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 Post subject: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma!
PostPosted: April 17th, 2013, 10:15 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Here are three critters we found in the past few weeks. Each find has a nice background story.

1. White-lipped Black-headed Snake (Sibynophis melanocephalus)
Yeah, I know, It has neither white lips nor a black head, but that's them nomenclaturers for you. The way we found this was highly unusual for our standards: we were on the beach in Bako National Park (southwest Sarawak), mesmerized by one of the most glorious sunsets I've ever seen, when suddenly my buddy yelled "SNAKESNAKESNAKESNAKESNAKE!!" and pointed at something wriggling right between my feet. In the twilight, I couldn't really see what it was, but I could see enough to rule out anything venomous, so I grabbed it. We'd never seen this species before, and it took us many days and many angles to identify the beast.

Here's a crappy cellphone shot of the fantastic space show...
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...and here's the snake
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2. Orchid Mantis (Hymenopus coronatus)
The other night we were patrolling a coastal nipah swamp, a habitat which, while not known for its biodiversity, is nevertheless home to some of the larger snakes in Borneo (mangrove snakes, retics). Swamps are also the only places I've ever seen Banded kraits (B. fasciatus). None of those made an appearance that night, but among the myriads of tree-dwelling critters (crabs in the bushes; woodrats on the palms), we eventually found another life form hiding under a leaf - and what a life form it was! We recognized it as a mantis, but had no idea about its ID. Further research confirmed it was a Pink Orchid Mantis (Hymenopus coronatus), a not-so-rare, but very rarely spotted (in Borneo) flower mimic. The juveniles are even more spectacular, but although this adult didn't have the juvies' hot-pink accents, it made up for it with regal eyes fit for an alien queen from the realms beyond Alpha Centauri. More on the species here.

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3. Rhinoceros Beetle (Chalcosoma moellenkampi)
Rhinoceros beetles are not only the strongest species in the world, able to lift more than a hundred times their own weight, but they're also extremely aggressive - even the larvae bite (!!), and adult males need to be kept in separate tanks. Here's one of those testosterone-soaked fellers challenging a species of a more delicate demeanor to a street fight ("Wanna tussle, fairy bitch? Huh? Wanna dance?"). Bullies, the lot of them...
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I got a taste of his superbeetlian strength yesterday morning when I heard a tremendous crash from the pantry and found he had popped the lid of his critter tank and was lustily flying around the room, making noises like a turbocharged Messerschmitt. We found him not in the jungle, but on the edge thereof - in a village cafe, to be precise. I had just finished one loop of my Saturday night snake survey cruise and was walking towards the cafe when I saw three teenage girls leaving their table in a rather unorthodox fashion: jumping up, knocking over their chairs, then running backwards away from the table, screaming like banshees, their eyes fixed on something sitting between their drinks. A gallant youth from the neighboring table (doubtlessly sensing a chance for a little instant "oh-my-hero!!" romance) swiped the insect to the floor, where it landed in front of me. I had never seen a live rhino beetle before and was appropriately awed by its formidable attire. Not daring to pick him up with my bare hands (it's actually OK, I learned later) I threw a towel on the bug, got the travel terrarium from the truck, and in he went, thrashing and buzzing something fierce.

In terms of illumination, this is easily the worst animal I've ever photographed. No amount of tinkering with the flash positions would yield a shot without at least a quarter of the bug being covered in maddening reflections. Guess that's what you get when you look like Sir Galahad in full keratin drag...

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And lastly, a gratuitous rhino beetle habitat shot - The Road To Kalimantan.
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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: April 17th, 2013, 11:21 pm 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 9:57 pm
Posts: 468
Location: Ohio, then Arizona, now South Australia
Holy guacamole! That sunset is a stunner!! :thumb: Reminds me of a lot of summer eves in Tucson. I gotta say that I have a real love of bugs, and that rhino is a beauty. Given your location, if you in fact haven't already done this, you NEED to try black lighting for insects at night. I rigged up my own 12V system by buying a fixture from a caravan outlet, replaced the fluoro tubes with UV black light tubes, and added alligator clips for attachment to the truck battery. Just spread a white sheet on the ground with the light positioned in the center, or suspend the sheet vertically from whatever with clothes pins with the light hanging in the center, pour your favorite glass of wine and sit back for the show :D . I can't imagine what spectacular insects await you in that tropical paradise. I've heard mercury vapor lights are good also, and for either type of light you can always use the local house current with a generator for that voltage. You will see moths that you could not imagine in your wildest dreams. Go for it, and post the pics!!!! :beer:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: April 17th, 2013, 11:25 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
That's a brilliant idea! I've seen it done in Taiwan, but there you needed a permit. Not that you wouldn't here, but less people would care, I reckon. I'll need to think about a place where to do it...I'll be back!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: April 18th, 2013, 12:42 am 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 9:57 pm
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Location: Ohio, then Arizona, now South Australia
:D Shall be waiting... :D


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: April 18th, 2013, 2:46 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 3:39 pm
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Location: Concord TWP, Ohio
That mantid is wicked cool!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: April 20th, 2013, 12:08 am 
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Joined: November 23rd, 2011, 8:26 am
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Location: London, United Kingdom
Can't emphasise how fascinating and overlooked those Sibynophis are.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: April 21st, 2013, 1:47 pm 
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Joined: June 29th, 2012, 5:08 pm
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Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Very nice. The mantis is absolutely incredibly fantastic! It looks like a phantasy creture.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: January 16th, 2015, 11:44 pm 
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Joined: December 26th, 2012, 11:48 pm
Posts: 618
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Whoa....gorgeous sunset. You must have a really great cellphone! :D

Nice snakes but I love that orchid mantis. Lucky of you to have found an adult in the wild. I have been looking for them since 2007! The ones I posted were someone's pets :oops: :cry:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: January 18th, 2015, 1:14 pm 
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Joined: June 12th, 2010, 9:28 am
Posts: 569
Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
A perfectly fine snake, but it can't hold a candle to those two insects. Great stuff! Someday I hope to explore the wilds of Borneo and find such fantastic creatures.

John


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: January 18th, 2015, 1:39 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:50 am
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Location: Huntington Beach, CA
Yeah, awesome sunset. Love nights like those. Never seem to last long enough. That mantis is wicked looking.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: January 19th, 2015, 6:23 am 

Joined: February 28th, 2014, 12:10 am
Posts: 119
Hi Hans, that Sibynophis is wonderful and very interestig as well. I noticed that it lacks the black bars which usually occupy those dorsolateral stripes in the anterior half of the body in S. melanocephalus. I once found a specimen on Santubong which also lacked those black bars. When I found that specimen, I wondered whether it was simply an abnormality. But seeing a second specimen I wonder........... It may also represent a colour dimorphism. However, it is interesting that two specimens without bars were found in the same area, Bako and Santubong being verey close.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: January 19th, 2015, 8:19 am 
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Joined: January 23rd, 2012, 10:08 am
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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Great shots Hans. Nice snake, but yes, those mantis shots are awesome. Your posts from Borneo are great at keeping the drive to get down to that amazing island alive and well.
Cheers


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: January 19th, 2015, 9:11 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thanks, guys ... I had no idea about the black bars! It's the only one I've found so far. Yes, you can see Santubong from the beach where I found it, it's just half an hour by boat. Let me ask Neil Das.

Sorry for not posting anything new in the last months. Last year was not a good herping year for me, way too busy with my job. I hope to make up for it in 2015. Found four snakes so far (all on the same day) but they were kinda ho-hum: two Tropidolaemus subannulatus and Xenopeltis unicolor each. Weather's not playing along either - huge floods everywhere now here in Sarawak, and my cruising road looks like an artillery range.

On the upside, I'm now 13000 words into my new book. Not being able to get out of the house onaccounta the rains has its upsides :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: January 19th, 2015, 10:29 pm 

Joined: February 28th, 2014, 12:10 am
Posts: 119
It may in fact represent S. geminatus instead of melanocephalus. However, when I found that specimen on santubong, I consulted Morgan's (1973) thesis on sibynophis and remember concluding that it was not S. geminatus. I do not remember though (it's many years ago) on what grounds I came to that conclusion.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: January 21st, 2015, 4:24 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Interesting! Never heard of geminatus!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: January 21st, 2015, 6:00 am 

Joined: February 28th, 2014, 12:10 am
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Well, if it is indeed S. geminatus, I would not be surprised if yours are the first pictures of a living specimen. When I find the time, I'll have another look at that thesis of Morgan.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #69: Sibynophis! Hymenopus! Chalcosoma
PostPosted: January 21st, 2015, 6:39 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thank you!


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