A quintessentially Australian photo which could only have come from WA’s Kimberley has gone viral, as social media across the world marvelled at a python playing pick-up to a bunch of amorous cane toads.
Helicopter pilot Paul Mock snapped the photo of the olive python — named Monty, of course — onboard was a contingent of cane toads on its back in the wake of an inundation of 68mm rain at his Kununurra WA property on Monday.
Mr Mock doesn’t have social media but decided to send the picture on to his brother Andrew, who quickly uploaded it to Twitter where it caused a storm.
SCIENTISTS searching for sea snakes never expected to stumble across this find.
In a chance discovery, a team of biologists were returning from a sea snake research mission when they found a new venomous snake species for Australia.
The team, led The University of Queensland’s Associate Professor Bryan Fry, uncovered a new species of bandy-bandy snake at Weipa on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula in the far north of the country.
Prof Fry said bandy-bandies were burrowing snakes so they were surprised they when found it on a concrete block near the sea edge, after coming in from a night of sea snake spotting.
“We later determined that the snake had slithered over from a pile of bauxite rubble waiting to be loaded onto a ship,” he said.
“On examination by my student Chantelle Derez, the bandy-bandy turned out to be a new species, visually and genetically distinct from those found on the Australian East coast and parts of the interior.”
The team found another specimen in its natural habitat near Weipa, and yet another killed by a car close to the mine.
Two more of the snakes were found in museum collections and a photo was found of another, contributing to a total of six observations in the same small region.
But Prof Fry said he feared the new species could already be in trouble and in danger of extinction due to mining.
“Bauxite mining is a major economic activity in the area, and it may be reshaping the environment to the detriment of our native plants and animals,” he said.
“The importance of such discoveries goes beyond simply documenting what is out there, as venoms are rich sources of compounds that can be used to develop new medications.
“Every species is precious and we need to protect them all, since we can’t predict where the next wonder-drug will originate from.
“The discovery of this enigmatic little snake is symptomatic of the much more fundamental problem of how little we know about our biodiversity and how much may be lost forever before we even discover it.”
Associate Professor Bryan Fry looking for snakes near Weipa, Queensland.
Police say an alligator dragged a small boy into a lagoon at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, defeating the father’s efforts to save the child.
The parents of a two-year-old boy tried desperately to pull their son from the jaws of an alligator that dragged him into a lagoon at a Disney hotel in Orlando, Florida.
The boy, whose name was not released by authorities, was attacked by the reptile at the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Lake Buena Vista near Orlando, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.
There are no-swimming signs at the lagoon but the alligator grabbed the boy as he played at the edge of the water on Tuesday evening while his family, on holiday from Nebraska, relaxed on the shore nearby, sheriff’s spokesman Jeff Williamson said at a news conference.
Child taken: An alligator seen here in a file picture. Photo: Wolter Peeters
The boy’s father rushed into the water after the alligator struck and struggled to release his child from the alligator’s grip, Mr Williamson said.
“The father did his best,” Mr Williamson said. “He tried to rescue the child, however, to no avail.”
The father suffered minor cuts on his arm in the struggle, Williamson said.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Google Earth
A lifeguard on duty also was unable to reach the boy in time, he said.
“He was too far away, apparently, and the gator swam away with the child,” Williamson said.
Walt Disney World has closed its beaches as law enforcement officials hunt for signs of the boy Wildlife officials captured and euthanised four alligators from the lagoon to examine them for traces of the child after the Tuesday night attack but found no evidence they were involved, said Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, on Wednesday.
More than 60 sheriff’s deputies and wildlife officials were expected to search for the boy on Wednesday, using sonar technology, helicopters and divers.
Disney has closed its beaches “out of an abundance of caution,” CNN reported, citing a Disney spokesperson.
Sheriff Jerry Demings told reporters the alligator was thought to be between 1.2 and 2 metres long.
Alligators are not uncommon in the Seven Seas Lagoon, a man-made lake reaching 4.2 metres in depth, Wiley told reporters.
Williamson said he hoped daylight would help searchers, who were hindered by dark and murky waters during their overnight rescue attempts.
“We’re going to keep searching until we find something,” Williamson said.
A spokeswoman for Walt Disney World Resort said everyone there was devastated by the tragic accident. “Our thoughts are with the family and we are helping the family,” she said.
Intact Body of 2-Year-Old Boy Recovered After Alligator Attack at Disney Resort
Published on Jun 15, 2016
The body of the 2-year-old boy snatched by an alligator at a Disney resort in Orlando has been recovered. The body of Lane Graves, who was visiting the resort with his family from Nebraska, was “completely intact” when it was found by a dive team Wednesday afternoon, Orange County Sheriff’s Jerry Demings said. Police and a Catholic priest delivered the heart-breaking news to the boy’s parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, who were visiting the resort with Lane and their 4-year-old daughter.
In the opening sequence, an aerial camera zooms in on a solitary Komodo dragon from afar. This, states Attenborough, is the last place on Earth still ruled by reptiles. Though they may seem primitive, reptiles and amphibians still thrive thanks to diverse survival strategies. In Venezuela, a pebble toad evades a tarantula by free-falling down a steep rock face. The basilisk, nicknamed the Jesus Christ lizard, can literally run on water and the Brazilian pygmy gecko is so light it does not break the surface. Reptiles are cold-blooded, and some have developed unusual strategies to absorb heat. Namaqua chameleons darken the skin of the side of their body facing the sun. A male red-sided garter snake masquerades as a female using fake pheromones, attracting rival males which help raise its body temperature and thus its chance of breeding. Malagasy collared lizards conceal their eggs by burying them, but egg-eating hognose snakes stake out their favourite laying sites. Niue Island sea kraits lay theirs in a chamber only accessible via an underwater tunnel. Other reptiles guard their eggs. Horned lizards drive off predators, but larger adversaries such as coachwhip snakes prompt a different reaction – the lizard plays dead. Komodo dragons prey on water buffalo in the dry season. They stalk a buffalo for three weeks as it slowly succumbs to a toxic bite, then strip the carcass in four hours. In Life on Location, the Komodo film crew tell of the harrowing experience of filming the dragon hunt.
The first known venomous frogs, discovered in Brazil, raise some basic questions about
Amid an arid forest of cacti, Corythomantis greeningi frogs look pretty harmless. In contrast to the bright cautionary colors of poison dart frogs, these tree frogs sport drab brown and green hues. So when Carlos Jared of Brazil’s Butantan Institute ventured out to collect and study them, he didn’t think they posed much of a threat—until he felt pain in his palm.
Compared to the Brazilian pit viper, C. greeningi is two times as lethal
The two hylid frog species make their homes in desert forests called Caatingi in Brazil
“It took me a long time to realize that the pain had a relationship with the intense and careless collection of these animals hitting the palm of my hands,” recalls Jared. The biologist fell prey to a totally unique defense mechanism: The helmet-headed frogs use spikes along their lips to inject potent chemicals, giving aggressors a mix between a head butt and a toxic smooch. After careful study, Jared and his team found that C. greeningi and a related species of hylid frog, Aparasphenodon brunoi, are the only venomous frogs known to science.
A closeup of a C. greeningi frog’s skin reveals the spikes that line its lips and the front of its head. (Carlos Jared)
“This is very, very cool. Unprecedented would actually be an understatement,” says Bryan Fry, a molecular biologist at the University of Queensland who was not affiliated with the study. But if we already knew frogs could be poisonous, why is this discovery such a big deal? The answer lies in the often-misunderstood difference between poison and venom.
For years, scientists though that the Komodo dragon killed using bacteria that grow in its mouth. In reality, the lizards make their own venom in tiny mouth glands that no one had noticed before.
Some people use the words interchangeably because once in the body, the chemicals do
similar damage, attacking the heart, brain or other vital targets. But the terms do mean very
different things. Traditionally, venomous creatures bite, sting or stab you to do their damage
, while you have bite or touch poisonous critters to feel their effects. That means venomous
organisms need a way in, like fangs or teeth.
All octopuses are venomous, along with some squid, plenty of snakes, spiders, and scorpions,
The Iberian ribbed newt widens its ribs to push out spikes Wolverine-style and nick predators with the venomous tips. Though the newts’ toxins are less well studied, researchers think the animals may employ a similar venomous strategy to that of the hylid frogs.
Poisonous organisms take a more passive approach, often lining the skin or other surfaces with toxic chemicals. Poisons can either be brewed from scratch inside the animal or acquired through diet.
Cane toads naturally secrete poison they make in glands behind their ears.
Meanwhile, poison dart frogs generate a highly poisonous alkaloid skin coating they derive from munching on ants. Mama frogs pass the chemical on to tadpoles via egg sacs, so if you take a young poison dart frog out of its natural habitat, it will actually lose toxicity.
Having to digest unsavory foods to survive may be what drove some organisms to evolve poisons, which are primarily used to defend against predators. “If this provided some protection against predation, you can see how this could favor the evolution of systems to actually concentrate the toxins in the skin rather than dispose of them,” explains Kyle Summers, an evolutionary biologist at East Carolina University.
Venoms have popped up on roughly 30 separate occasions across the tree of life, estimates Fry. Most derive from perfectly normal enzymes. For example, spider venom originated from a harmless hormone—the spider version of insulin. One way that can happen is when the gene for a common protein in one organ gets duplicated. The copy mutates and eventually shows up somewhere it’s not supposed to be—like the salivary glands in snakes. When the creature then bites prey or defends itself against a predator, the tweaked protein might be slightly toxic to their opponent. Over time, evolution favors the venomous members of the species and the enzyme evolves in potency.
In the case of the venomous frogs, both species were discovered in the 1800s, but they had hopped under the radar until now because no one had previously taken an in-depth look at their biology.
“Even the most recent book on Brazilian frogs lists them as nontoxic,” says study co-author Edmund Brodie, a biologist at Utah State University. So after Jared’s incident in the field, he wanted to figure out what kind of toxic wizardry might be at play. The researchers carefully collected wild C. greeningi and A. brunoi for lab tests. They found that both frogs secrete a sticky white concoction of compounds that contains some of the same characteristics as venom.
The team then saw that glands supply the toxin to spikes in the frogs’ skin. When the frogs flex their helmet heads up and down or side-to-side, the spikes jab the skin of unsuspecting predators (or scientists) like biological syringes, injecting small doses of the toxin into the bloodstream, Jared and his colleagues report today in Current Biology. Modern hylid frogs have no known predators. However, somewhere down the line it must have given them an advantage over something trying to eat them.
Alternatively, like the male platypus, the frogs could be using their venom to take out mating competition.
By contrast, venoms evolved for defense, offense—or both. Some organisms even use venom in mating. The male platypus shoots his toxin out of tiny, prickly foot barbs to paralyze rival suitors.
Don’t let the adorable duck bill fool you. Platypus venom, manufactured in the egg-laying mammal’s cural glands, briefly paralyzes mating rivals, allowing the victor to swoop in on a female.
Because the toxins get delivered in different ways, venoms tend to be larger compounds that must be injected to break through skin, while poisons are usually smaller chemicals that can be absorbed. So is one type of toxin fundamentally more potent than the other?
Golden poison arrow frogs can kill a human with as little as two micrograms of their alkaloid skin goo.
A. brunoi is 25 times as lethal. Roughly one gram of A. brunoi’s venom could kill 300,000 mice or 80 humans. That said, the hylid frogs probably produce and deliver their venom in much smaller doses.
A. brunoi frogs have similar head structures to those of C. greeningi, so researchers think they might serve similar purposes. (Carlos Jared)
“The toxicity of both poisons and venoms varies dramatically across species in nature,” says Summers, so it’s impossible to say that one type of chemical weapon is fundamentally more dangerous. The main takeaway is that both venom and poison can kill you in truly horrifying and painful ways. Field biologists, beware.