China post #43, DiaoLuoShan

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Kevin Messenger
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China post #43, DiaoLuoShan

Post by Kevin Messenger » September 28th, 2012, 3:12 am

A link to the previous post, #42, Hainan Island: http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=13316

1 July 2012
Our first day at DiaoLuoShan (N18.725134 E109.868671). Initially, I was quite impressed. The area is nice, the temperature is great.

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We were staying at a resort hotel, we had access to a restaurant. The elevation is around 950 m and is advertised as “the highest resort in Hainan.” Li Min was here back in May (along with about 100 other students) and he said they were finding about 2 or 3 snakes per day (combining all 100 student-effort), including one Rhabdophis adleri. So at first I was thinking “awesome, 3 snakes per day is not bad,” but then later on I started thinking about the whole 100-man effort – “actually, 3 snakes per day is pretty bad.”

He showed us around all the various roads and trails. Walking the main road into the reserve we found two DOR mock vipers. We did a short hike into some dense forest with a boardwalk over the mountain streams – the habitat reminded me of my summer job in West Virginia with Plethodon netting, gorgeous streams with moss covered rocks.

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That evening we went on a night hike on an awesome trail north of the resort. Almost immediately I was hearing several new frog species calling. The trail was great; it felt like a proper hiking trail (which is super rare in China). When we walked up on the first significant puddle, there was a chorus of new calls. We found maybe 5 species at that puddle (that we could see).

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These guys had some really cool calls.


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A friend asked why the name “mutus” – I have no clue

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(I love the beak like mouth on these guys)

This species was also very photogenic, every time you saw one, you wanted to take a pic:
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Daytime coloration:
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Kurixalus bisacculus – previously Aquixalus odontotarsus:
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Continuing on, we get to the next puddle and a juvenile Sinonatrix percarinata dives into the mud – we catch him and continue on.

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Almost every puddle ended up having a local Sinonatrix juvenile. We found 5 for the night. When we got to one of the larger puddles, not only did it have a local water snake, several species of frogs, but it also had the only salamander known to Hainan! Well, technically it is a newt I suppose, but either way, still pretty cool to find the one and only caudate.

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I was told I probably wouldn’t see the species because we are beyond the breeding season and they essentially disappear after the breeding season is over. An additional bonus was that on the return hike, we obviously stopped at each puddle again and when we got to the salamander puddle, there was another individual! (the next night had a 3rd individual)

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2 July 2012
In the coming days, I would learn that DiaoLuoShan was not as great as I initially thought. In the first day we found 16 species of herps and in the next coming days we would barely increase that number (each day/ night was basically the same species over and over. Over the 5 days we got the species number up to 21). Also the restaurant had the worst food we’ve had in Hainan (you won’t see any pics of the food because there wasn’t a single dish I was impressed with), it was far worse than the tiny little town in LiMuShan (the restaurant in LiMuShan had mice fighting inside the walls, chickens walking around the dirt floor, geckos crawling on the ceiling), not only was the food bad, but the selection of meals was very limited (and very repetitive over the course of the next 4 days). Sometimes the selection we had for dinner was the exact same 3 dishes we had for lunch (very bland and poorly done versions of good dishes I have had elsewhere). Oh, and perhaps the worst bit is the fact that DiaoLuoShan does not have any soda! So I went 5-6 days without a coke/pepsi/ sprite, just water and beer.

This area of Hainan is also rumored to be infested with leeches. I have received several warnings from lots of sources, including first hand experiences from other herpers – yet the entire time I only saw a single leech. Another thing I was finding strange was the lack of mosquitoes. Since arriving in Hainan I had only received two bites. Actually, since arriving in China period. I am still curious to know where exactly the mosquitoes are supposed to be bad in China. In Hong Kong they are definitely bad, but both in mainland China and on Hainan Island, I have yet to experience a location that seems to have more than 5 mosquitoes.

Well anyway, for today I wanted to walk the trail we did the night before in the daytime, take some habitat shots and what not, see what’s active during the day.

We came up on some daytime Amolops torrentis:
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Overall we saw very little during the day. Here’s the habitat where the Tylototritons were found:
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Pics of the trail:
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After lunch we walked the main road to look for DORs. We didn’t see much at all.

Gigantic earthworm:
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It had this cool iridescence when we picked it up (the purple shimmer):
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That evening we walked the main road. I wanted to see if it would produce anything different from the trail. It didn’t. We didn’t see anything except for some birds.

Nightjars:
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We hit the trail again, sine we struck out on the road. All of the same frogs, same Sinonatrix’s, when we got to the newt puddle, there was a 3rd newt. That was about it for the night. Kind of disappointing, nothing new.

Polypedates mutus
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Rana versabilis
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Rana fragilis
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Rana spinulosa
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Microhyla pulchra:
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Sinonatrix percarinata
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3 July 2012
We did an afternoon hike on the main road. As we were walking back to the hotel I had my eyes on the mountain side (the “wall” next to the road) – I saw a nice sized hole, like a small mammal hole, didn’t give it much thought, and at the last second right as I passed it I saw what looked like some spider legs back in the hole/ burrow. “whoa whoa whoa, either I’m seeing things, or that was a tarantula in that hole” I said out loud. I walked back, took a second look, and yes, in fact it was a very large tarantula in the burrow. I was quite shocked by this as I had thought China didn’t have any tarantulas. I went up to the burrow and attempted to coax the spider out with a stick – it retreated deep into the burrow as soon as I approached the burrow. We would try again later that night.

Tarantula hole:
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On the walk back we explored one of the side roads which had some debris under it, which we obviously flipped and found this gravid female Hainan water skink:
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Walking around the main resort area you could actually see some turtles that weren’t red-eared sliders! My pics suck, I’m not very happy with my new telephoto lens (Tameron 18 – 250mm).

(likely stocked, but at least they were native species – Ocadia sinensis):
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That night we did the main road so we could try to coax the spider out. On the walk down we found a smaller, different looking tarantula crossing the road:

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That night the spider was closer to the entrance of the burrow, but still mostly inside. I attempted to draw it out again with a stick (same way I have done in TX – tapping in front of the burrow with a stick, making the spider think there is an insect or some sort of prey item right there) – and again, as soon as I tap in front of the burrow, it retreats back into the burrow. Hmmm… maybe this species doesn’t respond or act the same way as North American tarantulas.

I’d try once more the next night, and if that didn’t work I was willing to try digging the spider out (as I was thinking it could potentially be something new because again, I didn’t think China had tarantulas).

4 July 2012
Back in the month of May, when Li Men was here with all of the other students, a French birder found an Ovophis monticola – I wanted to check out this location. So Li Men took us there and we searched it for a good hour or so:

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Here’s where an Ovophis monticola was found (under the log in the bottom right hand corner):
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(how cool would that be, to flip a log and see an Ovophis!! so jealous…. And it wasn’t even a herper that found it)

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We found another water skink:
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A juvenile R. fragilis:
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Tonight was our last attempt on the tarantula…. My thought was to thread a small stick past the spider, touching it on the abdomen and scaring it out. As I cautiously tried to thread the stick behind the spider, without touching any of the sides (as I was worried that would scare it back into the burrow) the tarantula sprung to life and grabbed the stick, scaring the crap out of me. “ok, well let’s try this again” – I touched some leaves outside of the burrow and it came running out even further, but it still wasn’t completely out, it had one foot still in the burrow. On my next attempt to draw it out even further, it got scared and retreated back into the hole. In short, we ultimately had to dig it out. The burrow was thankfully not that deep. Once I got back to civilization I sent my friend Maarten (a spider and herp guy that lives in Guilin) some pics and asked him if he knew the species. The common name is the Black Earth Tiger, which is endemic to Hainan. It was one of Maarten’s dream spiders to find.

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5 July 2012
Lots of rain. We were originally supposed to leave today, but Li Min was unable to get a hold of his advisor (to ask for permission and a vehicle to pick us up). So most of the day was spent photographing specimens from the previous days.

6 July 2012
We left DiaLuoShan, finally! We saw two new lizards running across the road on the drive down, a Calotes versicolor and a Mabuya multifasciata.

I’m going through snake withdraw. We saw 3 DOR mock vipers and a bunch of Sinonatrix, that was it, for all of those days we spent there.

I go into the field again from the 9th to the 12th, then we come back to Haikou so Iwo can catch a plane to Shanghai on the morning of the 13th (so that he can then catch a flight to the states on the morning of the 14th).

A link to the next post, #44: http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=13599

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Re: China post #43, DiaoLuoShan

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » September 28th, 2012, 5:19 am

Beautiful trail and habitat! Awesome tarantulas!

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Re: China post #43, DiaoLuoShan

Post by ahockenberry » September 29th, 2012, 4:13 pm

Kevin
Always good to see your shots -
Loved the stream shots - what a paradise !
Great array of species - love the newts and the frogs.
THe spider looks pretty scary
Thanks for sharing

Ashley

Jimi
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Re: China post #43, DiaoLuoShan

Post by Jimi » October 1st, 2012, 10:28 am

That worm - whoa. Freakin' me out.

Hainan looks pretty sweet. I see your comparison with the Appalachians.

Ovophis seems like a total enigma everywhere the genus occurs. Is there any place you can hope (reasonably) to just go see one?

Sad not to see any tree viper shots! What do they have there, just stejnegeri?

How's the hand, anyway? No lingering effects?

Cheers,
Jimi

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Re: China post #43, DiaoLuoShan

Post by Kevin Messenger » October 1st, 2012, 1:09 pm

Hainan is sweet in a way. Overall, I wasn't as impressed with it. I guess my expectations of it were higher than it ended up being. Of all the Asia places I've been, Hainan seemed to have the least number of herps (at least snakes - it had plenty of frogs, which I love, but my JOB there was to find a very specific snake, and that just wasn't happening).

Here is the Ovophis that was under that log back in May:
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(picture by Li Min)

I do not know of any place where they can be found with any reliability.

The previous post had tree viper shots, at TongGuLing (the first site we searched). The island has both stejnegeri and albolabris.

Here is one of the vipers they found back in May at DiaoLuoShan:
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(pic by Li Min)

To me, it doesn't look like either species, but then the character to tell the difference between the two is so damn small... you'd need a better camera (higher resolution) to tell on this picture

The hand is perfect. No lingering effects of any kind.

Jimi
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Re: China post #43, DiaoLuoShan

Post by Jimi » October 1st, 2012, 1:37 pm

The previous post
Oh yeah - duh. That was a while ago. All the mock vipers reminded me I had actually seen that episode!

It was my impression that Viridovipera generally get pretty big, the females at least, and that Cryptelytrops are generally smaller. Sheer gestalt says "big honkin' female" about the image you just posted. I don't see any trace of the alternating dark/light banding of the skin so often seen with albolabris. So maybe she's a stejnegeri??? Love the ruby eye, btw. Like a pomegranate seed.

Hey, glad the hand is all good. May it ever be so.

Cheers,
Jimi

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Re: China post #43, DiaoLuoShan

Post by Kevin Messenger » October 1st, 2012, 1:48 pm

well since you're using the lingo, I have to ask - I was under the impression that Viridovipera AND Cryptelytrops were sunk and both got reverted back to Trimeresurus (in reference to stejnegeri and albolabris at least, I can't speak for elsewhere in Asia.

I was exposed to 3 Trimeresurus species this summer. In Hong Kong, the only one present is albolabris, and the biggest we saw was maybe close to a meter (female - around 200 g, but most females didn't top 100 g).

In Taiwan, only one is present, stejnegeri - and the individuals we saw there (~30) were smaller than the albolabris I saw in HK. Maybe this is a temperature related size thing??

Then, I went to Thailand where we saw macrops - and again, most of the individuals we saw (~20) were smaller than the albolabris in HK. I think the heaviest macrops we saw was around 80g.

The only thing I have heard of to distinguish albolabris from stejnegeri is whether or not the nasal scale is divided or sutured.... externally speaking of course. Pretty sure there are differences in the hemipenes as well, but I wouldn't know.

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Re: China post #43, DiaoLuoShan

Post by Jimi » October 1st, 2012, 4:08 pm

Huh, I dunno about the grand revision of the Trimeresurus mess being rolled back any. I do know that as recently as last year species were still being described in Cryptelytrops. For example:
http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2011/f/zt02757p023.pdf

That's from the lab that took the bull by the horns a decade or so back. Maybe WW will see this and chime in.

Macrops was named one of "the Crypts" (so, consistent with the impression I stated before, I'm not surprised you saw only little bitty ones). Did any of them have much blue on them? With orange eyes? I love that look!

Anyway I think most of that genus have the fused-scale condition you mention. I've kept a mess of "bamboo vipers" (generically called "Pope's" at the time - what a mess...) and most - not all - had the fused nasal & supralabial. Not an easy thing to distinguish in the field, surely - especially on small animals, or in dim light, both of which are the usual situation, right?!? Ha ha. A good lens, pointed from the right angle, could help get a good look - once you see it 100% for sure on one animal, it's easier to determine on others, in my experience - you get the search image down. Too bad Li Min's shot is so "overhead" on the last animal featured. That would be a very good animal's face to look at closely, as it would be easy to see the 1 big scale, or the 2 smaller ones, by the nostril - on such a large animal in such good light.

(Incidentally, it's rather interesting how long that character state has been identified as useful in "bamboo viper" taxonomy.)

Yeah, no doubt the sexy bits also vary among the species & genera but...that's SO! not a very helpful field character. Slightly better than molecular I guess...e.g. you could "pop" a DOR to have yourself a look.

Interesting notes you share from the field, and reports of variation. Thanks again, I love your posts. I'd sure like to find 50 wild "trimmies" - lucky you. One thing to add - myself, I don't necessarily expect that "the book has been completed" on species richness, or identity, in Taiwan, HK, Hainan, or any other spot. Seems like there's just a flood of "new" species being described in SE Asia right now, frogs, snakes, you name it. "Albolabris" is just begging to be split up!

Cheers,
Jimi

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Re: China post #43, DiaoLuoShan

Post by Kevin Messenger » October 2nd, 2012, 7:44 pm

Jimi wrote:Did any of them have much blue on them? With orange eyes? I love that look!
Not so much orange as yellow. Here are some of the animals we found in Thailand:

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Re: China post #43, DiaoLuoShan

Post by Jimi » October 6th, 2012, 9:56 am

Here are some of the animals we found in Thailand:
Those are just heavenly. Thank you so much. (I'm in a bit of a "Oh God, here comes another 6 months of winter" funk.)

Cheers,
Jimi

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