Saturday, July 7, 2012

Endemic Snake feeding of Endemic tree frog

The Mhadei Research Center has been conducting studies on the Herpetofauna of the Chorla Ghats area since 2004.
The Chorla Ghats area is part of the Mhadei Bio region and covers the three states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
On 5th July 2012 night at 10.30 pm, a Malabar Pit Viper snake (Trimeresurus malabaricus) was observed approaching a foam nest of a Malabar Gliding frog
(Rhacophorus malabaricus) on a branch of a Kumbh tree( Careya arboreya) . A female of the Malabar Gliding frog (R malabaricus) was seen besides the foam nest in dormant state on a leaf of the same tree.
 At 11.05 pm the Malabar Pit Viper caught the female R malabaricus, at mid section of the body and proceeded to swallow it headfirst. The process took 40 minutes approx after which the snake moved across to another branch of the same tree.
Endemic to the Western Ghats of India, the Malabar Pit Viper has highly developed heat sensory thermo receptor pits between its nostrils and eyes, which enable it to locate and strike at a prey even at night. They also enable the viper to sense temperature changes of up to 0.001 degree Celsius and strike with pinpoint accuracy. That’s another reason why it is known as the pit viper.
The Malabar Pit Viper, which feeds exclusively on lesser life forms like lizards, geckos and juveniles of birds, occupies an important niche in the forest ecosystem and is rather shy in temperament unless it is threatened. Its venom is mildly toxic to humans and its bite has known to cause swelling and pain, for up to 48 hours in some cases.
Very little is known of the behavior and biology of this endemic pit viper and the observations made could be an addition to the understanding of the seasonal selective prey base of this species.
The Malabar Gliding frog is a flagship species of the Western Ghats. Its status is classified as NT (Near Threatened) by the IUCN Listing of 2002 and is threatened due to habitat alteration and exotic monoculture plantation all throughout its range.
Its red webbed feet, green coloration and other field identification details that were confirmed with photographic evidence identified the amphibian.
The area of the incident was above a water body where dominant vegetation included False Guava, Sting nettle, Citrus sp. and Bamboo. The vegetation surrounding this area is typical of a secondary forest ecosystem typical of the region.
The height of the tree from the ground where the snake caught gliding frog is 2.5 meters from the ground and the altitude of the place is 644 msl.
The lat/longitude, hygrometric data and other details were recorded along with a few record shots from a distance to avoid disturbing the pit viper
The skies were partially cloudy and the temperature was 28 degrees centigrade.

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