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 Post subject: Borneo Dispatches #7: Li'l Temple Viper
PostPosted: September 9th, 2011, 12:55 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
I learned an interesting fact from Indraneil Das the other day: while Borneo's biodiversity is the stuff of legends, the actual biodensity is atrocious. Of the 100+ snake species the man has seen in 14 years as a herpetologist in Sarawak, very few were spotted more than three or four times. He attributes that phenomenon to an equally low prey specimen density (which in turn encourages diviersification and, subsequently, speciation, I guess).

As anyone who's ever herped in the inner tropics can attest, the jungle environs and their three-dimensional nature, a mix of Escher's eye carcinogenics and Where's Waldo?, do not exactly facilitate the search for those few specimens that are out there. Road cruising is completely out around Kuching: there are only a handful of roads, all of those are way too wide, and none of them lead through a proper forest. Rock flipping doesn't work, either - I was told that unlike in temperate zones or the outer tropics, snakes don't hide under rocks etc. here, for the simple fact that it's too bloody warm in such places.

So all a herper can do around these parts is to hit the woods, hit them hard and often, then hit 'em again, and hope for for chance encounters.

And that's what we try to do. Last Saturday night we visited a place that has fast become one of our favorite hunting grounds, the Ranchan Waterfall area near Serian (see this earlier post). Apart from a very cool, but also very fast and flighty leopard gecko (Cyrtodactylus sp.) this time around we didn't find much to write home about, just the usual array of wee phasmids and snoring agamids. But on the way back, when we had almost reached the parking lot again and were crossing the last wooden footbridge, I had a final look around the trees along the creek below me, and my tenacity was rewarded. Sitting on a small branch about 15 feet above ground was this juvenile Wagler's Pitviper (Tropidolaemus wagleri). Just my luck that the first pitviper I get to see in Borneo looks almost exactly like Viridovipera s. stejnegeri, a staple feature of Taiwan's nocturnal forests. Why couldn't it have been one of the lovely striped ones, or at least a spotted specimen?? Oh well. We're going on an overnight trip to Bako National Park tomorrow, and we've been told that you can almost always find adult Waglers sitting in the bushes behind the little restaurant next to the park office. Waiting to prey on exhausted tourists, for sure...

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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #7: Li'l Temple Viper
PostPosted: September 9th, 2011, 2:53 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 3:39 pm
Posts: 380
Location: Concord TWP, Ohio
Beautiful animal Hans! I can't wait to see your first big, fat, banded adult!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #7: Li'l Temple Viper
PostPosted: September 9th, 2011, 3:40 am 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 6:17 am
Posts: 351
yep. in the tropics, "common species are rare and rare species are common"


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #7: Li'l Temple Viper
PostPosted: September 9th, 2011, 3:46 am 
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Warren wrote:
yep. in the tropics, "common species are rare and rare species are common"

That's an interesting thought. Why, I wonder? (not "why is it interesting", but "why are common species rare etc.")


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #7: Li'l Temple Viper
PostPosted: September 9th, 2011, 4:46 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:45 am
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Location: One of the boys from Illinois
nice! We hardly ever see those around my place :crazyeyes:

-Mike


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #7: Li'l Temple Viper
PostPosted: September 9th, 2011, 5:18 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
I googled that quote and found this:

It's mentioned in Tropical Nature that "common species are rare and rare species are common." Upon first glance, some of the trees might look the same, but if you observed them from the canopy, you'd discover that they are in fact different species. Another example is that you'll see one species of poison dart frog, then you'll see another species of poison dart frog, then another, but never the same species in a given area. It's an intricate, interdependent system - some species of animals only feeding on one species of plant!

Scientists believe that this narrow specialization, along with the tropical rainforest's stable climate, is what creates such astounding biodiversity. A mere 7% of the world is rainforest, yet 50% of the world's plant and animal species inhabit the rainforest!


(Source)


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #7: Li'l Temple Viper
PostPosted: September 9th, 2011, 8:52 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:37 pm
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Location: Ft. Smith, Arkansas
Great post as usual, Hans.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #7: Li'l Temple Viper
PostPosted: September 9th, 2011, 8:20 pm 
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Joined: June 16th, 2010, 12:26 pm
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Great snake, Hans. I look forward to all of your pics of whatever you find in Sarawak. Thanks for the info regarding the density of the snakes in Borneo ... interesting. It does see strange to be in a warm, wet locality like that but then to struggle to find anything. I know the feeling from my trip to Maliau and Taman Negara earlier this year.

Regards,
David


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #7: Li'l Temple Viper
PostPosted: September 11th, 2011, 8:06 pm 
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Joined: June 12th, 2010, 9:28 am
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Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
Apart from a very cool, but also very fast and flighty leopard gecko (Cyrtodactylus sp.) this time around we didn't find much to write home about, just the usual array of wee phasmids and snoring agamids.


Hans, don’t denigrate the snoring agamids -- the snoring agamids are fantastic. More snoring agamids, I always say!

Oh yeah, nice li’l snake too.

John


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #7: Li'l Temple Viper
PostPosted: September 12th, 2011, 10:27 pm 
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Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 9:48 pm
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Very cool. I've always put the seeming sparsity of snakes in rainforest down to the sheer amount of available habitat (including refuge sites etc). In other words, I've always thought it wasn't a matter of the snakes not being there or not being common, it was a matter of them being bloody hard to see!

I think this applies to pretty much any kind of forest actually. When you go for a long walk through dry sclerophyll forest (for example) around Sydney, you're lucky if you see a snake out and about. Drive through the same forest on an appropriate evening and you might see a dozen snakes or more. As you also hinted, if you're searching for a site-specific species that only likes to live under a certain type of rock on a hill with the right aspect (etc etc) then it's not that hard to find them, even if they ARE legitimately rare.

In rainforest in the tropics, there is less pressure for reptiles to be so specialised to certain micro-habitats because the temperature is far more constant than it is in temperate zones - they are spoiled for choice in terms of appropriate refuge sites. Add to this the fact that so many species of rainforest snake either live under the leaf litter or in the trees (actually this applies to animal biomass in general) and it all contributes to them being very hard to find.

If you also have no roads appropriate for cruising, this once again makes snakes that much harder to find - snakes are easy to see on roads because there's no cover available there.

I could be totally wrong of course and I (obviously) don't have one iota of Indraneil's experience in Bornean rainforest, this is just the explanation I've always assumed was correct.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #7: Li'l Temple Viper
PostPosted: September 13th, 2011, 2:25 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
I think it's a lethal combination of all those factors.


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