Presentation in Neunkirchen about Madagascar

Presentation in Neunkirchen about Madagascar

Live lectures

The spokeswoman of the AG Chamäleons will give a lecture rich in pictures about not only, but also very many chameleons on 13th January 2023 in Neunkirchen (Saarland). Madagascar, located in the Indian Ocean a good 400 km east of the African mainland, is known for its extremely high biodiversity. The absolute hot spots are on the east coast of the island – reason enough to set out on an adventure in the north of Madagascar!

The journey takes you from the capital Antananarivo to Maroantsetra by tiny plane. A gentle introduction to camping can be found on the island of Nosy Mangabe, part of Masoala National Park. The golden sandy beaches of the “island of the leaf-tailed geckos” tell tales of thieving lemurs, glowing scorpions and snakes, which are preferably found behind the makeshift kitchen. The plane then takes the travellers to Sambava, the secret capital of vanilla. On foot, the expedition heads to the sacred mountain massif of Marojejy. In the tropical heat, the steep gorges and constant climbs are not easy terrains. But Marojejy is a paradise for herpetologists: almost innumerable chameleons, geckos, snakes, insects and other creatures can be found here with a little luck and skill. Last but not least, the high altitudes of the mystical rainforest are also home to the “angels of the forest”, the endangered silky sifakas.

Afterwards, the journey continues somewhat more comfortably in an off-road vehicle: on the notorious RN5 via Vohémar into the dry forest of Loky Manambato – a dry contrast programme! Via Ambilobe, Ambanja and Ankarana, the last destination of the adventure trip beckons: The fantastic rainforest of the Montagne d’Ambre, a paradise for campers, chameleon lovers, frog lovers and snake freaks. On this trip, everyone gets their money’s worth – only luxury falls somewhat by the wayside.

Dr. Alexandra Laube Camping with Chameleons – Madagascar’s north east coast
DGHT Regionalgruppe Saar-Pfalz
Zoo school of Zoo Neunkirchen
Zoostraße 25
66538 Neunkirchen
Admission is from 6.30 p.m., lecture begins at 7 p.m.

Picture: Calumma guillaumeti in Marojejy, photographed by Dr. Alexandra Laube

Six new Rhampholeon species in Tanzania

Six new Rhampholeon species in Tanzania

Neubeschreibungen Science

In the last 15 years, the number of known Rhampholeon species has doubled – not least because some species complexes “hid” numerous undescribed species. Scientists from Great Britain, Tanzania, and South Africa have now shed light on exactly such a case: the Rhampholeon uluguruensis/moyeri complex. The pygmy chameleons from this complex inhabit different habitats in the Eastern Arc Mountains, a 600 km long mountain range stretching from Kenya to Tanzania. The most striking feature of the genus Rhampholeon so far is that the described species differ only slightly in appearance, but occur in narrowly defined habitats that are usually completely isolated from each other. The authors studied pygmy chameleons from seven different locations in Tanzania. In the process, they were able to identify six new Rhampholeon species by means of genetic studies.

Rhampholeon colemani was named after the conservationist Carter Coleman. The species occurs in the Kitolomero Valley at about 1200 m a.s.l.. The valley is located in the Uzungwa Scarp Nature Reserve in the Udzungwa Mountains in the middle of Tanzania, about 350 km south-east of the capital Dodoma. What is special about this distribution area is that the already-known Rhampholeon moyeri also occurs in this reserve. It is still unclear whether the two species possibly live at different altitudes. Rhampholeon colemani grows up to 44 mm (TL) and is thus the second smallest of the Rhampholeon species described so far. The hemipenes of the males of these species could be described in detail. A characteristic feature of Rhampholeon colemani is the rostral appendage, which is at an angle of up to 59° to the snout or points slightly downwards. In all other terrestrial chameleons of the genus, the angle is much smaller, so the rostral appendage is rather straightforward.

Rhampholeon sabini was named in honour of Andy Sabin for his financial support and worldwide commitment to conservation. The species lives in Tanzania in the sub-montane rainforest of two neighbouring reserves, which are located in the north-east of the country about 250 km from the coastal city of Dar es Salaam. One of the habitats is the Nguu North Forest Reserve, the other the Kilindi Forest Reserve, both at an altitude of just over 1200 m above sea level. Rhampholeon sabini grows up to 54 mm, with the relative size of the head and tail appearing larger in relation to the rest of the body than in the other species.

Rhampholeon rubeho occurs on the mountains of the same name, the Rubeho Mountains, at about 1870 m a.s.l., located about 150 km east of the capital Dodoma. The rainforest inhabited by this species is mainly in the Mafwomero Forest Reserve. Rhampholeon rubeho grows up to 63 mm long. In addition, scientists currently count a population of earth chameleons in the Ilole Forest Reserve 50 km away, on the southern foothills of the Rubeho Mountains, as belonging to this species. However, this population has not yet been genetically studied.

Rhampholeon nicolai was named after the late Nicola Colangelo, a Tanzanian entrepreneur who promoted species conservation and sustainable resource use. Rhampholeon nicolai grows up to 60 mm long, and similar to R. sabini, the relative size of the head and tail in relation to the rest of the body appears larger than in the other species. Rhampholeon nicolai lives in the Ukaguru Mountains, just north of the Rubeho Mountains. It has been recorded in the three contiguous protected areas of Mamiwa Kisara North Forest Reserve, Mamiwa Kisara South Forest Reserve and the Ikwamba Forest Reserve at 1970 m altitude. A population of ground chameleons in nearby Mikuvi Forest is initially counted as part of the species, but its exact status has yet to be investigated.

Rhampholeon waynelotteri was given its name in honour of the murdered South African conservation activist Wayne Lotter, who was particularly active in the fight against elephant poaching. This pgymy chameleon grows up to 55 m tall. It inhabits Mount Kanga, about 120 km from the Indian Ocean coast. Mount Kanga is part of the Nguru Mountains, although the mountain is separated from the main massif by an 8 km wide lowland corridor and a river. Rhampholeon waynelotteri is described from the Kanga Forest Reserve at about 1280 m as well as de Mkingu Nature Reserve. In the latter, it occurs together with Rhampholeon acuminatus, from which it can be easily distinguished by its differently shaped rostral appendage and small appendages above the eyes. A pygmy chameleon population on Mount Nguru was initially attributed to Rhampholeon waynelotteri, but further research is pending.

Rhampholeon princeeai was named after the American artist and YouTuber Prince Ea. Rhampholeon princeeai lives at altitudes of 1870 m in the Mkingu Nature Reserve on the Nguru Mountains. Rhampholeon waynelotteri and Rhampholeon acuminatus also occur there. The species grows up to 46 mm long and has a special feature: the rostral appendage has a triangular shape when viewed from above. In addition, the species has a small depression in the inguinal region, which the other species studied so far do not have.

The already known species Rhampholeon uluguruensis was found exclusively in the Uluguru Nature Reserve and the Mkungwe Forest Reserve. Rhampholeon moyeri is found only in the Uzungwa Scarp Nature Reserve in the Udzungwa Mountains. Rhampholeon beraduccii is restricted to the Sali Forest Reserve in the Mahenge Mountains and Rhampholeon acuminatus, as anticipated, lives exclusively in the Mingu Nature Reserve in the Nguru Mountains.

Cryptic diversity in pygmy chameleons (Chamaeleonidae: Rhampholeon) of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, with description of six new species
Michelle Menegon, John V. Lyakurwa, Simon P. Loader, Krystal A. Tolley
Acta Herpetologica 17 (2): 85-113, 2022
DOI: 10.36253/a_h-12978

Photo: Rhampholeon rubeho, from the above-mentioned publication

The Indian Chameleon in Jhalawar

The Indian Chameleon in Jhalawar

Science

Three scientists from India have recently published a survey of reptile and amphibian occurrences. The Jhalawar study area is located at the southernmost tip of the state of Rajasthan in northwest India. It is located on the edge of the Malwa Plateau, a volcanic highland. The area lies well to the southwest of the Ganges River, which is generally considered the distribution limit of the Indian Chameleon (Chamaeleo zeylanicus). The climate is divided into a long summer season and a shorter winter, which lasts from October to February. During the summer, temperatures above 45°C are common, while in winter temperatures can drop to as low as 1°C.

The three researchers were on site for about six hours each for 70 days. To search for reptiles and amphibians, they rummaged through loose soil as well as the foliage layer and visually searched for animals in parallel. 45 different species of reptiles and amphibians were found. Chamaeleo zeylanicus was documented for the first time in Rajasthan.

Herpeto-faunal diversity study: Analysis and critical observations from south-eastern Rajasthan, India
Yadav Vijay Kumar, Nama Krishnendra Singh, Sudhindran Rimal
Indian Journal of Ecology 49 (5), 2022: pp. 1581-1587
DOI: 10.55362/IJE/2022/3700

Genetics: Karyotype in the Veiled Chameleon

Genetics: Karyotype in the Veiled Chameleon

Science

It has been known for some time that the sex of the Veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) is genetically determined. The species has an XX/XY system. Scientists from Russia, Great Britain, Italy, and Thailand have now studied the karyotype of the species, i.e. the characteristics of the chromosomes.

The probably most original karyotype of all chameleons is 2n= 36. This “primal chameleon” had six pairs of metacentric macrochromosomes and twelve pairs of microchromosomes, particularly small chromosomes. The Veiled chameleon, on the other hand, has a smaller number of chromosomes, namely only 2n=24. Using various genetic investigation methods, the researchers in the present study found that this karyotype probably arose through fusions. Microchromosomes apparently fused with each other twice, and micro- and macrochromosomes fused no less than four times. The latter, the so-called heterogeneous fusion between chromosomes of different sizes, is unusual for vertebrates. Normally, macro- and microchromosomes are located at different locations in the cell nucleus and are transcribed and replicated at different rates. However, this phenomenon is already known from alligators and turtles – for chameleons it is new.

Until now, it was also unclear which pair of chromosomes in the Veiled chameleon is actually responsible for the sex. In Chamaeleo chamaeleon, the second largest chromosome pair codes for sex. However, initial speculation suggests that in the Veiled chameleon the fifth chromosome pair (CCA5) may instead be the sex chromosome pair. The conjecture still needs to be validated by further research. It is also still up for discussion which gene is actually predominantly responsible for the development of the sex organs in the embryo – the researchers identified at least three possible genes on CCA5.

Identification of Iguania ancestral syntenic blocks and putative sex chromosomes in the Veiled Chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus, Chamaeleonidae, Iguania)
Katerina V. Tishakova, Dmitry Yu. Prokopov, Guzel I. Davletshina, Alexander V. Rumyantsev, Patricia C. M. O’Brien, Malcolm A. Ferguson-Smith, Massimo Giovannotti, Artem P. Lisachov, Vladimir A. Trifonov
International Journal of Molecular Sciences 23, December 2022
DOI: 10.3390/ijms232415838

Rhampholeon spectrum – not just one species?

Rhampholeon spectrum – not just one species?

Science

The pygmy chameleon genus Rhampholeon is mainly found in East Africa. Rhampholeon viridis, Rhampholeon spinosus, and Rhampholeon temporalis each live in clearly defined and isolated areas of Tanzania. Rhampholeon spectrum, however, seems to be the complete opposite so far: The species has an enormous range in western Africa. It extends from Côte d’Ivoire through Ghana, Togo, and Benin to Nigeria and the outskirts of Niger and Chad, then on through Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon into the Central African Republic as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. Researchers from the USA and Cameroon have now investigated genetically what is behind the wide distribution.

Samples from an island at the northernmost tip of Equatorial Guinea, several mountains in Cameroon, and samples from two areas in Gabon were examined. To the researchers’ astonishment, it turned out that Rhampoleon spectrum is by no means genetically identical everywhere. Two clades could be identified from the samples: One in the lowlands and one in the montane forest, where the chameleons are found exclusively above 700 m a.s.l. A total of five genetically distinct populations were identified, several of which may represent new, as yet undescribed chameleon species.

The lowland clade includes the population in Gabon, where chameleons were sampled from Ivindo National Park and animals in an area near the town of Mekambo. The second population of the lowland clade occurs at low altitudes on Mount Korup, a mountain of volcanic origin. Mount Korup is located in the protected national park of the same name in Cameroon on the border with Nigeria.

The montane clade of the Rhampholeon spectrum includes three populations. One population occurs on Mount Biao on the island of Bioko, which belongs to Equatorial Guinea. A second population is found on Mount Cameroon, an active volcano in western Cameroon not far from the Gulf of Guinea. The type specimen of Rhampholeon spectrum comes from Mount Cameroon. The locality mentioned in the first description, Mapanja, is only a few kilometres away from one of the places where individuals were collected in the present study. This population is therefore probably the “true” Rhampholeon spectrum, the so-called topotypic group. The third population of the montane clade is found on three neighbouring mountains in Cameroon: Mount Kupe, Mount Mangengouba, and Mount Nlonako. Together with Mount Cameroon and Mount Biao, all three belong to the so-called Cameroon Line, a mountain range of volcanic origin that stretches along the border between Cameroon and Nigeria from the sea to Lake Chad.

The researchers are also looking into the question of how the different populations might have evolved. The separation between Rhampoleon spectrum and the pygmy chameleons in Tanzania can be dated to the late Eocene around 40 million years ago. During this time, the previously continuous rainforests in West, Central, and East Africa broke up into smaller, sometimes isolated fragments. The Rhampoleon spectrum clade then split into lowland and montane populations in the Miocene around 11.1 million years ago. In the Miocene, tectonic movements led to the uplift of a low mountain range that extended from southern Cameroon to the south of the Republic of Congo. Rivers, deserts, and other geographical barriers changed. Somewhat later, about 9.3 million years ago, the population on Bioko Island split off. The island’s pygmy chameleons are thus older than the island itself – the researchers explain this phenomenon by the fact that the island must have been connected to mainland Africa via a land bridge in the past. The chameleons would therefore have colonised the island, found a home on the mountain, and only then became isolated from the mainland. However, the genetically identical population on the mainland could not be found – researchers consider it extinct. In the late Miocene, around 6.9 million years ago, the populations on Mount Korup and in Gabon emerged. Only at the transition from the Miocene to the Pleistocene, 5.2 million years ago, did the populations on Mount Cameroon and Mount Kupe emerge.

Further research on this topic will show whether new species are actually hiding under the name Rhampholeon spectrum – chances are good. It would also be interesting to investigate populations of the species that are not mentioned in this study. Because, of course, the Rhampholeon spectrum from southern and eastern Cameroon, continental Equatorial Guinea, southern Gabon, and the Congo could also be further, independent populations. Science remains exciting!

Diversification and historical demography of Rhampholeon spectrum in West-Central Africa
Walter Paulin Tapondjou Nkonmeneck, Kaitlin E. Allen, Paul M. Hime, Kristen N. Knipp, Marina M. Kameni, Arnaud M. Tchassem, LeGrand N. Gonwouo, Rafe M. Brown
PLOS One, December 2022
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0277107

A thank you to Ines

A thank you to Ines

General topics

Just in time for the fourth Advent, we sent a little Chameleon thank-you on its way to Hamburg this weekend. For more than ten years, Ines Opifanti has made her private web space available for hosting the website of AG Chamäleons. And she also looked after the website on the side. Both are now in new hands. As this commitment cannot be taken for granted, we would like to thank Ines very much. Thank you for your time, effort, and work! We hope you will think back to the AG while enjoying a glass or two of gin ;)

Keeping and breeding Brookesia thieli

Keeping and breeding Brookesia thieli

Haltungsberichte

The breeding of leaf chameleons outside Madagascar has been successful since the 1990s. Nevertheless, there are only a few keepers who can prove breeding success in the long term or who have been dealing with individual leaf chameleon species for years. Michael Nash from the USA has now published a detailed husbandry and breeding report on Brookesia thieli.

He keeps his animals in the terrariums we commonly use with completely ventilated lids and either vent in the front bottom or the entire front as ventilation area, living plants, and bioactive substrate. T5 HO and halogen spotlights are used for lighting. The best breeding results were achieved by keeping two or three males together with four females. The author was able to make exciting observations on the defensive behaviour of males, where the animals not only open their mouths but actually protrude their mouth cavities. For food, the author uses Zelus renardii, a type of predatory beetle from North America, in addition to the usual small food such as micro crickets, bean beetles, and various flies. This is sold as a beneficial insect and is used, for example, in the Mediterranean region to control certain pests in olive plantations. In addition, Brookesia thieli particularly liked winged termites offered by the author, which might also be an interesting food animal that has hardly been used by chameleon keepers so far.

To trigger mating behaviour, dry and rainy seasons are imitated. The dry season is characterised above all by a massive night-time drop in temperature to 13°C and less irrigation. During the imitated rainy season, temperatures rise to around 26°C during the day and 19-21°C at night, and there is also increased irrigation during the day. Females lay 3-5 eggs after an average gestation of 30-60 days, with up to three clutches per female per season. The best incubation success was achieved at 21-23°C during the day and 19-20°C at night. The author notes that hatching rates increased after supplementing the diet with preformed vitamin A every two months.

Overall, this is a very readable husbandry report with many interesting details. Hopefully that the data will support keepers in the breeding and long-term conservation of this exciting leaf chameleon species.

Keeping and breeding Brookesia thieli
Michael Nash
Responsible Herpetoculture Journal 5, 2022
keine DOI vorhanden

Fossil finds of Chamaeleo chamaeleon in Morocco

Fossil finds of Chamaeleo chamaeleon in Morocco

Science

There have only been a few fossil finds of reptiles from Morocco so far, especially concerning Agama bibronii and Chamaeleo chamaeleon. Archaeologists from the National Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (Institut National des Sciences de l’Archéologie et du Patrimoine, INSAP) in Rabat, Morocco, have now published an overview of Moroccan finds.

The rock cave of Ifri n’Ammar belongs to the Rif mountain range, which runs about 50 km away from the northeast coast of Morocco and is part of the Atlas Mountains. Ifri n’Ammar is located in a valley south of the town of Afso, on the border of two wadis. Since 1997, excavations have been led there by INSAP and the German Commission for Archaeology of Non-European Cultures (KAAK). Two Os prefrontale, two Os postorbitofrontale, three Os maxillare (upper jaw), six pieces of bone with acrodont teeth, and three vertebrae could be assigned to the family Chamaeleonidae so far. The distinction from fossil remains of agamas was quite clear: agamas have pleurodont teeth in the anterior region of the maxilla, whereas chameleons have only acrodont teeth. In addition, the shape and position of the nostrils differ. Agamas also do not have the bony tubercles and “crests” typical of chameleons. Since Chamaeleo chamaeleo is the only representative of the chameleons found in the Maghreb today, the fossils were attributed to this species.

The fossils were all found in a layer at a depth of three meters, which is assigned to the Middle Stone Age. The fossil remains are therefore between 83,000 and 171,000 years old, which is considerably older than the remains discovered so far for chameleons in Morocco (Tarofalt, Guenfouda) and Algeria (Gueldaman). The archaeologists assume that at that time the area around the site must have still been tree-covered.

It is partly questionable how the pieces of bone from Ifri n’Ammar arrived at the finding sites. Traces on some bones indicate digestion processes and thus that the associated chameleons were consumed as prey. So not all of the chameleons found there died a natural death. According to the traces, birds of prey and small carnivores such as the gundi (a North African rodent) or simply rats could be possible predators.

Agama bibronii (Sauria: Agamidae) et Chamaeleo chamaeleon (Sauria: Chamaeleonidae) d’Ifri n’Ammar (Rif oriental, Maroc)
Touria Moushine, Fethi Amani, Abdeslam Mikdad
Quaternaire 33 (03), 2022
DOI: 10.4000/quaternaire.16948

Parasite treatment in leaf chameleons

Parasite treatment in leaf chameleons

Tiermedizin

Last weekend, the autumn meeting of the AG Amphibien- und Reptilienkrankheiten (working group on amphibian and reptile diseases) took place. With over 500 members, the AG ARK is one of the strongest sub-groups of the DGHT and at the same time the largest association of veterinarians for amphibians and reptiles in Europe. Accordingly, the autumn meeting in Münster was fully booked as usual. Besides the main topic of the meeting, Asian turtles, one veterinarian presented a case report on parasite treatment in leaf chameleons.

In this case, 7.5 subadult and adult Brookesia stumpffi (5 wild-caught, 7 German offspring from different husbandries) were acquired for a breeding project. Fecal examinations of all terrestrial chameleons were carried out. Masses of Choleoeimeria spp., presumably Choleoeimeria brookesiae, were found in flotation and native preparations of almost all terrestrial chameleons. In addition, there were isolated co-infections with Heterakis spp. and trematodes. Strongylid-like eggs with thin shells and larvae as well as adult nematodes were found in the feces of several animals. A treatment protocol with Baycox 50 mg/ml (Elanco Animal Health, Rathausplatz 12, 61352 Bad Homburg, Germany, active ingredient toltrazuril) on days 1, 7, and 14 and Panacur 10% (Intervet Germany, Feldstraße 1a, 85716 Unterschleissheim, Germany, active ingredient fenbendazole) on day 3 and 13 proved successful. The diluted solutions were given into the mouth with a 100 µl pipette. Fecal examinations at the beginning of quarantine and on days 14, 28, and 42 after treatment were suggested as a practical protocol for veterinarians.

The biggest problem during treatment was reinfection with coccidial oocysts from the environment. The leaf chameleons reinfected themselves, among other things, via left feeders and fecal remains on climbed gauze and living plants. Successful quarantine was finally achieved under the following parameters: individual keeping without visual contact in separate terrariums, daily exchange of kitchen paper on the floor and a freshly cut elder branch, use of new gloves for each chameleon, slow-moving food from bowls disinfected daily in boiling water, weekly disinfection with ready-to-use Interkokask® (Albert Kerbl GmbH, Felizenzell 9, 84428 Buchbach, active ingredient chlorocresol). Extremely strict compliance with all cleaning and disinfection measures was necessary.

Parasite treatment in leaf chameleons (Brookesia stumpffi)
Dr. Alexandra Laube
Proceedings of the 57th Workshop of the WG Amphibian and Reptile Diseases, Focus: Asian Turtles
Münster, 04 – 06 November 2022