Monthly Archives: October 2016

Pythons caught fighting while hanging from roof in Queensland Australia

The strength of two male carpet pythons was on display as they hung from the roof of a south-east Queensland home last week, battling it out for the affections of a nearby female.

Footage of the males intertwined was sent through to Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers 24/7, who posted it to their Facebook page on Sunday night.

two carpet pythons fighting & hanging from roof image www.pythonjungle.com

The two carpet pythons were found hanging from a Queensland roof. Photo: Becky Beale/Facebook

Snake catcher Max Jackson said it was an amazing display of strength that indicated the start of breeding season.

“Most snakes, particularly pythons, begin to move around a bit more to search for females at the start of breeding season,” he said.

two pythons were wrapped around themselves while hanging from their tails image www.pythonjungle.com

The two pythons were wrapped around themselves while hanging from their tails. Photo: Becky Beale/Facebook

“When two males cross paths during this time, it is common for them to have combat, it is pretty gentle, just wrestling, it is a simple matter of overpowering the other one.

“This is a particularly impressive one, they are using so much stretch using their tails to hang there.

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“There is a chance there might be a female in that roof, they must be able to smell a female around there somewhere.”

Mr Jackson said it was easy to tell the pythons, who he estimated weighed about 15 kilograms each, were males fighting because of how much they were moving around.

“You can tell they are two males – when they mate they don’t twist away like they are,” he said.

“When two snakes mate, they can crawl up each other,

“They can stay still for up to two days, it is a pretty minimal movement for that period of time.

“There is lots of effort going into this, they generally only last about 10 minutes and mating is quite a lot longer than that.”

Mr Jackson said he had never seen footage like it before.

“Generally they fight on the ground, but I guess maybe they started on the roof and started falling off,” he said.

“Breeding season has definitely begun now, so this male-to-male combat may be a common sight throughout the coast over the next couple of months.”

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Henry Sapiecha

The colourful killer of snakes snake with the scorpion sting could take your pain away

This snake is a freak. It boasts the largest venom glands in the world. It eats king cobras for breakfast. And it has a scorpion’s sting. But that’s not what has scientists excited.

“We have found the wildest snake toxin ever, from the venom of the most outrageous snakes,” Bryan Fry said. “It does something no other snake has ever done.”

blue-coral-snake image www.pythonjungle.com

The super-powerful venom of the long-glanded blue coral snake could inspire new pain treatments for humans. Photo: Tom Charlton

The Queensland University venomologist is talking about the aptly named long-glanded blue coral snake of south-east Asia – and its unusual venom which takes hold with lightning efficiency.

A reptile with electric blue stripes and neon-red head and tail, it grows up to two metres long. Its venom glands extend to a good 60 centimetres – about one-quarter of its body length.

“On the scale of weird, this one goes to 11,” Dr Fry said. “It’s a freaky snake.”

Described as “the killer of killers” due to its taste for young king cobras, this snake is unique among snakes because, like scorpions, its venom causes its prey to spasm.

young king cobra snake is no match for the long-glanded blue coral snake image www.pythonjungle.com

A young king cobra is no match for the long-glanded blue coral snake.

ooovenom glands of the long-glanded blue coral snake are up to 60 centimetres long image www.pythonjungle.com

The venom glands of the long-glanded blue coral snake are up to 60 centimetres long. Photo: Bryan Fry

Exactly how it does this has been discovered for the first time. The results, published in the journal Toxins, could lead to improved pain management for humans.

“This venom hits a particular type of sodium channel that is important for the treatment of pain in humans,” Dr Fry said.

Dr Bryan Fry holds a king cobra image www.pythonjungle.com

Dr Bryan Fry holds a king cobra. Young king cobras are often prey to the blue coral snake

With colleagues from Australia, China, Singapore and the US, Dr Fry identified six unusual peptides in the venom of the blue coral snake that can switch on all of its prey’s nerves at once. This immediately immobilises its victim.

So what does a paralysis-inducing venom have to do with improving the treatment and management of pain in humans?

Dr Fry said the research showed that the venom used receptors which were critical to pain in humans. Learning about how these worked could enable improved pain treatment and management.

“It’s also the first vertebrate to do this via sodium channels,” Dr Fry said. “So from a drug development perspective, this is interesting as this animal is evolutionarily-speaking closer to us than a scorpion. Which means it might be more amenable to us.”

While the length of the long-glanded blue coral snake’s venom glands was known, the way the venom worked hadn’t been studied. And given there are related species, there could be as many as 200 variations of the peptides in total.

“It’s a great example of why studying the really weird animals is a great path for biodiscovery and you can’t get any weirder than this snake with the longest venom glands in the world,” Dr Fry said.

“You can’t predict where the next wonder drug came from so you need to protect what you have.”

www.newcures.info

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Henry Sapiecha

Python Snake makes a meal out of a small kangaroo

python-eats-kangaroo image www.pythonjungle.com

A PYTHON won’t need a feed for a while after eating a kangaroo north of Bundaberg Queensland Australia this week.

Deepwater woman Sherril-lea Wallace said she knew something was amiss when her dog started going off and her horses were staring in the direction of the commotion about 10am on Wednesday.

“Hubby and I went to investigate and found a mother roo giving her distress call and calling for her baby,” she said.

Disturbed by the couple, the mother roo fled, which is when they saw the snake wrapped around the joey, already dead.

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Henry Sapiecha

 

After Spider Sex, Female Eats Mate To Ensure Bigger Spider Babies

Male dark fishing spiders pass on nutrients to their offspring after being cannibalized by the mating female

fishing-spider-death-by-sex image www.pythonjungle.com

For the males of many spider species, sex equals death. The dark fishing spider is one of many arachnid species where the female cannibalizes the male after sex, and new research suggests these male spiders have evolved ways to turn their post-coital demise into a good thing for their kids.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Gonzaga University found that the offspring of dark fishing spiders that cannibalized their mates were about 20 percent bigger and 50 percent longer-lived than the children of females that didn’t get to dine on their partners. Cannibalizing females also produced almost double the children as those who missed out on the opportunity to eat their mate.

The researchers don’t yet know what conferred these benefits to the offspring, but it appears to be more than the females getting a hearty meal after sex. When females were given a cricket to eat after sex, their offspring didn’t see the same benefits as those whose mother had eaten their father. It’s possible males carry some kind of nutrient or nutrients that they pass onto their children when consumed, but further study is needed to know for sure.

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What does appear clear is that males looking to reproduce will initiate behaviors that will kill them, even if the female doesn’t end up devouring them. Let’s go back to the mechanics of spider sex. “They insert one of their two reproductive organs, it expands, and it kind of locks into the female,” Gonzaga researcher Steven Schwartz explained to Vocativ. The expansion of that organ, the pedipalp, can have lethal consequences for the male.

“You’ve got to put everything into it,” he said. “And everything into it involves expanding that pedipalp to its maximum, which then has a drastic effect on the rest of the body, i.e. the male curls up its legs and dies. The male that put everything into it were the ones that won. They fertilized the most eggs, and of course that would be passed on, that effort.” That kind of reproductive self-destruction ensures the most offspring in the long run, which also means the best chance of their genetics spreading throughout the population. Survival of the fittest genes can also mean the death of the males who carry them.

But still, why wouldn’t male spiders have adapted to father offspring with multiple females, as is the case with so many other species? “If a male didn’t die in the process of mating, he would potentially go on to reproduce with additional females, which would benefit him, but they don’t,” Schwartz said. “So when you have the development of these weird behaviors, the question comes up, ‘Okay, how is that maintained in the population? How is that better than an alternative mating strategy?’”

The answer likely lies in what’s known as first-male sperm precedence, where the first male to mate with a female fertilizes the majority of her eggs. This biological reality creates a strong incentive for males to mate exclusively with females who have not yet had sex with other spiders in order to pass on their genetic material, and it also means there’s less good reason to live on and seek out other potential mates. This also means males have good reason to pursue larger mates – females can be nearly twice as big as males – as larger females can produce a greater number of offspring. But that also means the males are at even greater risk of being consumed by their large, hungry mates.

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There’s no single explanation for why sexual cannibalism is so widespread among spiders, so there’s also no single reason behind how male spiders appear to have adapted ways to make the most of their fates. In at least some species, escaping a female’s clutches before being devoured also means passing along less reproductive material. For many male spiders, ensuring lots of children means having sex long enough to be devoured.

“Like I tell my students, all life needs to do two things, survive and reproduce,” Schwartz said. He recalled a recent conversation where someone pointed out these male spiders weren’t surviving. “No, they survive, they survive and reproduce, and if the act of reproduction causes their death, it doesn’t matter. They reproduced. They did those two things, survived and reproduced. In terms of reproducing, those genes, that individual genetic information is passed onto the female in the form of sperm and lives on in the next generation in their offspring.” It might well be more accurate to say life needs to survive until it reproduces. Anything after that is irrelevant.

After all, a male that has lots of big, healthy, long-lived offspring is going to pass on far more genes than one that survives but only produces relatively few offspring with multiple females. That the first male in that example dies right after sex is irrelevant, because evolution doesn’t care about the survival of an individual. It just “cares” about which genes get passed on from generation to generation, as that determines which adaptations endure in the species.

Evolution can be scary it seems.

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Henry Sapiecha