What's new? (March 2015)

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23 March 2015


10,178 species, up from 10,119 in December (plus 59, including revalidations and elevations). 165 species were described in 2014 and 13 described so far this year.
36,278 references, up from 35,615 in December (plus 663, including 96 published this year, and a record 1,652 published last year).

Bibliographic database. Of the 36,000+ references now in the database, about 21,000 have links to online sources, although many of them are admittedly still behind pay walls. However, many are not, including about 3000 papers and books with links to the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Let us know if you see any papers that are online but have no links (and send the URLs to us, so we can include them). Among the new literature that went online for free is the Biology of the Reptilia.

Selected taxonomic news

Turtle phylogenetics. A new phylogenomic analysis of turtles has been published by Crawford et al. 2015 who provide the first genome-scale analysis of turtle phylogeny which includes 32 turtle taxa representing all 14 recognized turtle families.

The first reptile species that has been created in the lab. Aspidoscelis neavesi is the first known tetraploid amniote that reproduces through parthenogenetic cloning by individual females. Aspidoscelis neavesi originated through hybridization between Aspidoscelis exsanguis (triploid parthenogen) × Aspidoscelis inornata (diploid bisexual or gonochoristic species) in the laboratory. The authors speculate that such tetraploids may also be found in nature.

New Editors

As announced previously, we have started to recruit editors (or curators) to keep up with the large number of papers published and the number of photos submitted. We welcome Vivek Sharma as new editor for India, Sebastian Lotzkat for Panama and Costa Rica, Mark O’Shea for the snakes of Papua New Guinea, Andrew Durso for freshwater reptiles, and Amr Salah for Egyptian reptiles. If you are interested in acting as an editor please let us know. Your job will require to look through recent papers and to send us relevant bits and pieces of information from these papers (we can send papers!). See our editor page for more details.

Photos and photo editors. Paul Freed and Sven Mecke are our new photo editors and have processed their first 400+ hundred photos which will be going online in a few days.

Photographers whose photos are being uploaded this time include Alan Giraldo, Alessandro Catenazzi, Ar Shakti Nanda, Arne Rasmussen, Brad Maryan, Breno Hamdan, Bruno Miranda, Cameron Siler, Carmelo Lopez, Chiramjib Debnath (via Joydeb Majumder), Chris Rego, Claudia Koch, Colin Bryant, Dick Sage, Diego Ramirez, Henrik Bringsøe, Jaime Troncoso-Palacios, Jakob Hallermann, J. Cairos, Jean-Claude Jamoulle, Jorge Alberto Zuñiga Baos, Joydeb Majumder, L. David, Luis Alberto Rueda Solano, M.R. Low, Marco Freitas (via Breno Hamdan), Nathanaël Maury, Nigel Voaden, Rick West, Subhendu Mallik, Thomas Calame (via Vin Luu), Tom Ferrara, Tony Wales, William W. Lamar (via Rick West). Many thanks to all of you! (Those who are not in the list, will have their photos uploaded soon. Please be patient or send more photos :)

New country checklists: We have updated the database using a number of recently published checklists, including those for Nicaragua (Sunyer 2014), Honduras (Solis et al. 2014, McCranie 2015), Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria (snakes, Trape et al. 2014), and Iran (lizards, Smid et al. 2014). Note that when you search for distribution = Guinea you will also find Papua New Guinea and Equatorial Guinea, so we suggest to combine this search with a keyword from the title of Trape et al. 2014, e.g. reference = “Philothamnus”.

Kenya Reptile Atlas: There is also a new atlas for Kenyan reptiles.

Other herpetofaunal sites: Our Link page has a links to various herpetofaunal sites. Let us know if you know of others that we should add.

Genera and type species: You can find all type species of all reptile genera in the Reptile Database now. Unfortunately we do not have a separate data field for that information (yet), so you will have to use a workaround to find the type species in the Comments field: use the quick search to find a genus name plus "type species", e.g. “Pogona type species”. The type species is often the oldest name in that list, here Pogona barbata (CUVIER, 1829). However, you can also find a list of type species in our updated downloadable checklist.

Why is this relevant? Although we do not have a separate database for higher taxa, you can often find information about a genus (or family etc.) in the species entry of the type species. For instance, several hundred type species have diagnoses for the genus. For instance, the diagnosis of the genus Pogona is in the entry of its type species, Pogona barbata.

Currently the type species remain unclear for only 3 genera, namely Dalophia, Pseustes, and Phrynonax. Let us know if you can provide insight into those.

User survey. We are planning a conduct a user survey soon to get more feedback about how we can improve the Reptile Database. If you have experience with online surveys, please let us know. We would appreciate some help, including the analysis of the results.

Keep this site running by donating a few bucks!

15 Jan 2015

Reptile Database featured TWICE among "Top 10 research stories from 2014" at Virginia Commonwealth University.

1 Dec 2014

With an unusually long delay since our last newsletter, we would like to inform you about the latest release of the Reptile Database which was released a few days ago. This version features

10,119 species (including 139 described this year), up from 10,038 in August,
35,615 references (including 1,203 published this year), up from 34,104 in August, which resulted in almost 200 new and changed names.

You can download a complete list as an Excel spreadsheet. The checklist also contains a list of changes (in a separate sheet). The format is not perfect but we are working to improve it. The next release should have a complete and detailed list of changes in the format “old name > new name”.

Selected taxonomic news

Homalopsidae: Murphy and Voris (2014) suggested a number of new genera and revalidated a few more, leading to 28 genera for just 53 species.

Boidae: Pyron et al. 2014 suggested to split the monophyletic boas into multiple families; we did not follow this suggestion following a discussion with the Scientific Advisory Board (see below). However, the new suggested families (such as “Sanziniidae) can be found in the database.

More species and genera split, including Lampropeltis, Blanus, Crotalus triseriatus, Hemidactylus fasciatus, and Pelomedusa subrufa. Guo et al. (2014) split the fairly large genus Amphiesma (43 species) into 3 genera: Amphiesma, Hebius, and Herpetoreas. Only Amphiesma stolatum remains in the genus.

For other changes, please search the database (e.g. year or reference = 2014) or take a look at the updated species checklist.

New journals and journal features

We have finally completed the import of all Herpetology Notes papers (i.e. references) even though not all papers are completely indexed. We are also indexing the new journal BioGecko.

The almost 1,000 papers of the journal Sauria are now cross-referenced individually so you can order individual articles (or journal issues). Please support the publisher (and us) by ordering a few papers :)

New books received

Stipala, J. 2014
Mountain Dragons - In search of chameleon diversity in the highlands of Kenya.
Jan Stipala, 124 pp., ISBN: 978-0-9928176-0-2

Scientific Advisory Board

Recently we constituted a Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) who will advise the Reptile Database on general strategic decisions but also on controversial taxonomic issues. One of the first recommendations of the SAB was not to adopt the suggested Boid taxonomy suggested by Pyron et al. (2014, see above). We continue to consult individual experts in more special cases, e.g. on individual species or genera. There is a consensus that all published taxonomic changes should be in the Reptile Database but when it comes to valid names we can only show one “accepted” name for any given species even if several are in use. Instead of flip-flopping between names with each new publication, the result will be a bit more conservative but also more stable.

New Editors

In order to manage data curation and data import better, we have started to recruit editors for special tasks.

Photo editor. Paul Freed and Sven Mecke are our first volunteer photo editors. They will receive the photos we get, edit them, verify correct identifications with experts, find photos of species not pictured etc. This will also allow us to process photos faster. We are still looking for a photo editor taking care of turtles. Let us know if you are interested. See also the note about photos under “Other News”.

Taxonomic editors: Similar to the photo editors, we are looking for volunteers who are willing to help with the curation of papers. Initially we will start with editors for turtles, crocodiles, and squamate families (or genera if they have a substantial number of species). The taxonomic editors will receive papers from which they are supposed to extract information that is relevant for the database such as taxonomic or nomenclatural changes, new distribution records, or databasable life history data. Please let us know if you are interested in helping with any particular taxonomic group.

Other news

The Reptile Database in teaching. You can help to improve data curation for the Reptile Database by using it in your class. If you are teaching a herpetology (or taxonomy) class, you can have your students curate papers, editing Wikipedia pages (that link to the Reptile Database), ID species, or find and analyze other information. We always have a large backlog of papers that need to be curated, including simple cases with new distribution data or more complicated ones. Please get in touch if you are interested. We have designed a few exercises and assignment for classroom use. Please let us know what you think and if you have suggestions for improvements.

Photos. We have again a large number of new photos (>1,500). However, they are added to the database independently of text, and thus have not been updated yet. This will probably take another few weeks or so, just in case you do not see the photos that you have submitted. In any case, more photos are always welcome! Please send photos (with location or coordinates) to info@reptile-database.org. You can find more instructions at the bottom of this page: http://www.reptile-database.org/db-info/introduction.html.

Bounced emails. This mailing list returns an increasing number of bounced emails, reaching a total of about 300 now or almost 10% of all recipients. Please take a look at this list and let us know if you recognize any of the email addresses. Please inform these people or send us their current email addresses. Also, some of you may not have received our last newsletter because it has ended up in your spam folder.

Google Maps. We often use Google Maps to verify the localities reported in papers. However, Google Maps shows different maps in different countries. For instance, Google Maps in India shows Arunachal Pradesh as part of India. However, Google Maps in China shows Arunachal Pradesh as part of China. Although we will replace our current approximate maps by “real" distribution maps sooner or later, such details are important when you search the Reptile Database for geographic areas (or if you need a list of all Indian or Chinese reptiles). Right now, we treat Arunachal Pradesh as part of India. Finally, there are different names in different Google Maps versions. For instance, in the international version you can see the “Persian Gulf”. However, in Arabian countries it is called the “Arabian Gulf”. There are a number of other contentious borders or names, so please keep this in mind when you search the database.

New countries and states. In the course of history new countries keep forming, such as the new countries that used to be Yugoslavia or North and South Sudan (which used to be Sudan). However, there are also new states, such as the new state of Telangana in India, and the Indian government apparently discusses the creation of another 21 new states (the current states are fairly new too, many having been formed only in 1956). Obviously, this can cause headaches for us as we try to keep tabs on reptiles in those states, especially when they are species-rich such as those in India. Keep us posted if you see discrepancies or errors.

JournalMap: This new web service and database offers a scientific literature search engine that empowers you to find relevant research based on location and biophysical attributes combined with traditional keyword searches. Give it a try.

Funding. We still do not have funding for the Reptile Database. If you plan to submit a grant related to reptile taxonomy or with databasable information, please consider including the Reptile Database as a subcontractor or collaborator. Of course, you can also budget personnel to curate data for us.

Donations: Since it is gifting season, we also offer (or rather accept) donations now. We usually use the little available money we have to buy literature, travel to libraries, or pay students to enter, scan, or process data. If you have a few spare bucks, you can donate them to the Reptile Database via Paypal:

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Created: 2 July 1997 / Last updated: as indicated on top