Sep 14, 2009 | 1
Lizards are well known for snapping off their tails when a predator snags them from behind, but that defense strategy doesn’t mean it's game over for the disembodied tail. The abandoned appendage has a network of neurons that guides it to flail about even after losing its connection to the brain.
Biologists at Clemson University and the University of Calgary noticed that the movements of the luckless tails of leopard geckos seemed more complicated than those of other lizard tails. So the scientists tracked the gecko tails post-snap and found that they jump, flip and lunge, presumably to distract predators and give the gecko time to make its getaway.
"No one had ever documented anything other than simple swinging, sort of like a pendulum,” says Timothy Higham, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Clemson. Higham and Anthony Russell at the University of Calgary published their results last week in Biology Letters.
Aug 4, 2009 | 3
ALBUQUERQUE—The foot-long Tokay gecko's polka-dot skin and wide eyes have made it popular with pet stores, where it can sell for less than $20. But the adorable Asian lizards are also a mixing pot for 10 types of salmonella from local livestock, poultry and rodents, a researcher said today.
For the last several years, Katherine Smith at Brown University and colleagues have worked to document the pet trade's potential to bring new and dangerous diseases to the United States. As Smith reported in Science earlier this year, the U.S. imported 1.5 billion live animals between 2000 and 2006, just 14 percent of which have been identified to species in government records. Even less well-known are the pathogens they may contain. In 2003, for instance, a Gambian pouched rat started an outbreak of monkeypox in the Midwest.
At the Ecological Society of America meeting here today, Smith described new results from a study of 150 wild-caught Tokay geckos imported from Indonesia. She found that 60 percent of the geckos tested positive for Salmonella, which was not too surprising considering that 10 percent of salmonella cases are caused by reptile pets, such as slider turtles and iguanas.
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