also, interestingly enough, she wouldn’t do this when there where no males present. Only in the presense of 4 males, none of whom could possibly be the “father,” would she reproduce-without their help. Asexual reproduction is incredibly rare in vertebrates-as far as we know. For a more detailed explation, check out BBC news.