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Herps In The News Local or national articles where reptiles or amphibians have made it into the news media. Please cite sources.

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Old 03-01-2021, 08:13 AM   #11
Socratic Monologue
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Originally Posted by WebSlave View Post
Some of you might even remember when the amelanistic line of the milk snakes hit the market. At first they were called "Amelanistic Central American Milk Snakes (Lampropeltis t. polyzona), which nearly overnight suddenly started being called "Amelanistic Honduran Milk Snakes (Lampropeltis t. hondurensis). Which, in my opinion, was nothing more than a marketing strategy. Hondurensis was an easier sell than polyzona, I guess.
That is certainly plausible. Now those snakes are two distinct species -- L. t. polyzona is now Lampropeltis polyzona, and L. t. hondurensis is now Lampropeltis abnorma -- making the mess that much worse.

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Originally Posted by WebSlave View Post

Actually, truth be known, I am not a big supporter of the concept of "localities" anyway when it comes to identifying anything living that can freely move in and out of any area that doesn't have physical barriers around it.
That's a good point. The locality data is just another piece of information, and isn't necessarily definitive as to ID, but it can be interesting and useful information. Some locales (or groups of locales, anyway) are at least morphologically distinct, as in rosy boas -- the mid baja locales are quite distinct from the California coastal locales, in spite of those two groups being the same species. In some species of dart frogs, the animals from each (arbitrarily decided, like Helen mentioned) locale visually blend into those of the adjacent locales in more-or-less known ways, and so can be taken as basic (if not conclusive) evidence of which frogs are moving where.
 
Old 03-01-2021, 03:01 PM   #12
WebSlave
The problem with "locality" concerning identifying an animal is that it is an arbitrary designation. Any line denoting a locale, except in the case of an island population or other actual physical barrier would have to be arbitrary.

Take the designation "Okeetee Corn Snake", for example. Okeetee plantation has a legal property boundary but no physical barrier blocking the movement of animals into nor out of that area. So if you catch a corn snake 10 foot on the outside of that boundary, what is it? If it is heading towards that boundary line, should you wait for it to cross that 10 ft. to become an "Okeetee Corn Snake"? Prior to crossing the boundary, is it just a Normal Corn Snake? If it is coming FROM that boundary, do you just chalk it up to bad luck on your part for not getting there earlier so you could have captured it while it was still an "Okeetee Corn Snake"? Or do you just say "close enough" and call it a day, bagging up that "Okeetee Corn Snake" you just caught, in your mind justifying extending the boundary that necessary, but arbitrary, 10 feet?

Yeah, I know the argument against locality can seem arbitrary and capricious, but not any more or less so than the argument FOR locality determinations. IMHO, anyway.
 
Old 03-01-2021, 03:18 PM   #13
WebSlave
Quote:
Originally Posted by Socratic Monologue View Post
That is certainly plausible. Now those snakes are two distinct species -- L. t. polyzona is now Lampropeltis polyzona, and L. t. hondurensis is now Lampropeltis abnorma -- making the mess that much worse.
Yeah, I'll say!

Has the definition for "species" changed too?

Used to be that the definition implied that only members of the same species could interbreed with each other. But heck, breeding snakes threw that definition right out the window when people successfully bred specimens from completely different genera together.

I presumed that all of the neotropical milksnakes were classified as a species family because they were so similar looking, and honestly even an "expert" would have trouble determining one from the other. Heck, just reference the book "Systematics and Natural History of the American Milk Snake, Lampropeltis triangulum" by Kenneth L. Williams to see what I mean. I basically devoured that book many moons ago and confused more than it enlightened. That and they would easily breed together and produce viable offspring. Of course, when you started comparing the huge Andesian Milksnake to a Coastal Plain Milk Snake, having them all in the Lampropeltis triangulum family did seem to be rather ridiculous. But honestly, I have often found the minds of "taxonomy nerds" to be sometimes hard to follow. Seems to me that many of them firmly believe(d) that muddying up the waters by making changes in the latin names of animals give them a notable reputation for attention to inconsequential details. Used to be that the REASON for the latin names was because of the claim that common names were too confusing, as a particular species could have numerous common names applied to it. Well, excuse me, but the latin names are any better?
 
Old 03-01-2021, 05:25 PM   #14
Socratic Monologue
Quote:
Originally Posted by WebSlave View Post
Has the definition for "species" changed too?

Used to be that the definition implied that only members of the same species could interbreed with each other. But heck, breeding snakes threw that definition right out the window when people successfully bred specimens from completely different genera together.
The short answer is 'yes'.

There are quite a few definitions of 'species'. Linnaeus determined species by morphotype -- basically, animals that look the same (this is kind of what hobbyists like to do, too). An 'evolutionary species' is one that maintains a line because it can't or doesn't mix with other species. A 'genetic species' (what you're referring to, I think) is a line of animals that cannot breed with another because of genetic incompatibility.

'Cladistic species' -- an idea that is driving most current taxonomic updates -- determines a species to be an animal group that has branched off genetically from a (genetically) nearby species.

Cladistics is the idea that living things should be taxonomically ordered based on shared ancestry (rather than what they look like or who they breed with) -- a 'clade' is a group of animals with a shared ancestor. It is overturning a lot of commonly held ideas, such as the idea that reptiles and birds are distinct groups -- on a cladistic analysis, birds and reptiles are both in the clade Reptilia, because there isn't a point in evolutionary history where birds and all the things we commonly call reptiles (that is, snakes, lizards, crocs, turtles and tuatara) split into two groups. Birds are actually more closely related to turtles and crocs than any of those three are to snakes, lizards and tuatara.

Neither is there any cladistic classification that matches up with 'herps' (reptiles+amphibians), since reptiles share a more recent common ancestor with mammals than they do with amphibians.

Any real biologists can feel free to correct me on the details. I had the basic outline of this in my head, but I had to look up some things I wasn't sure I was describing accurately.
 

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