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

Lecture in Frankfurt about Madagascar

Lecture in Frankfurt about Madagascar

Live lectures

The spokeswoman of the AG Chamäleons will be giving a visually stunning talk about not only, but also a great many chameleons on 21 October 2022 in Frankfurt am Main. Madagascar, located in the Indian Ocean a good 400 km east of mainland Africa, is known for its extremely high biodiversity. But the wild west of Madagascar is one thing above all: hot and dry. Nothing can really survive there – can it? The end of the rainy season is the best time to go herping in Madagascar: time to go where the pepper grows and see what the dry wild west is all about. A herpetological adventure!

The journey leads from the capital Antananarivo through the highlands to Ankarafantsika National Park, which, contrary to popular belief, has more to offer than just birds. Then it continues to the west coast town of Mahajanga on the Bay of Bombetoka. The opposite headland of Katsepy revealed one of its greatest secrets only two years ago with a chameleon thought to be extinct. Morondava, further south by the sea, is home to the famous Baobab Avenue. Not far from there is the Kirindy forest, where probably no animal is quite normal: a cathameral predator with clitoris bones, the world’s smallest mouse maki, a kangaroo rat, the shortest-lived chameleon on earth and a turtle called Kapidolo are just some of Kirindy’s strange inhabitants. From there, the journey continues off-road in the sand to the south, past the baobab forests of Andavadoaka to the beaches of Ifaty. In two spiny forests north and south of Toliara, day geckos, even more turtles and snakes can be found.

Dr Alexandra Laube The Wild West of Madagascar
DGHT City Group Frankfurt am Main
Zoo School of Frankfurt Zoo
Bernhard-Grzimek-Allee 1
60316 Frankfurt am Main
Admission is from 6.30 p.m., lecture begins at 7 p.m.

Photo: Furcifer voeltzkowi in Katsepy, photographed by Dr Alexandra Laube

Species diversification in chameleons

Species diversification in chameleons

Science

From earlier studies, we know that the first chameleons evolved in the late Cretaceous, about 90 million years ago, on mainland of Africa. Around the border between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, about 65 million years ago, different species began to evolve. It is still unclear today which factors contributed to the diversity of species. Two researchers from Swansea University in Wales have now used various computational models of phylogenetics to investigate what might have influenced diversification (the splitting of chameleons into many different species).

First, they studied the diversification of chameleon species in Madagascar. In terms of evolutionary history, there are two points in time when chameleons apparently spread across the sea from mainland Africa to Madagascar. One is about 65 million years in the past, the other 45 million years. You could now think that the climatically extremely different habitats in Madagascar could have driven the evolution of the species very quickly after the spread across the sea. To the surprise of the researchers, however, no evidence of this was found. The species richness of chameleons on Madagascar must therefore come from the fact that chameleons spread there very early and thus simply had much more time to develop into different species than elsewhere.

Furthermore, the researchers investigated whether switching between two ecomorphs – from ground-dwelling stub-tailed chameleons to tree-dwelling chameleons with longer tails – had an impact on species diversity. Rather surprisingly, this did not seem to be the case. The evolution to tree-dwellers with longer tails occurred relatively early on one or two occasions. No evidence could be found that different ecomorphs accelerated diversification. Instead, speciation rates were found to slow down progressively over the last 60 million years. Only a very early dispersal event of the genus Bradypodion in South Africa around 10 million years ago was accompanied by a two- to fourfold diversification rate.

As a third focus of the study, the researchers examined the genus Bradypodion. During the climate change in the Miocene around 10 million years ago, South Africa changed a lot. Forests disappeared, leaving behind isolated forest habitats and, in between, savannahs, some of which are now so-called hot spots of biodiversity. Two of them, the Cape Floristic Region at the southwestern tip of South Africa and Maputuland-Pondoland-Albany on the east coast of South Africa, are home to a particularly large number of Bradypodion species. Each species is limited to a geographically very clearly defined area. The researchers, therefore, suspect that Bradypodion species have actually evolved faster under the influence of habitat change. It should be noted that the diversification rate of the genus Bradypodion is probably rather underestimated, as there are still many hidden species to be assumed.

Diversification dynamics of chameleons (Chamaeleonidae)
Stephen Giles, Kevin Arbuckle
Journal of Zoology, 2022
DOI: 10.1111/jzo.13019

For those on short notice: Live stream about Madagascar

For those on short notice: Live stream about Madagascar

Live Stream Live lectures Webinars

For those who make up their minds at short notice, there is a spontaneous chance to attend a particularly beautiful lecture tomorrow, Saturday, 08 October 2022. Together with Jutta Dwinger, AG member Lars Dwinger will give a lecture full of pictures, which will be broadcast online via live stream. This is an opportunity for all those who prefer to watch lectures from the comfort of their couch or for whom the journey to Lower Saxony is simply too far. Language will be German.

This year, the two Dwingers travelled to the north of Madagascar, which is known for its extreme biodiversity. The journey begins in the Marojejy National Park, which stretches across the gorges and steep slopes of the mountain range of the same name. There you can see exceptionally rarely photographed chameleons, but also a great variety of frogs, snakes and geckos. Afterwards, the journey led via the east coast towns of Sambava and Vohémar to the dry forest of Daraina. The next stop was the world-famous Tsingys in Ankarana National Park. Even in these two dry forests, there is a lot of small and big life. The final stop was camping in the middle of a chameleon paradise: The Amber Mountain in the far north of Madagascar. Between tiny earth chameleons that just fit on the tip of a finger and the gentle giants of the rainforest, the two Hamburgers encounter many fascinating creatures on this trip.

Lars und Jutta Dwinger Foray through four national parks in northern Madagascar
Arbeitskreis Wirbellose in Binnengewässern e.V.
Live-Stream Watch the video
Hotel & Restaurant Fricke
Hämelerwald
Niedersachsenstraße 8
31275 Lehrte
Lecture starts at 5 pm 17 Uhr

Picture: Brookesia vadoni in Marojejy, photographed by Jutta Dwinger

Lecture in Neumünster about Madagascar

Lecture in Neumünster about Madagascar

Live lectures

Together with Jutta Dwinger, AG member Lars Dwinger will be giving a presentation full of pictures in Schleswig-Holstein on Friday, 21 October 2022. This year, the two travelled to the north of Madagascar, which is known for its extreme biodiversity.

The journey begins in the Marojejy National Park, which stretches across the gorges and steep slopes of the mountain range of the same name. There you can see extremely rarely photographed chameleons, but also a great variety of frogs, snakes and geckos. Afterwards, the journey led via the east coast towns of Sambava and Vohémar to the dry forest of Daraina. The next stop was the world-famous Tsingys in Ankarana National Park. Even in these two dry forests, there is a lot of small and big life. The final stop was camping in the middle of a chameleon paradise: The Montagne d’Ambre in the far north of Madagascar. Between tiny earth chameleons that just fit on the tip of a finger and the gentle giants of the rainforest, the two Hamburgers encounter many fascinating creatures on this trip.

Lars und Jutta Dwinger  Foray through four national parks in the north of Madagascar
DGHT Stadtgruppe Neumünster
Gaststätte “Schafstall”
May-Eyth-Str. 14
24537 Neumünster
Lecture starts at 8 pm

Picture: Brookesia betschi in Marojejy, photographed by Jutta Dwinger

Factors in the geographical dispersal of chameleons

Factors in the geographical dispersal of chameleons

Science

For a long time, people have been trying to find out how and why chameleons have spread across the African continent, to islands and as far as Europe and Asia. French scientists, in collaboration with international colleagues, have now used phylogenetics and various computational models to investigate how the factors of body size, coastal habitat and extreme lifestyles may have affected the distribution of different chameleon species. The study examined 181 species divided into nine main biogeographical regions: North Africa and Arabia, Central Africa, Southeast Africa, Southwest Africa, India, Socotra, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles.

Chameleon species that occurred more than 10 km from the sea historically spread significantly less than the 74 coastal chameleon species. A similar phenomenon is known from skinks and crocodiles. Dispersal probably took place mainly along the coasts, mostly on the same continent and only rarely across the water to other continents or islands.

The size of the different chameleons also seems to have influenced their dispersal throughout history: Large chameleons spread further and more frequently than small chameleons. This could be related to the fact that larger chameleons have a lower metabolic rate – so they need less energy overall relative to smaller competitors. In addition, larger chameleons lay clutches with significantly more eggs, which simply gives them an advantage in numbers.

A somewhat unexpected result came from the study of different life cycles. One would initially assume that short life cycles are associated with faster dispersal. In fact, the calculations showed that especially chameleon species with extreme life cycles spread further. Thus, those that reproduced particularly slowly or particularly quickly were historically more successful among chameleons than the species “in the middle”. In this regard, the authors consider whether particularly slow life cycles with late sexual maturity and long gestation might be more successful on the same continent, while faster reproductive strategies with large clutches are more favourable for dispersal across the sea to islands and other continents. In line with this, Furcifer polleni and Furcifer cephalolepis in Comoros and Chamaeleo zeylanicus in India, all three examples of aquatic dispersal, have a very fast life cycle.

The 34 chameleon species with the combination of living close to the coast, large size and extreme life cycle had a 98% higher dispersal rate than species without these characteristics.  All in all, this is certainly a very theoretical study, but it nevertheless provides exciting insights into the historical distribution and dispersal of chameleons.

Chameleon biogeographic dispersal is associated with extreme life history strategies
Sarah-Sophie Weil, Laurie Gallien, Sébastien Lavergne, Luca Börger, Gabriel W. Hassler, Michaël P.J. Nicolaï & William L. Allen
Ecography
DOI: 10.1111/ecog.06323

New research on the Labord’s chameleon in Kirindy, Madagascar

New research on the Labord’s chameleon in Kirindy, Madagascar

Science

Furcifer labordi is known as the world’s shortest-lived chameleon. Within three months, these animals grow from hatchling to adult chameleons, mate, lay eggs and mostly die immediately afterwards. Scientists at the University of Göttingen researched whether the short lifespan has an influence on the mating strategy of Furcifer labordi.

The study site was the dry forest of Kirindy in western Madagascar. Kirindy is located about 60 km north of the coastal town of Morondava and about 20 km from the sea in the Menabe region. During the rainy season in early 2020, 39 Furcifer labordi of both sexes were fitted with radio transmitters there. Weight and body length at the time of discovery as well as some other values were measured, and the sleeping height of the animals found at night was noted. The animals were released at the site where they were found. The researchers then tracked the chameleons twice during the day and once at night for several weeks using telemetry to record GPS data and establish movement and behaviour patterns.

The results of the study show that female Furcifer labordi in Kirindy are very site-faithful. They only cover short distances. In contrast, male Furcifer labordi move much more and over longer distances, so that seven to fourteen times more males than females could be observed in a forest section. The observed females mated with up to six different males – however, the researchers repeatedly found unmarked males among the observed females. This suggests that Furcifer labordi could actually have a significantly higher number of different reproductive partners. The individually very different body sizes of the males as well as differently pronounced nasal processes had no connection to movement patterns. Furthermore, it could be shown that Furcifer labordi does not occupy and defend territories. This means that presumably the short lifespan actually leads to competition for the few available females being more intense – and as observations show also more aggressive – than in other chameleon species. This study is the first investigation of the mating system of a Malagasy chameleon.

Sex-specific movement ecology of the shortest-lived tetrapod during the mating season
Lennart Hudel & Peter M. Kappeler

Published in Scientific Reports 12
Open Access (free download possible)
DOI https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-14156-3