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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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It's Reptile Time
27 November 2000 7:00 pm
Just about everyone is familiar with the plight of amphibians, which researchers fear are in worldwide decline due to pollution and habitat destruction. But what about reptiles? The scaly ones have been badly ignored, herpetologists and other researchers claimed at a forum earlier this month at the meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Nashville.
"Reptiles are underrated and underexplored," says J. Whitfield Gibbons, a herpetologist at the University of Georgia, Athens. "Even biologists aren't that familiar with them." Bill Hopkins of the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, who is studying the effect of pollutants on aquatic snakes, agrees. "Of the thousands of studies on vertebrates in toxicology, less than 1% are on reptiles," Hopkins says--even though turtles, snakes, lizards, and crocodilians make up 20% of vertebrate species. Noteworthy exceptions are studies of pollution-caused alterations of sex hormones in alligators of Florida's Lake Apopka and effects of organic contaminants on snapping turtles around the Great Lakes.
Scientists are now pushing for more attention to reptiles. Some species of turtles and crocodiles live up to 60 years, so they could yield valuable information on cumulative exposure to toxins, Hopkins says. But they're harder to sample because they don't tend to congregate during breeding, and many live underground. At this point, says Hopkins, "we really don't know anything about their responses to contaminants."