Not All Alligators Are American

“Alligator or crocodile?” is hardly an easy game to play even for reptile lovers. The difference of the shape of snouts is not too obvious. Convergent evolution might be a bit too hard to understand. Most people’s idea is that alligators are the ones in the US and the rest are all crocodiles. Some even think that both are the same animals with different names in American and British English.

American alligator

I guess it’s safe to say that the word alligator sounds American. As a matter of fact, the origin of the name is more from Spanish. Every time when I mentioned the Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis) my American friends would be shocked to learn the fact that the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is not the only alligator in the world. Indeed, there are two species of alligators in the world.

The Chinese alligator, also known as the Yangtze alligator (揚子鱷), is not only critically endangered but also a very little known species, comparing to its more common American cousin. In Chinese, alligator and crocodile share the same word. Thus, there’s no such trouble telling apart alligators from crocodiles in China.

Chinese alligator

 

Why Do Some Lizards Have Forked Tongues?

Animals tongues are much more useful than humans!

Red tegu

Different Shapes of Tongues

Most of the lizards have short and round tongues. Chameleons have elongated, extrudable tongues yet not forked. The only lizards with a serpent-like forked tongue are the carnivorous ones of a larger size in family Varanidae (Monitors, goannas, Komodo dragon) and Teiidae (Tegus, whiptails, caiman lizards).

Northern caiman lizard

How Do Their Tongues Work?

Snakes and some lizards rely on flicking out their tongues to collect environmental information. Every flick receives odors and miniscule moisture particles floating in the air. When the tongue is back into their Jacobson’s organ the collected data will be processed and converted into a 3D image resembling the surrounding environment.

Komodo dragon

Why Better Split?

Being forked in the tip helps them tell objects on the left from the right. The difference is the lizards forked tongues are way longer than snakes. Lizards have higher mobility with heads higher up above ground hence the longer tongues help to reach the ground for the smell of earth.

Lace monitor

I Am a Fictional Character

I have become a character in this new book – ‘The Golden Age‘ by Marianne Andersen.

How amazing! And I just realized that I am the only character based on a real person! This is when I collected this very perfect copy together with author autograph. Parents and educators, you must check out this upcoming book. It is about a kid’s imagination and journeys in Hong Kong.

Last Male Northern White Rhino Dies

Kenya

So long, Sudan!

As a dinosaur fan when I was a kid, co-existing with some still living triceratops on earth inside the timeline of my life was hope, heuristic and what made me go on. But now I’m grown and I’ve learned more. It just leaves tears.

After Suni died 4 years ago, Sudan became the last surviving male Northern white rhinoceros in the world. And he died yesterday in Kenya at the age of 45.

The remaining of the subspecies are 2 females, daughter and granddaughter of Sudan. Although Sudan had his sperm frozen and stored and cloning may sound like an option, the subspecies will still probably have to be declared extinct following the West African black rhino and Vietnamese Javan rhino which were both declared extinct 7 years ago.

All of the rhinos gone extinct human witnessed were subspecies. The African rhino that is closer to a full species extinction is the Black rhino.

Just in case if you didn’t know, as the media coverage is mainly on the African species, the rhinos which are facing much more critical situations are the Asian species. There are around 25,000 African rhinos left. Less than 4,000 Asian rhinos are left where the Javan rhino (full species) being one of the most endangered mammals on earth. 2 out of 3 subspecies of the Javan rhino have gone extinct. The last subspecies (Indonesian Javan rhino) population is estimated at around 63 left. The most endangered subspecies of rhino is the Bornean rhino which only around 15 individuals left in total.

Rhinoceros have lived on earth for over 25 million years. Having experienced them gone extinct one by one during merely 7 years within our human lives is just plain devastating, irrecoverably.

Two Heads One Body

Siamese, conjoined and polycephaly mean the different conditions of more than a head or some parts of the body. It’s more like twins in progress but never completed. Two-headed humans are mostly identified as two persons. But for animals, it’s still under debate whether they should be considered one or two beings.

Jesus Christ Lizard

There are over 10,000 extant species of reptiles. How many have you seen? There are only two lizards known to be able to run on water. This earned the renowned Basilisk of the new world the nickname “Jesus Christ lizard”.

From the old world, there’s this lesser known Sailfin Dragon that evokes even more of my interest. Its Latin name Hydrosaurus says it all. They inhabit rainforests and can run across the river like a jet boat. Firstly described almost 250 years ago but not much has been known so far. I’ve had such a privilege to be able to handle such a beautiful adult Sailfin Dragon. Life is good.