Categories
Asia Snakes

Pit Vipers of Asia (Trimeresurus) – Venomous Eye Candies That Won’t Kill You

Many Kiwis, Hawaiians, and Europeans who recently moved to Asia like to tell me how wondering Asia is and how much they love living in Asia. But there is this one specific nightmare that is bothering them – snakes. I say it’s fair enough. As the largest continent on earth and being warm and bushy, why would you not think there would be snakes in here? Not trying to scare them but I can easily name some venomous snakes in Asia – King cobra and many other cobras, kraits, coral snakes, sea snakes, Russell’s viper, and saw-scaled viper – all deadly. If you believe bright-colored snakes are more dangerous then I have to tell you that’s not true. Most of the deadly snakes I mentioned are in dull colors from brown, gray to black. Ironically, the bright-colored snakes in Asia are usually not deadly, such as the Asian pit vipers of the genus Trimeresurus. Here are a few I have encountered:

Most of the species are bright green like this:

Bamboo pit viper

An unusual one can be blue like this:

Sunda Island pit viper

There are also a few exceptional dark ones like this:

Mangrove pit viper
Categories
Asia Snakes Species Profiles

Sunda Island Pit Viper (Trimeresurus insularis)

The Komodo dragon is not the only animal in Komodo Island that makes me visit over and over again. This snake has always been the second sought-after species in my previous trips to Komodo Island.

The Sunda Island pitviper (a.k.a. Lesser Sunda Island pit viper, White-lipped island pit viper, or Blue insularis viper) is native to Komodo and some nearby Indonesian islands such as Bali, Flores, Lombok, Padar, Rinca, eastern Java, Adonara, Alor, Romang, Roti, Sumba, Sumbawa, Wetar, and also Timor of East Timor.

Although mostly turquoise or blue, some snakes of this species can be bright green or bright yellow. Interestingly, some blue individuals are born green and turn into blue in a year or two. No doubt, this species has the most outstanding colors of all 50 species of Asian pit vipers (Trimeresurus) while 90% of the species in the genus are green such as the Bamboo pit viper. A few species are very dark to almost black such as the Mangrove pit viper.

Trimeresurus insularis (Kramer, 1977)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Genus: (Cryptelytrops) Trimeresurus
Species: insularis

Categories
Snakes

Ouroboros: The Snake That Eats Itself

Life, death, and rebirth.

Ouroboros (or uroboros) — an ancient symbol depicting a reptile eating its own tail. It symbolizes fertility in some religions. The tail is a phallic symbol (an erect penis). The mouth is a yonic (vagina) or womb-like symbol.

In real life, it happens.

Although not common, I have seen snakes eating themselves. Scientifically, autocannibalism (self-cannibalism) in snakes is not normal. Well so, snakes get disoriented when overheated, and their metabolism goes into overdrive. It makes the snakes feel so hungry to the point that they will try to eat the first moving thing they see, and that’s usually their own tail. When the feeding mechanism starts, snakes will have their focus fully on consuming the prey. The feeling of pain will be overridden. Many snakes will keep going even if they’re bit, mauled, and even beheaded.

You can see why ancient Egyptians chose snakes to symbolize the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

Categories
Asia Snakes Species Profiles

Mangrove Pit Viper (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus)

Taking close-up photos of venomous snakes is always my kind of adrenaline booster. This one was even more exciting with me knowing the fact that there’s no antivenin specifically made for this snake. Bites are treated with polyvalent antivenin in SE Asian hospitals.

The Mangrove pit viper (a.k.a. Mangrove viper, Shore pit viper, or Purple-spotted pit viper) is a small venomous snake growing to 66-90 centimeters (26-35 in). It is native to Singapore, West Malaysia, Sumatra and Java of Indonesia, Thailand, India, Burma, and Bangladesh.

You don’t always have to be the brightest one to stand out from the crowd. Take a look at this dark horse.

It may look black to the untrained eye. But if you look carefully it is a very dark purple hue, hence its Latin name purpureomaculatus. You may think that with such a dark color this must be a subtle snake trying to look just like most other snakes. But it is in fact so special being the darkest species in its genus (Asian pit vipers – Trimeresurus).

Being dark is rare, while all its cousins are bright.

Although few exceptional ones can be bright yellow or bright blue such as the Sunda Island pit viper, over 90% of species in this genus are bright green, including the Bamboo pit viper which is the most common species in the genus and was also described by British zoologist John Edward Gray. Even though it is more well-known than other Asian pit vipers nowadays, back then it was first known to science a good decade after the much more subtle-looking Mangrove pit viper was. The dark color didn’t help much from being discovered. This is the fifth species to be described (1832) in the entire genus of 50 species of Asian pit vipers.

There used to be 2 subspecies – this one (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus purpureomaculatus) and another one that is endemic to the Andaman Islands of India (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus andersoni) which is now separated and classified as a full species named Andaman pit viper (Trimeresurus andersonii) a.k.a. Nicobar mangrove pit viper or Anderson’s pitviper.

Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus (Gray, 1832)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Genus: (Cryptelytrops) Trimeresurus
Species: purpureomaculatus

Categories
Asia HK Snakes Species Profiles

Common Wolf Snake – Hong Kong Wildlife | 白環蛇 – 香港野生動物

Not only pet snakes can have designer morphs.

The Wolf Snake is native to a large range of South Asia and Southeast Asia. Individuals of the same species from different locations appear to be very different. Patterns can be variable from patches, collars to bands. Coloration also varies from black, brownish, grayish, olive, to yellowish, pearl white and iridescent. It’s a result of divergent evolution.

It’s similar to how pet snakes got all the non-normal patterns and colors (morphs) generations after generations.

Lycodon aulicus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Lycodon
Species: aulicus

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

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Africa

Wild Elephant’s Foot Plants in Isalo, Madagascar

Yes, this is one of the rare succulents “trending” recently especially in Asia. Keeping them in pots at home is a really good hobby. Finding wild ones in their natural habits is just on another level.

Even photos of wild ones are not as easy to find as most other objects.

Here is one of the wild elephant’s foot plants I came across in Isalo, Madagascar.

It looks like Pachypodium rosulatum var. gracilius to me (but I have not studied botany so please let me know if it’s wrong)

All my field trips were fauna-focused hence I didn’t have much time to spend on the plants in Madagascar. (The animals kept me busy all the time) But I was just amazed by this unique plant I almost walked past by.

Also, the animals I studied rely largely on their unique habitats in Madagascar. Gotta have an idea about these interesting plants.

Only after I climbed up this mountain I could be eligible to comment on that mountain behind me.

Isalo is in the southwestern corner of the Province of Fianarantsoa, in the Ihorombe region. It is 720 km away from Madagascar’s capital city (Antananarivo). Not super far but due to road conditions it took me 3 full days to only get there. It’s for sure worth it.

Being completely different from the rest of Madagascar, Isalo is arid and hot, filled with deep canyons, sandstone domes, and flat-topped mountains.

Not as many animals here comparing to the rest of Madagascar. Mostly lemurs, desert lizards, boas, scorpions, and birds. Landscape and plants are uniquely amazing though. Over 70% of plants are endemic. This is exactly where the Elephant’s foot plants in my photos were.

(象牙宮 塊根植物 多肉植物)

Categories
Americas HK Me

Color Is The New Forbidden Fruit

From yellow vs blue in Hong Kong to black vs white in the States.

A world like now everything is politics, things pure as colors have become risky words, is keeping people to think less, speak less, and act less.

Categories
Amphibians Asia HK

Interracial Love Also Occurs In Nature

Interracial love also occurs in nature, though rare — Hong Kong newts (Paramesotriton hongkongensis) and Banded bullfrogs (Kaloula pulchra) co-exist in their natural habitats. They coulda been fighting for food. But they chose to form an alliance to defend each other as one.

Even species ain’t no matter. Why races?

Categories
Africa Americas Me

How Could Black Lives Not Matter?

Africa was the birth-place of Homo sapiens.

Diamond, sugar, salt, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, silver, petroleum and cocoa beans, coffee – All happiness in life is from Africa!

#ICantBreathe #BlackLivesMatter
Categories
Asia HK Species Profiles Turtles

Big-headed Turtle – Hong Kong Wildlife | 大頭龜 – 香港野生動物

Days of rainstorm brought this little fella to the mountain stream behind my backyard.

Not an easy find — the Big-headed turtle is a lesser-known endangered species native to Hong Kong, China, and SE Asia.

It is nocturnal and lives in and around mountain streams with fast-running water. Not a slow turtle at all. It is fast and can climb vertically like a master rock climber.

Platysternon megacephalum (Gray, 1831)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Testudinoidea
Family: Platysternidae
Genus: Platysternon
Species: megacephalum

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

大頭龜, 鷹咀龜, 平胸龜, 鸚鵡龜