Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Detecting the Presence of Snakes and Their Conservation

The Western Cottonmouth, 
Agkistrodon piscivorous lecostoma. 
Defense behavior.

Worldwide, more than 82% of snake and more than 84% of lizard species have not been evaluated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) or are classified as having insufficient data to determine conservation status (IUCN, 2010). This is of concern because squamates, like frogs are disappearing. Andrew Durso and colleagues point out that this discrepancy results from the inability of traditional field and data analysis techniques to circumvent unpredictability in reptile detection. Snakes are generally considered the most difficult reptile group to study because of their cryptic behaviors, minimal or sporadic activity patterns, and frequent use of inaccessible habitats such as, subterranean burrows. the forest canopy or murky waters. Therefore high-resolution data on geographic distribution are lacking for many species and few situations exist where population densities have been accurately measured, or population trends tracked over time with confidence. When population declines are suspected it is virtually impossible to distinguish true rarity from poor or unlucky sampling, without knowledge of detection probability. Presence or absence modeling is recognized as an effective technique for monitoring populations of secretive species on a landscape scale, historically considered a daunting or even impossible task. Site occupancy modeling may be the only feasible means for monitoring the population status of some species, in particular for those species with recapture probabilities too low to use mark-recapture effectively. Durso and colleagues provide the first estimates of detection probability and site occupancy for aquatic snake species, and use snakes as a case study for incorporating detection probability in site occupancy monitoring of rare and cryptic species. They surveyed twenty isolated wetlands for aquatic snakes, using multiple replicated sampling events, calculated species-specific parameter estimates of detection probability (p) and site occupancy (w), using the program PRESENCE, and compared single-season models to assess the ability of site-specific covariates to influence these two parameters.They applied this method for seven aquatic snake species: Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata), Florida Green Water Snake (Nerodia floridana), Glossy Crayfish Snake (Regina rigida), Black Swamp Snake (Seminatrix pygaea), Mud Snake (Farancia abacura), Rainbow Snake (Farancia erytrogramma), and Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus). This process produced an understanding of how aspects of behavior and ecology influence patterns of detection probability and site occupancy.  They calculated the amount of unsuccessful effort necessary to declare absence of each species with statistical confidence this varied from 5–63 visits; and 150–1890 trap-nights. The study documented considerable interspecific variation in p and w. One species The Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata) was widespread and highly detectable, while the Cottonmouth  (Agkistrodon piscivorus) had low detectability despite its wide distribution. Five other species were secretive, or restricted to specific habitat types, or both, and  those illustrated that complex and sometimes counterintuitive relationships exist between capture rate and occupancy. They conclude that incorporating p and w is essential to the success of large-scale monitoring programs for elusive species.

Durso, A. M., J. D. Willson, C. T. Winne. 2011. Needles in haystacks: Estimating detection probability and occupancy of rare and cryptic snakes. Biological Conservation, doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2011.01.020

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Indian Kikuri Snakes

The Kikuri Snakes of the Genus Oligodon are widespread incentral and tropical Asia, with about 70 species currently recognized. High lineage diversity, small samples for the majority of species, and poor sampling within the known range continue to make the Kikuri snakes a confusing group. Several news species have been described in recent years, while others have been placed in synonymy of other species.  Patrick David and colleagues have now address one nomenclatural and two taxonomic problems affecting Oligodon cyclurus Group in India. The Oligodon cyclurus group currently includes O. cyclurus (Cantor, 1839), O. fasciolatus (Günther, 1864), O. juglandifer (Wall, 1909), O. chinensis (Günther, 1888), O. formosanus (Günther,1872), O. ocellatus (Morice, 1875), O. saintgironsi David, Vogel and Pauwels, 2008, and O. macrurus (Angel, 1927). These species are widespread from north-eastern India and Myanmar, to southern China and to southern Thailand.The authors discuss the problem of the absence of a name bearing type for Coronella cyclura Cantor, 1839 and designate a neotype. They also address the status of Oligodon kheriensis Acharji and Ray, 1936 from northern India and Nepal, a species that had been regarded as a synonym of Oligodon cyclurus by Smith (1943) but has been recognized as a valid species other authors.

David, P., I. Das, and G. Vogel. 2011. On some taxonomic and nomenclatural problems in Indian species of the genus OligodonFitzinger, 1826 (Squamata: Colubridae). Zootaxa 2799: 1–14 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Russell's Viper Venom & Blood Clots

Daboia russelii. Photo Credit: 
Abhinav Chawla  
Fibrinolytic drugs are given after a heart attack to dissolve the blood clot blocking the coronary artery, and they have been used experimentally in stroke and in massive pulmonary embolisms. Enzymes that are fibrinolytic have been found in the venoms of several snakes, such as the Malaysian Pit Viper, Calloselasma rhodostoma; the lancehead, Bothrops atrox; the Lebentine Viper, Vipera lebetina; the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Crotalus adamanteus; the Copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix; and Russell's Viper, Daboia russelii.  The ability of the fibrinolyrtic enzyme from the Lebetine Viper has been studied for the removal of blood clots using rats and fibrinolytic enzymes from the Malaysian Pit Viper, C. rhodostoma,  and from the lancehead, B. atrox were used in  patients with deep vein thrombosis and ischemic stroke under controlled condition. Recently, recombinant fibrinolytic enzymes derived from snake venom were used in clinical trials. Venom from eastern Indian Russell Vipers (Daboia russelii russelii) has two hemorrhagins as well as VRR-73 that shows fibrinolytic and esterolytic activities that are independent of hemorrhagic activity. Gargi Maity and colleagues have now demonstrated that Russel Viper venom can be denatured at a temperature of 100 C so that it looses its hemorrahgic activity, but it does not alter its fibrinolytic ability. Thus, the fibrinolytic activity of VRR-73 has the potential for development as anticoagulant for therapeutic use once the hemorrhagic activity of the venom has been removed. Viper venoms are rich source of active proteins and peptides that affect hemostatic system and a likely source of more molecules that can have a direct, positive impact on human health.

Maity, G., et al., 2011. Thermal detoxification of the venom from Daboia russelli russelli of Eastern India with restoration of fibrinolytic activity, Toxicon (2011), doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2011.02.008.

Cold Weather & Pythons

Predictions that freezing weather will remove invasive pythons from  the Florida Everglades seem to have been wrong given the following story. Python bivittatus is an exceptionally resilient animal that lives in a wide range of habitats, including the foothills of the Himalayas.

Freezes fail to kill off pythons in Everglades
By David Fleshler, Sun Sentinel
5:25 p.m. EDT, March 26, 2011

Record freezes and a fearsome drought have failed to kill off the Burmese pythons that have colonized the Everglades.

Six of the non-native, constricting snakes were found last week in sections of the Everglades in which they had not turned up before, including an area north of Alligator Alley, according to the South Florida Water Management District. This further dashed hopes by scientists that the past winter's cold weather could kill off the snakes, which are native to the warmer climate of southern Asia.

The snakes, which arrived in the Everglades either through intentional or accidental releases by exotic pet owners and breeders, consume native wildlife, including deer, wading birds and small alligators.

"Almost nothing stops them," said Dan Thayer, the water management district's director of vegetation and land management in a statement. "It tells us they're tough and rugged. The survival of an invasive species often depends on its ability to endure extremes. The Burmese python is overcoming a wide range of conditions in Florida, including extreme colds and a water shortage."

A Revision of Some Indian Tree Snakes, Dendrelaphis

Dendrelaphis andamanensis
Dendrelaphs pictus
Genot Vogel and Johan van Rooijen investigated the taxonomic status of the Indian forms of the Dendrelaphis pictus (Gmelin, 1789) group using a multivariate analyses of morphological data taken from 176 museum specimens and two living specimens. They describe a geographically isolated, new species  from the Western Ghats, southwest India, Dendrelaphis ashoki  and found the subspecies Dendrelaphis pictus andamanensis (Anderson, 1871), to be an endemic species from the Andaman Islands. The populations of  D. pictus from Indochina and northeast India, are shown to be comprised of two morphologically distinct forms. These forms are distributed parapatrically with a transition near the northern and northwestern borders of Indochina. The two forms are considered to represent distinct evolutionary lineages. The name Dendrelaphis proarchos (Wall, 1909) is revalidated to represent the northwestern form while the southeastern form is referred to as D. pictus (Gmelin, 1789).

Vogel, G and J. van Rooijen. 2011. Contributions to a Review of the Dendrelaphis pictus (Gmelin, 1789) Complex (Serpentes: Colubridae)—3. The Indian Forms, with the Description of a New Species from the Western Ghats. Journal of Herpetology 45:100-110.

Dinosaur Petroglyphs, A Return to Reality

Not long ago I found a movie on Netflix titled Dragons or Dinosaurs, remembering a Nature episode, The Dragon Chronicles, done by Rom Whitaker that looked at how ancient myths of flying, fire-breathing dragons originated, I put it on my list. A few minutes into the movie and I realized it was a very slick piece of creationist propaganda, in fact it was a masterpiece. Confusing fantasy with reality is what creationsim has come to do best. And I have to give them credit, they have done a spectacular job of undermining science education in the USA. The movie's website carries the following teaser.

"Dragon images, legends and lore exist all over the world in many different cultures. But what if dragons were actually dinosaurs? Dinosaurs are often used to discredit the Bible, so what if their existence actually helps prove its veracity?"

A visit to the website reveals that they have even created a study guide to accompany the movie.

The movie contained a twist of reality I had not previously seen - and as a high school biology teacher I saw many. Rock art depicting dinosaurs was used in an attemp to confirm the notion that humans and dinosaurs lived together. Apparently, the dino rock art has been used by creationsists since the late 1990's.

Now, Phil Senter and Sally Cole have provided the first scientific examination of the dinosaur petroglyps and of course find that they are infact the usual creationist distortion of facts. The sauropod art work is at Kachina Bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah. Kachina Bridge is a massive sandstone formation resembling an archway over 60 m high and wide, formed by the undercutting of a rock wall by flowing water. The images are rock paintings and petroglyphs formed by pecking, abrading, incising, and scratching. Other, earlier examples are associated with hunter-gatherers that occupied the study area prior to 1000 B.C and atrributed to Ancestral Pueblo farming societies dating from approximately 200 to 1300 years before present. Some of the art work may have been made by more recent protohistoric or historic Paiute, Ute, or Navajo groups. Among the images made by prehistoric people on the walls of Kachina Bridge is what appears to be an unambiguous depiction of a sauropod dinosaur, Senter and Cole call this Dinosaur 1. And, they test hypothesis that a given petroglyph depicts a dinosaur predicts that the image is not a composite; depicts an animal; has features that cannot be reconciled with non-dinosaurian local fauna; has features of a specific, identifiable dinosaur; and is entirely human-made. They tested the predictions for Dinosaur 1 and three other alleged dinosaur petroglyphs at Kachina Bridge by on-site visual examination under varying light conditions. Their examination revealed that the “neck” and “back” of Dinosaur 1 are a composite of two separate petroglyphs, and its “legs” are a natural mud or mineral stain. A second alleged sauropod petroglyph is only a mud stain. The other two alleged dinosaur petroglyphs are human-made, but neither depicts an animal. Senter and Cole conclude that the four Kachina Bridge “dinosaurs” are in fact illusions produced by pareidolia. None of them support the predictions of the hypothesis that a dinosaur is depicted. Therefore, the dinosaur rock art fantasy joins the pile of discredited evidence from the creation movement.

Unfortunately, many state and local science curiculums have become so rigid that discussion of this kind of controversy in middle or high school classes has become difficult. In fact, having students read this propaganda and carefully examining it with the scientific critiques is an excellent way to deflate much of the creationist non-sense and enhance critical thinking across the curriculum.

Senter, P. and S. J. Cole. 2011. "Dinosaur pteroglyphs at Kachina Bridge site, Natural Bridges National Monument, southeastern Utah: not dinosaurs after all. Palaentologia Electronica 14(1):2A:5p;

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Kerala Mud Snake Rediscovered

The Kerala Mud Snake, Enhydris dussumierii is known only from the type speciemens collected in the 19th century by E. dussumierii Jean-Jacques Dussumier (1792–1883), a French nobleman, mariner and naturalist, who collected vertebrate specimens from many parts of Asia, sending them to Paris. The species was described by Duméril et al. as Eurostus dussumierii. Now A. Buji Kumar and Ashok Captian report on three specimens of E. dussumierii were collected from Vellayani Lake, Thiruvananthapuram District, Kerala, India, during a biodiversity survey of the lake. In Vellayani, this species was found at the muddy edges of the lake. One specimen contained a partially digested climbing perch (Anabas testudineus).  Fishermen encounter E. dussumierii while excavating mud to catch the fish known as the snakehead (Channa spp.). The snakes are also found buried in the mud and when disturbed, take shelter in grasses and aquatic plants along lake's shoreline. It has been reported to bite and it is mildly venomous, fishermen reported the bite as painful.

Kumar, A. B. and A. Captain. 2011. Recent records of the endemic Kerala mud snake, Enhydris dussumierii (Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854) from India. Current Science 100:928-931.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A New Asian Toad (Leptolalax) From Vietnam

Leptolalax bidoupensis. Photo Credit 
Jodi J. L. Rowley 
The megophryid frog genus Leptolalax (Dubois, 1983) is a relatively recently described genus of about 29 species that often inhabit the forest floor near rocky streams in hilly topography, covered with evergreen forest in Asia. There has been a rapid increase in the number of known Leptolalax species in recent years, with 21 of the known species described in the past two decades. Eleven species have been reported from Indochina;  and all but two of those have been reported from Vietnam. Vietnamese Leptolalax are known from the suitable habitat in northern and central Vietnam, with the southernmost record to date from the Kon Tum Plateau in central Vietnam. Jodi Rowley and colleagues have now described, Leptolalax bidoupensis from the Langbian Plateau in southern Vietnam. Despite previous collections of amphibians from the Langbian Plateau by Malcolm Smith in the 1920's Leptolalax were not reported from the Plateau, and bidoupensis represents the southernmost record of Leptolalax from Vietnam. All specimens of L. bidoupensis were found in montane evergreen forest between 1620–1730 m elevation. Males were observed calling on stream banks, less than 0.5 m from small rocky streams in May and July, but it was as not heard or observed during March, when conditions were cooler and drier. Leptolalax bidoupensis is known only from an area of approximately 1 square km in Bidoup Nui Ba National Park. The actual distribution of the new species is unknown but probably extends to adjacent forested areas in the Langbian Plateau. Leptolalax bidoupensis is most morphologically similar to L. applebyi and L. melicus, both recently discovered from the Kon Tum Plateau to the north, but can be distinguished from these and all other Leptolalax species on the basis of morphological, acoustic and molecular differences. 

Rowley, J. J. L., D. T. T. Le, D. T. A. Tran, and H. D. Hoang, A new species of Leptolalax (Anura: Megophryidae) from southern Vietnam. Zootaxa 2796: 15–28. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Antivenom: Neglect, Confusion, & Hope

The world wide availability of antivenom is quite variable, but no where does it seem to be adequate. There are very few antivenom products that work on more than just a few species of snakes, and therefore it is necessary for each country or geographical area to have antivenom available for local species. This means local production is important in areas where people are bitten by venomous snakes. In the USA this week (March 21-26) is Poison Prevention Week. A a check of the news suggests that while antivenom is, to a degree, available in many places - this is not the case in other countries.The All website is carrying a story from the Nairobi Star, that emphasizes the problems of a lack of antivenom in some African hospitals.
A woman spent three hours writhing in pain in a Teso hospital at the weekend before passing on after she was bitten by a seven-foot snake in her Amagoro semi-permanent house in Teso North District. The death of Mama Flora Odikor, 77, has earned the hospital the wrath of the Anglican Church and the deceased family who accused Kocholia District Hospital administration of negligence that saw the deceased spend three hours without getting anti-venom injection. Medics in Western Province have also raised concerns over the increase in the number of people who die from snake bites due to failure by the government to supply anti-venom drugs to most hospitals and health centres, adding that the region is prone to snakes. Flora's daughters, Margaret Odikor and Jacqueline Amoit, watched helplessly as their mother took her last breath from the bite of the poisonous cobra to confirm the agony patients who seek medical attention at the referral institution were facing at the hands of the hospital staff. Margaret recounted how the staff at the pharmacy, consultation and injection rooms denied having any stock of anti-venom with the available ones allegedly having expired, but only to produce them three hours later after a nurse insisted the government had supplied the drug the previous day.
Antivenom continues to be short supply in many countries, both developed and undeveloped. The Tasmanian Examiner reported in January that a lack of snake antivenom at regional medical centres could leave tourists and hikers in a perilous situation, according to Tasmania's main reptile rescue organisation. 
Reptile Rescue ranger Bruce Press said the lack of access to antivenom in regional areas was particularly dangerous as visitors to the state and possibly many locals do not realise they can only get full bite treatment in Launceston or Hobart. "If a bushwalker is out in the bush then they'll probably have to travel many kilometres just to get back into a town, only to then be told to go on to Hobart or Launceston," said Mr Press, who recovers snakes from an area spanning Buckland to Bicheno. "All the snakes here in Tasmania are dangerous and their venom can kill a human."
The Associated Press Pakistan has a story available on that describes an initiative in Pakistan to increase antivenom supplies. This article is interesting for several reasons, but it seems to somehow blame the US and Australia  for the shortage so those countries could make money by exporting antivenom. 
LAHORE, March 20 (APP): The University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) has launched an anti-venom production project to treat snake-bite victims in the country. Head of the project Dr Ziaullah Mughul told APP that every year around 50,000 people died in Pakistan from snake-bite. “Only five to six percent of anti-venom vaccine is made by the National Institute of Health (NIH) against a requirement of 150,000 dozes per annum and that too is not easily available in the market,” he added. “Most of the patients die due to the unavailability of anti-venom vaccine in the country, putting the number of deaths to 50,000 annually. Around 90 per cent of snake-bite deaths can be prevented if anti-venom is produced at local level. “During the recent flood, snake-bite contributed to five to six per cent of total deaths and vaccine had to be imported from India,” he said.Dr Ziaullah said locally produced vaccine, which would be effective against four snakes, could be available at Rs400 while vaccine imported from India cost Rs1,900 and it was effective for only one kind of snake. “A snake-bite victim needs four doses for complete treatment,” he added. For commercialization of the project, Rs400 million is needed while after its completion, anti-venom will also be available for export to earn foreign exchange, he said. The US and Australia were earning a big amount of money by exporting anti-venom drugs, he added.
Of course, US and Australian antivenoms are all but useless for venomous snakes in Pakistan.

Poison Prevention Week (PPW), in the USA, is the third week of March each year, and provides an opportunity for BTG, the International Healtcare Company that markets and distributes CroFab® (antivenom for crotalid snakes include rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths/water moccasins).  Their press release (follow link for complete press release) for 2011's PPW states that,
"Beginning in April when the weather gets warmer, one potential poisoning source – venomous snakebite – is more likely to occur.  Approximately 8,000 cases of venomous snakebite and five to six related deaths occur in the United States each year.  Venomous snakebites may have other serious consequences, including loss of a finger or toe, if not treated promptly.  Victims of snakebite should react calmly but swiftly in seeking medical attention.  CroFab® Crotalidae Polyvalent Immune Fab (ovine), an antidote for venomous snakebites from North American pit vipers, or crotalids (rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths/water moccasins), usually is available at emergency facilities in hospitals....Early use of CroFab® (within 6 hours of snakebite) is advised to prevent a patient's clinical deterioration and the occurrence of systemic blood-clotting (coagulation) abnormalities....For CroFab® full prescribing information, visit:"
Antivenom is a medical technology that has been available since the 1890's. It is relatively inexpensive to produce, works exceptionally well, and should be available to those who need it. However, the lack of profit, and the fact that each geographic region needs its own supply seems to be barriers to its availability. There is a company, looking for partners in the production of antivenoms, if you are interestes, visit Good Biotech Corporation's website.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Everglade Hammocks Growing on Human Middens

The following is a press release from the American Geophysical Union. The Everglade hammocks discussed in this artilce are important nesting sites for many Everglades reptiles. Kushland (1980. Copeia (4):930-932) found that hammocks were often the only dry areas in the Everglades and that they were used by alligators, turtles and lizards for depositing their eggs. 

Fixed tree island in Shark River Slough, 
Everglades. Photo Credit: Pablo Ruiz, 
Florida International University.
Ancient trash heaps gave rise to Everglades tree islands
SANTA FE, N.M.—Garbage mounds left by prehistoric humans might have driven the formation of many of the Florida Everglades' tree islands, distinctive havens of exceptional ecological richness in the sprawling marsh that are today threatened by human development.

Tree islands are patches of relatively high and dry ground that dot the marshes of the Everglades. Typically a meter (3.3 feet) or so high, many of them are elevated enough to allow trees to grow. They provide a nesting site for alligators and a refuge for birds, panthers, and other wildlife.

Scientists have thought for many years that the so-called fixed tree islands (a larger type of tree island frequently found in the Everglades' main channel, Shark River Slough) developed on protrusions from the rocky layer of a mineral called carbonate that sits beneath the marsh. Now, new research indicates that the real trigger for island development might have been middens, or trash piles left behind from human settlements that date to about 5,000 years ago.

These middens, a mixture of bones, food discards, charcoal, and human artifacts (such as clay pots and shell tools), would have provided an elevated area, drier than the surrounding marsh, allowing trees and other vegetation to grow. Bones also leaked phosphorus, a nutrient for plants that is otherwise scarce in the Everglades.

“This goes to show that human disturbance in the environment doesn't always have a negative consequence,” says Gail Chmura, a paleoecologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and one of the authors of the study.

Chmura will be presenting her research tomorrow, Tuesday 22 March, at the American Geophysical Union's Chapman Conference on Climates, Past Landscapes, and Civilizations. About 95 scientists have converged on Santa Fe this week to discuss the latest research findings from archeology, paleoclimatology, paleoecology, and other fields that reveal how changes in regional and global climate have impacted the development and fates of societies.

In a previous scientific investigation of tree islands, Margo Schwadron, an archeologist with the National Park Service, cut through the elevated bedrock at the base of two islands and discovered that it was actually a so-called “perched carbonate layer,” because there was more soil and a midden below. Later, a team including Chmura's graduate student Maria-Theresia Graf performed additional excavations in South Florida and found more of the perched carbonate layers.

Chemical analysis of samples of these curious perched layers revealed that they are made up partially of carbonates that had dissolved from the bedrock below, Chmura says. The layer also contains phosphorus from dissolved bones, she adds. Her team concluded that trees are key to the formation of this layer: During South Florida's dry season, their roots draw in large quantities of ground water but allow the phosphates and carbonates dissolved in it to seep out and coalesce into the stone-like layer.

The perched carbonate plays a key role in letting tree islands rebound after fires: because it does not burn, it protects the underlying soil, and it maintains the islands' elevation, allowing vegetation to regrow after the fire. Humans are now threatening the existence of tree islands, by cutting down trees (whose roots keep the perched layer in place) and artificially maintaining high water levels year-round in some water control systems, which could cause the layer to dissolve.

Chmura's team now wants to explore exactly when trees started growing on the tree islands.

A Large Scale Squamata Relocation Project

The SwintonAdvertiser is carrying the following story. Follow the link and read the comments they are quite comical!

24,000 snakes, lizards and slow worms move in
HOUSANDS of adders, snakes and lizards have been released in a former Wiltshire military base.

More than 24,000 reptiles have been moved from a site in Essex, where a container ship terminal is to be built, to two sites managed by the Wilshire Wildlife Trust at Sandpool Farm and the former military base of Blakehill Farm near Cricklade.

The large-scale move has been organised by Environment Bank Limited, in Stratton Park House, Wanborough Road, and has taken place on a combined area of 264 hectares.

The company’s managing director, Robert Gillespie, said: “We would have preferred to have found a more local home for the reptiles.

“But in this instance these sites in Wiltshire were the only ones we could identify with an environment that is almost perfect from day one.”

To cope with the number of reptiles, the developers of the £1.5bn London Gateway port bought extra land for the trust.

Magz Knight, from the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, said: “The area of land links up four of our neighbouring reserves, including Clattinger Farm, Oaksey Moor Farm Meadow, Swillbrook Lakes and Sandpool Farm.

“Before any translocation is done the receptor sites are checked because obviously you don’t want to bring a load of new reptiles in if there’s already a population there that is the maximum amount you should have for that kind of habitat."”

With both sites found to be suitable, more than 290 adders, 400 grass snakes, 17,000 common lizards and 6,000 slow worms have been captured by hand and transported in grass-lined boxes.

Mr Gillespie said said: “This is an ongoing process.

“We’ve got another three years of monitoring the reptiles in Wiltshire to go.

“But it’s been a great success – they all seem to have settled in very well and are breeding.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

Brighter Coloration Does Not Always Mean Greater Toxicity

A red morph of the Granulated
Dart Frog, Oophaga granulifera
Photo credit: Patrick Gijsbers.
Hugh Cott, noted the relationship between warning coloration and toxins in 1940 when he wrote, "Perhaps the most specialized and effective of all methods of defense is the use of poisons. Toxic properties have been developed in a wide range of animal life, and are frequently associated with warning coloration." A new study now suggests that at least one brightly colored morph of a dendrobatid frog may be less toxic than morphs with more subdued coloration. Ian Wang (2011) notes that the prevailing theory, following Cott, suggests that aposematic coloration evolves with toxicity so that increased toxicity will accompany greater conspicuousness. Dart frogs in the Dendrobates (=Oophaga) histrionicus group (D. histrionicus, D. pumilio, and D. granuliferus) have populations with unique color morphs spanning the visual spectrum, and while some of the morphs would seem likely to to be aposematic others are cryptic to the human eye. How these polymorphisms are mainatined is porrly understood. Wang measured spectral reflectance, toxicity, and did a phylogenetic reconstruction on nine populations of  O. granuliferus (Taylor, 1958) on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. and found  that the less conspicuous color morphs are actually significantly more toxic than the brightest, most conspicuous phenotypes and that the more toxic, less-conspicuous form evolved from a less toxic, more conspicuous ancestor. Through gas chromatography—mass spectrometry analysis of toxin profiles, Wang traced the increase in toxicity in the less-conspicuous populations to an acquisition of specific alkaloids, some of which are convulsants. Wang's results challenge the idea that increased conspicuousness always evolves with increased toxicity and support the idea that once aposematism has been established in a species, phenotypic variation may evolve from brightness and toxicity becoming decoupled.

Cott, H. B. 1940. Adaptive coloration in Animals. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd. (Quote from page 253.)

Wang, I. J. 2011. Inversely related aposematic traits: reduced conspicuousness evloves with increased toxicity in a polymorphic poison-dart frog. Evolution, doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2011.01257.x

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A New Brazilian Leptotyphlopid, and the Status of Leptotyphlops brasiliensis Laurent

The Neotropical leptotyphlopid 
Epictia tenella (Klauber) was previously 
considered a member of the albifrons
Group. JCM
Until recently the burrowing worm snakes of the genus Leptotyphlops comprised 114 species inhabiting mostly Africa and the Neotropics. The genus was recently divided into 10 different genera by Adalsteinsson et al. (2009). In South America about 40 species of leptotyphlopids occurred from Colombia to Argentina. Their strictly fossorial life style was supported by a compactly built skull, smooth scales, and reduced eyes covered by an ocular plate. All of these highly specialized snakes have a diet of small invertebrates and have highly derived, short mandibles and a highly kinetic mandibular joint. In 1970, Peters and Orejas-Miranda recognized five groups of Neotropical worm snakes based on appearance: L. albifrons, L. dulcis, L. melanotermus, L. septemstriatus, and L. tesselatus species groups. The L. septemstriatus species group was diagnosed by absence of supraocular scales and included L. borrichianus, L. brasiliensis, L. cupinensis, L. nasalis, and L. septemstriatus. Previously, Laurent (1949) had described L. brasiliensis, and 45 years later, Rodrigues and Puorto (1994) described a second specimen from Barreiras, state of Bahia. One of the most important features supporting the identification of this second individual was the absence of supraoculars, a characteristic emphasized by Laurent (1949) in the original description. However, the specimen of Rodrigues and Puorto (1994) did not agree with the holotype regarding supralabial number, because Laurent noted only two supralabials scales (1+1), whereas the specimen from Barreiras had three (2+1) distinct supralabials bordering the mouth. Wallach (1996) reported a third specimen from the same locality as that of Rodrigues and Puorto (1994), restricting the type locality of the species to Barreiras, state of Bahia, Brazil. Curcio et al. (2002) recorded four specimens of L. brasiliensis from the Brazilian Cerrado (central Brazilian savannas) of southwestern Piauı´ State, all with three supralabials. In view of the differences in supralabial counts between the holotype and the other known specimens of L. brasiliensis, these authors claimed that larger samples would allow more precise conclusions regarding the variation of this character.

Roberta Pinto and Felipe Curcio (2011) have now describe the geographic variation and hemipenial morphology of Leptotyphlops brasiliensis Laurent using 23 specimens, and re-examine its generic identity. They propose the new combination, Tricheilostoma brasiliensis, noting that the presence of two supralabials, as mentioned in the original description of S. brasiliensis, is not a common feature for this species. They also describe a new species of worm snake Siagonodon acutirostris from the savannas of the state of Tocantins, Brazil. The new species differs from others in the same genus by having an acuminate snout in lateral and ventral views, sub-circular rostral in dorsal view, and 12 scale rows around middle of tail.

Pinto, R. R. and F. F. Curcio. 2011. On the Generic Identity of Siagonodon brasiliensis, with the Description of a New Leptotyphlopid from Central Brazil (Serpentes: Leptotyphlopidae). Copeia (1):53-63.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Crawfish Frogs Are Infected with Bd During Breeding Activities

Crawfish Frog, Lithobates areolatus
 Photo Credit: Stanley Trauth
Amphibian populations around the world have been decimated by the chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), but not all species or individuals in all regions are equally susceptible. Vanessa Kinney and colleagues (2011) report the first case of Bd in Crawfish Frogs (Lithobates areolatus). But, more importantly, describe the nature and the course of this disease in Crawfish Frogs which has an unusual natural history. They investigated whether there is a life history pattern or a seasonal pattern to infection by this fungus, and if it is possible to determine when and where the infection is being acquired and shed. Given the concern for the conservation of Crawfish Frogs, they examined the potential of Bd to cause fatalities in this species and to determine if they are carriers of the fungus, as are other large North American ranids. Crawfish Frogs are a typical North American pond-breeding species that have explosive spring breeding aggregations in seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands. However, when they are not breeding Crawfish Frogs are solitary, isolated from other individuals in burrows dug by crayfish. The burrows penetrate the water table, providing a permanent aquatic habitat when the frogs are not breeding. Over the course of two years Kinney et al. sampled for the presence of Bd in Crawfish Frog adults. Sampling was conducted seasonally, as animals moved from post-winter emergence through breeding migrations, then back into upland burrow habitats. During the study, 53% of Crawfish Frog breeding adults tested positive for Bd in at least one sample; 27% entered breeding wetlands Bd positive; 46% exited wetlands Bd positive. Five emigrating Crawfish Frogs (12%) developed chytridiomycosis and died. In contrast, all 25 adult frogs sampled while occupying upland crayfish burrows during the summer tested Bd negative. One percent of postmetamorphic juveniles sampled were Bd positive. Zoospore equivalents/swab ranged from 0.8 to 24,436; five out of eight frogs with zoospore equivalents near or more than 10,000 died. The data suggest Crawfish Frogs acquire Bd during breeding activities. A Bd-positive female entered a breeding pond on 8 April, 2010 with a low infection intensity (20 zoospore equivalents) and exited 15 days later with a high infection intensity (8,607 zoospore equivalents). A similar situation occurred on 19 April 2010, when a Bd-positive subadult Crawfish Frog entered the breeding pond with 119 zoospore equivalents and exited 5 days later with 23,006 zoospore equivalents. Overall, 46% (42/91) of samples from Crawfish Frogs exiting breeding wetlands on our study site were Bd positive. Thus, infection rates in Crawfish Frog populations increased from near zero during the summer to over 25% following overwintering; rates nearly double again during and after breeding—when mortality occurs—before the infection wanes during the summer. Bd-negative postmetamorphic juveniles may not be exposed again to this pathogen until they take up residence in crayfish burrows, or until their first breeding, some years later.

Kinney VC, Heemeyer JL, Pessier AP, Lannoo MJ (2011) Seasonal Pattern of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis Infection and Mortality in Lithobates areolatus: Affirmation of Vredenburg's “10,000 Zoospore Rule”. PLoS ONE 6(3): e16708. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016708

Signs of Spring

Spring is approaching the Northern Hemisphere and the media is carrying stories of reptiles emerging from hibernation CBS 8 News is covering Opp, Alabama where city officials are promoting the Rattlesnake Rodeo that is held April 1 and 2, and report the stadium will be lined with vendors and that day passes are $15. KOAV TV in Tucson is reporting that the Northwest Fire District is warning residents to be on alert for dangerous rattlesnakes and offer tips to avoid an unpleasant encounter, like: watch your step, use a flashlight at night, keep to walkways and areas clear of brush, and wear closed-toed shoes. And the Amarillo Globe-News has a blog carrying a story about Jay Weddle and his experiences with rattlesnakes, including inventing a tube that holds open the nostrils on a horse if it has been bitten by a Crotalus.

Last week Roger Repp gave me a day tour of several southern Arizona reptile hibernacula and there is no doubt spring is approaching. Despite a week of mostly 80° F+ temperatures many reptiles are still staying close to their crevices, but they are near the openings, see below.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Confusing Names and Relationships for the Pond Turtles

Turtles are an old and complex group of animals with a confusing taxonomic history. The turtles often called "freshwater turtles" of the family Emydidae have been particularly troublesome. As it happens morphology, mtDNA, and nuclear DNA produce conflicting results for their relationships. In a new paper, Uwe Fritz and colleagues review the situation and make a recommendation on what names should be applied to some of the North American pond turtles, formerly placed in the genus Clemmys.

Duméril (1806) established the genus Emys for virtually all freshwater turtles known at the time. His genus contained more than 90 species which are now known to be scattered in multiple families representing many distinct turtle lineages (Chelidae, Chelydridae, Dermatemydidae, Emydidae, Geoemydidae, Kinosternidae, Pelomedusidae, Platysternidae, Podocnemididae, and Testudinidae). Boulenger (1889) limited the genus Emys to two species, the European Pond Turtle, Emys orbicularis and the North American Blanding's Turtle, Emys blandingii. This arrangement remained until 1957 when Loveridge and Williams transferred the Blanding's Turtle to the genus Emydoidea. Blanding's Turtles have a unique skull, neck and thoracic rib morphology which more closely resembles the Chicken Turtle, Deirochelys reticularia. Some other species previously in Emys were moved to Ritgen's genus Clemmys established in 1828. From the early 19th century Clemmys contained Old and New World freshwater turtles that were considered unspecilaized species lacking distinct morphological. The exception was Louis Agassiz, in 1857 he considered each of the New World species assigned to Clemmys as a representative of a distinct genera (Actinemys marmorata, Calemys muhlenbergii, Glyptemys insculpta, Nanemys guttata). Sam McDowell's 1964 osteological study revising the ‘aquatic Testudinidae’,  Restricted Clemmys to the four Nearctic species Clemmys guttata, C. insculpta, C. marmorata and C. muhlenbergii, while the remaining Old World species were transferred to the genera Mauremys and Sacalia. McDowell (1964) realized Old World and New World freshwater turtles represent highly distinct groups and placed all Old World species plus the extraterritorial Neotropical genus Rhinoclemmys in the subfamily Batagurinae and the New World species plus the Palaearctic genus Emys in the Emydinae. These two subfamilies constituted, along with land tortoises (Testudininae), the family Testudinidae in McDowell’s (1964) classification. This arrangement is the one that is retained to the present, except each of these groups is now treated as a full family and the name Geoemydidae replaced Bataguridae because of name priority. McDowell recognized the close relationship of the four Nearctic Clemmys species, with the box turtles of the genus Terrapene and the Old World Pond Turtle, Emys orbicularis. He placed all of them in the ‘Emys complex’. However he did not include the Blanding's Turtle, Emydoidea blandingii. Instead he placed it with the distinct Chicken Turtle in the ‘Deirochelys complex’ (Emydoidea blandingii + Deirochelys reticularia). In 1974 Bramble pointed out, the morphology of structures associated with the plastral hinge of Emydoidea argues rather for a close relationship of Emydoidea with Emys and Terrapene, and not with Deirochelys. The plastral hinge of Emys, Emydoidea and Terrapene consists of ligamentous tissue that allows for almost complete closure of the shell, a trait  better developed in Terrapene. Based upon this, Gaffney and Meylan concluded that Emys, Emydoidea and Terrapene represent a monophyletic group within the subfamily Emydinae (as opposed to the subfamily Deirochelyinae within the family Emydidae). The three genera share not only a plastral hinge, but also a divided scapula, a unique character among living turtles. The morphological similarity of these structures of Emydoidea, Emys and Terrapene was unique enough that Bramble (1974) concluded the plastral hinge could not have evolved more than once. The four Clemmys species lacked not only the plastral hinge, but also all of the complicated morphological structures associated with this character, and were considered to have a basal phylogenetic position within Emydinae, an assumption already assumed by McDowell  and Bramble. Thus, Gaffney and Meylan placed all other emydid genera (Chrysemys, Deirochelys, Graptemys, Malaclemys, Pseudemys, Trachemys) in another subfamily (Deirochelyinae) within the Emydidae. By the mid 1990's mitochondrial DNA was revolutionizing how we looked at evolutionary relationships and Bickham and colleagues presented data that Clemmys is paraphyletic with respect to all other genera of the subfamily Emydinae (Emys, Emydoidea, Terrapene), and that the Spotted Turtle (guttata) was sister to all other emydines. Thus, the Wood Turtle, C. insculpta and the Bog Turtle, C. muhlenbergii, formed the sister group to a major clade divided into a subclade with the European Pond Turtle, Emys orbicularisEmydoidea blandingii, and  C. marmorata, and another subclade with all studied Terrapene species as its sister group. Bickham and colleagues used evidence from morphology, behavior and life history, to show the hinged taxa nested within Clemmys species. This prompted Burke et al. in 1996 to expanding the genus Emys to include all emydine species except C. insculpta and C. muhlenbergii.

To add to the confusion nuclear genomic data produced conflicting results, depending on which genes were used. The Spotted Turtle, Clemmys guttata, showed up as the sister to ((Emydoidea + Emys) + Actinemys) + Terrapene or as the sister to Actinemys marmorata and these two species together are the sister group of (Emydoidea + Emys). Box turtles, Terrapene then appear to be the sister to (Actinemys marmorata + Clemmys guttata) + (Emydoidea + Emys). The contradictory branching patterns depends upon the selected loci and suggest a lineage sorting problem. Ignoring the unclear phylogenetic position of Actinemys marmorata, one recently proposed classification scheme placed Actinemys marmorata, Emydoidea blandingii, Emys orbicularis, and Emys trinacris (the Sicilian Pond Turtlein one genus (Emys), while another classification scheme treats Actinemys, Emydoidea, and Emys as distinct genera. Fritz et al. consider the inclusion of Actinemys in the same taxon as Emydoidea + Emys as unacceptable under a phylogenetic classification framework because of evidence for the non-monophyly of this clade. The genra Actinemys, Emydoidea, and Emys are morphologically distinct, and their differences exceed the differences that typically occur among species of the same genus. Thus they recommend continued usage of the distinct genera Actinemys, Emydoidea and Emys. To find the full text of this paper follow the link below.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Unfortunately Poor Advice and a Bad Situation

The following article was published by the Philippine Information Agency, March 11, 2011. It is unfortunate that there is an antivenom shortages, and it is even more unfortunate that the idea that antivenom can only be administered within a narrow window is still accepted in some parts of the world.

No snake anti-venom stockpile in hospitals
TAGBILARAN CITY, Mar. 11(PIA)--- FOR snake bites, immediately wash the bite wound with soap and water and rush the victim to the nearest hospital for proper administration.

This sums up Dr, Reymoses Cabagnot’s advice to patients in snake bite cases after admitting that snake anti-venom are not included in the stocked drugs at government hospitals.

Venomous snake bites may be treated with an anti-venom, Dr. Cabagnot said.

Snake antivenins are a man-made biological product called anti-ophidic serum, which can be extracted by milking a snake to extract its venom.

Collected snake anti-venom is then administered into the test animals with natural immune response to allow them to develop antibodies. These are then harvested and stored for medicinal use.

But, the presence of different poisonous snakes in the country also requires different kinds of effective anti-venom, usually obtained from the same kind of snake that bit.

“This makes stockpiling anti-venom for all kinds of snake difficult,” added another medical professional who refuses to be identified.

“While there are polyvalent antivenom-antivenins that are effective on a broad range of poisonous snakes, it would be hard to stockpile them with cases of snake bites rarely occurring,” she said.

Dr. Cabagnot, provincial health officer also added that the government hospitals have no stocks of these antivenins.

The doctor was interviewed after radio reported of a 9-year-old girl who died without treatment.

The child from barangay Napo, Alicia town was believed to be a victim of poisonous snake bite.

Neighbors and relatives brought the nine-year old victim to an alternative healer but the patient was not ushered in as the alternative medicine man had a lot of patients.

Relatives then brought the victim to Dr. Bienvenido Molina, around 6:00 but, sources said the child was dead for 30 minutes before the doctor saw her.

But even if antivenins are effective on most snake bite victims, they may be only if administered within an extremely narrow window of opportunity, the medical practitioner said.

Antivenins are normally administered to the victim as soon as possible that is 4-5 hours after a snake bite attack.

But, “doctors may also have some reservations in antivenins as these may have adverse reactions to some people, so these must be administered in extreme caution,” she warned. (rac)

Scientists find that non-native snakes are taking a toll on native birds

The Everglades National Park in Florida is home to hundreds of species of native wildlife. It has also become the well-established home of the non-native Burmese python—known to be a predator of native species. Now scientists, for the first time, have conducted a detailed analysis of the avian component of the python's diet and the negative impact the snakes may have on Florida's native birds, including some endangered species.

The Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus), native to Southeast Asia, was first recorded in the Everglades in 1979—thought to be escaped or discarded pets. Their numbers have since grown, with an estimated breeding population in Florida in the tens of thousands. As researchers investigate the impact of this snake in the Everglades, scientists from the Smithsonian Institution, South Florida Natural Resources Center and the University of Florida examined the snake's predation of the area's birds. They found that birds, including endangered species, accounted for 25 percent of the python's diet in the Everglades.

"These invasive Burmese pythons are particularly hazardous to native bird populations in North America because the birds didn't evolve with this large reptile as a predator," said Carla Dove, ornithologist at the Smithsonian's Feather Identification Lab in the National Museum of Natural History. "Conversely, the python is able to thrive here partly because it has no natural predator to keep its numbers in check."

The scientists collected 343 Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park as part of their study between 2003 and 2008. Eighty-five of these snakes had bird remains in their intestinal tract. From these remains the team identified 25 species of birds by comparing feathers and bone fragments with specimens in the Smithsonian's collection. The results reflected a wide variety of species, from the 5-inch-long house wren to the 4-foot-long great blue heron. Four of the species identified (snowy egret, little blue heron, white ibis and limpkin) are listed as "species of special concern" by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The team also identified the remains of a wood stork, which is a federally endangered species.

"These pythons can also inhabit a wide variety of habitats, so their impact is not restricted to just the native species within the Everglades," Dove said. "The python's high reproductive rate, longevity, ability to consume large prey and consumption of bird species are causes for serious conservation and control measures."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A New Desert Viper From Tunisia

Three species and two subspecies currently make up the arid land viperid genus Cerastes Laurenti,1768. Cerastes is known from Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. All Cerastes are adapted for xeric environments and they range in maximum body size from the 80 cm Cerastes cerastes to the less than 50 cm Cerastes vipera. The third species is Cerastes gasperettii of the the Arabian Peninsula and Middle East.  Philip Wagner and Thomas M. Wilms have now described a fourth species of Cerastes from Tunisia, Cerastes boehmei a species closely related to Cerastes vipera but quite distinct from it. C. vipera has horn-like supraocular scales above its eyes, while C. boehmei has tufts of erected supraocular scales forming crown-like structures above the eyes. The crown-like tufts contain several vertically erect, blunt scales, unlike the supraocular horn-like scales of C. cerastes or C. gasperettii that consist of one long, pointed scale. The description of C. boehmei is based on a single specimen, but additional specimens were seen but subsequently lost by private terrarium keepers. The new species is believed to be endemic to Tunisia and is probably widespread in the area of Bani Kheddache. It is named in honor of Wolfgang Böhme, of the Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig in Bonn, for his contributions to African herpetology. The authors also comment on the status of the name “Cerastes cerastes karlhartli” and it is considered to be nomen nudum. And, they attribute the authorship of “Cerastes cornutus” to Boulenger. Follow the link below to the full text.


Tadpoles provide clues as to how Putrescine protects the brain from epileptic seizures

The neurochemical putrescine surges
in the brain after a seizure. By
studying putrescine in tadpoles,
researchers found that it exerts a
calming effect, protecting the brain
for a while against a second seizure.
Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University
March 6, 2011 Brown University Press Release

The aftermath of an epileptic seizure has some mysterious characters, including the molecule putrescine. In new research on tadpoles, which share similar brain chemistry with humans, putrescine emerges as a calming influence that conveys resistance to subsequent seizures. In the long run, the discovery could aid in developing drugs for young children with epilepsy.

For years brain scientists have puzzled over the shadowy role played by the molecule putrescine, which always seems to be present in the brain following an epileptic seizure, but without a clear indication whether it was there to exacerbate brain damage that follows a seizure or protect the brain from it. A new Brown University study unmasks the molecule as squarely on the side of good: It seems to protect against seizures hours later.

Putrescine is one in a family of molecules called “polyamines” that are present throughout the body to mediate crucial functions such as cell division. Why they surge in the brain after seizures isn’t understood. In a lengthy set of experiments, Brown neuroscientists meticulously traced their activity in the brains of seizure-laden tadpoles. What they found is that putrescine ultimately converts into the neurotransmitter GABA, which is known to calm brain activity. When they caused a seizure in the tadpoles, they found that the putrescine produced in a first wave of seizures helped tadpoles hold out longer against a second wave of induced seizures.

Carlos Aizenman, assistant professor of neuroscience and senior author of a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, said further research could ultimately produce a drug that targets the process, potentially helping young children with epilepsy. Tadpoles and toddlers aren’t much alike, but this basic aspect of their brain chemistry is.

“Overall, the findings presented in this study may have important therapeutic implications,” Aizenman and co-authors wrote. “We describe a novel role for polyamine metabolism that results in a protective effect on seizures induced in developing animals.”

The result that “priming” the tadpoles with a seizure led to them being 25 percent more resistant to a subsequent seizure four hours later was “puzzling,” said Aizenman, who is affiliated with the Brown Institute for Brain Science. It took about a dozen more experiments before his team, led by graduate student Mark Bell, could solve the mystery.

First they hindered polyamine synthesis altogether and found that not only did the protection against seizures disappear, but it also left the tadpoles even more vulnerable to seizures. Then they interrupted the conversion of putrescine into other polyamines and found that this step enhanced the protection, indicating that putrescine was the beneficial member of the family.

Going with those results, they administered putrescine directly to the tadpoles and found that it took 65 percent longer to induce a seizure than in tadpoles that didn’t get a dose of putrescine.

Further experiments showed that the protective effect occurs after putrescine is metabolized, with at least one intermediary step, into GABA, and GABA receptors are activated in brain cells.

“Potentially by manipulating this pathway we may be able to harness an ongoing protective effect against seizures,” Aizenman said. “However I should caution that this is basic research and it is premature to predict how well this would translate into the clinic.”

In the meantime, the research may also help explain a bit more about young brains in general, Aizenman said.

“Our findings may also tell us how normal brains, especially developing brains, may regulate their overall levels of activity and maybe keep a type of regulatory check on brain activity levels,” he said.

In addition to Aizenman and Bell, the paper’s other authors are undergraduates James Belarde and Hannah Johnson. The American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health funded the study, while individual researchers were supported by the National Science Foundation, the Klingenstein Fund, and the Brain Science Siravo Awards for Epilepsy Research.