Central American Milksnake Found in Florida - FaunaClassifieds
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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 02-28-2021, 01:53 AM   #1
Arachno
Central American Milksnake Found in Florida

Quote:
Visitors hiking the Mahogany Hammock Trail in Everglades National Park earlier this month spotted an unfamiliar snake. It turned out to be a brand new invasive species.

The hikers alerted park staff of the sighting. Park staff and biologists from the United States Geological Survey’s Fort Collins Science Center captured the snake, which was identified as a non-native Central American milk snake. It appears to be a solo snake, good news for a park and Everglades ecosystem overrun by exotic invasive reptiles.

“This individual is thought to be a released pet because of its docile behavior and unusual coloration,” USGS said in a statement, adding this species has never been documented in the Everglades before. The only other documented sighting in the wild in the United States was in California.

The milk snake, in its native habitat, has similar bands of red, yellow and black as native coral snakes, which are highly venomous, but in a different pattern. USGS photos of the one caught in the Glades show duller colors.

The discovery came just weeks before Florida wildlife managers on Thursday approved new rules that ban the breeding and sale of tegu, green iguana and a list of other exotic snakes and lizards because reptiles that have escaped or been released have become a massive problem for the state — especially native wildlife.

Early detection can help scientists and government agencies prevent the establishment of populations, such as the case of Burmese pythons. The public can help scientists and wildlife managers track invasive species by taking photos and reporting any sightings of unusual animals to local authorities or to the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System or by reporting sightings using the IveGot1 app.
https://news.yahoo.com/exotic-invasi...200400827.html
 
Old 02-28-2021, 08:32 AM   #2
Socratic Monologue
Here's the photo in the article (other outlets note that USGS took the pic).

That looks like a hybrid, IMO. I don't know abnorma well (and given how uncommon they are in captivity, it would be odd that that would be the first feral milksnake found in FL), but that brown banding is unusual.

Pretty lame (and just ignorant) that the article calls the snake "invasive". One loose pet is 'feral', a bunch are 'introduced' or 'non-native', and only after the species has become detrimental to the local flora and fauna is it 'invasive'.

Also lame is the assumption that it was "released" rather than "escaped".

The article is all over the web now, but when a person can track down the original release it is cathartic to unload on the original author.
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Old 02-28-2021, 01:47 PM   #3
marker1
Yeah they tried to say Brown cat snakes were "released" at first as well I was in this game before they were ever prohibited Brown cat snakes were never released pets. The only people who BARELY brought brown cat snakes back almost 20 years ago were the few boiga enthusiast that there were absolutely no first time or irresponsible reptile keeper. They were a ugly brown snake that would also bite the shit out of you that would sit in a corner of a reptile shop for ages. Nobody was buying them on a whim then letting them go.......You couldn't get anyone to buy them lol. Customs werent sweeping plant imports well enough (wonder why) and they were being introduced through that then keepers got the blame at first by fwc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Socratic Monologue View Post
Here's the photo in the article (other outlets note that USGS took the pic).

That looks like a hybrid, IMO. I don't know abnorma well (and given how uncommon they are in captivity, it would be odd that that would be the first feral milksnake found in FL), but that brown banding is unusual.

Pretty lame (and just ignorant) that the article calls the snake "invasive". One loose pet is 'feral', a bunch are 'introduced' or 'non-native', and only after the species has become detrimental to the local flora and fauna is it 'invasive'.

Also lame is the assumption that it was "released" rather than "escaped".

The article is all over the web now, but when a person can track down the original release it is cathartic to unload on the original author.
 
Old 02-28-2021, 07:14 PM   #4
WebSlave
Quote:
Originally Posted by Socratic Monologue View Post
Here's the photo in the article (other outlets note that USGS took the pic).

That looks like a hybrid, IMO. I don't know abnorma well (and given how uncommon they are in captivity, it would be odd that that would be the first feral milksnake found in FL), but that brown banding is unusual.

Pretty lame (and just ignorant) that the article calls the snake "invasive". One loose pet is 'feral', a bunch are 'introduced' or 'non-native', and only after the species has become detrimental to the local flora and fauna is it 'invasive'.

Also lame is the assumption that it was "released" rather than "escaped".

The article is all over the web now, but when a person can track down the original release it is cathartic to unload on the original author.
With that unusual coloration, I would think that milk snake enthusiasts would be all over it trying to get it for their breeding trials. Which pretty much would rule out an intentional release. And what are the odds that an unusual color variant like that would have made it's way to the Everglades, much less be a beach head soldier for an invasion?

For that matter if it was an escapee, I would think someone would recognize that snake as coming from whoever might be working with that line. Honestly, I have never seen a central american milk snake with that coloration. I have seen a fair share of eastern milks being brown, but have never seen any such coloration in any members of the neotropical lines that I can recall. Closest I can think of would be a variation of an anerythristic Honduran or derivative.

At least not in my limited experience with milksnakes, anyway. I have had a few species over the years and studied the variants a bit, but that is about it.
 
Old 02-28-2021, 07:44 PM   #5
Socratic Monologue
I forgot that L.t. hondurensis is now in L. abnorma. This makes more sense to me now.

Here is a pic of an anery honduran that has that same brown tone.

I had never seen an anery that looks quite like that. Still could be a hybrid.
 
Old 03-01-2021, 12:59 AM   #6
WebSlave
Quote:
Originally Posted by Socratic Monologue View Post
I forgot that L.t. hondurensis is now in L. abnorma. This makes more sense to me now.

Here is a pic of an anery honduran that has that same brown tone.

I had never seen an anery that looks quite like that. Still could be a hybrid.
Possibly interesting story about the various neotropical triangulums. Way back when, I got VERY interested in them, and tracked down every publication I could find about them. This was in the pre-internet days, of course. The more I read about the methods used to identify the subspecific strains being labelled, the more outlandish the arbitrary divisions seemed to me. So I started calling people who worked with them and asked questions about how someone would KNOW what it is they have in their hands with no other information available. The most common response was that locality was the only reliable key. Collect them yourself, or obtain specimens from trusted collectors in the localities where something you are interested comes from, or else it is just an unknown identification.

Yeah, that sounds like pretty good advice, doesn't it? Except I had importers tell me (not mentioning any names) that all of the triangulums coming from Central America would come from central shipping points, that might change several times even in a year, based on which country at the time had the easiest exporting laws and fees to have to negotiate with. So EVERY snake collected for export, including the triangulums, were collected all over from Mexico down to northern South America and transported to the exporting country of the moment all bundled together with everything else collected everywhere else with NO locality data at all noted nor preserved for individual specimens. Once the shipments landed on US soil and the importers picked through them, THEY would decide what to label and sell as each specimen based on nothing more than what it might look like to them. So it was all just a grab bag. And the animals sold that way were every bit as accurate as just putting name tags on a wall and throwing darts at them. IMHO.

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.

So who knows what is what with these animals?

It was all this BS (IMHO), combined with my project working with Costa Rican Milk Snakes (Lampropeltis t. stuarti) which never would breed for me, and the Amelanistic Honduran/Central American Milk Snake project that ended when the female died the year she was big enough to produce, that I decided to just get out of the milk snakes completely.

I did really like my hondurensis, truth be known. Big impressive animals. I recall once having a baby that was reluctant to come out of it's shell after pipping. So I put the egg in a container and then threw in a pinky mouse, and that snake THEN decided it wanted to come out when it grabbed the pinky and wolfed it down. They certainly were not shy about feeding!

Oh yeah, one year while at one of the reptile shows in Tampa, FL, I made a deal with a guy to sell him any of the gray banded king snakes at the end of the show that I didn't sell at retail. Well, I didn't sell any of them. Truth be known, the Tampa show was always a very poor show for us, so that was no surprise. So at the end of the show, I gave the guy a good price for the entire lot. After the money had changed hands and while bagging them up we got to talking, and he told me these were like money in the bank for him. Every year he would accumulate as many young gray bands that he could, and drive out to SW Texas and meet up with gray band collectors who swarmed to the area. There he would sell the hell out of his "fresh wild caught" baby gray banded kings to collectors that weren't having any luck and didn't want to go home empty handed, with locality info and all.

Maybe rumors and BS, and maybe not.

Didn't really matter much to me, since I wasn't interested in locality specific gray bands myself. And who am I to tell someone how to run their own lives? 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.

FWIW...
 
Old 03-01-2021, 08:13 AM   #7
Socratic Monologue
Quote:
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.

Quote:
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   #8
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   #9
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   #10
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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