Ongava Research Centre Blog...

2014 - Week 34
- (Added 24. Aug. 2014 - 11:00)

Any guesses?

2014 - Week 33
- (Added 17. Aug. 2014 - 11:00)

There is a common view that all scorpions should be avoided since they are all venomous. While this is true – all scorpions immobilize their prey using venom from the stinger at the end of their tails – the potency of venom varies significantly across species. We caught several species of scorpion as part of our herp survey, and the following two images highlight a very useful way to quickly assess the potential toxicity of scorpion venom. The first image shows Opistophthalmus carinatus, a common scorpion is this area. Note the large pedipalps (pincers) and narrow tail. Now compare this scorpion with the second image, Parabuthus kraepelini. Parabuthus scorpions have much smaller pedipalps, but a thicker tail. Indeed, one might say that Parabuthus is a rather less aggressive looking scorpion. As is often the case in biology this is the one to look out for! A good rule of thumb is that scorpions that have small pincers and thick tails are especially venomous.

Images by Mark O'Shea and Ken Stratford

2014 - Week 32
- (Added 10. Aug. 2014 - 11:00)

Our largest lizard is the Rock Monitor Varanus albigularis (hence the alternative common name, ‘White-throated’ Monitor). These monitors can get quite large, snout-vent length of up to 850mm, plus a very strong tail. Herpetologists love these animals, an opportunity to dive out of the vehicle and dash into to bush, to then emerge with a very large beast gripped behind the head and rear legs. Plus finding themselves covered in cloacal mess! Part of the job… What most of the books do not mention is how well these lizards can climb. During our survey we caught an adult Rock Monitor for measurement, it managed to escape from a disused dam by climbing a 2m vertical concrete wall.

2014 - Week 31
- (Added 4. Aug. 2014 - 11:00)

This week’s blog is a few days late. Needed to drive to work. Namibian style… A mere 2080km covered in 2 days, most of which looks like the image below…

2014 - Week 30
- (Added 27. Jul. 2014 - 11:00)

One of our endemic bird species is the Bare-cheeked Babbler Turdoides gymnogenys. These birds are about the size of a thrush and move around in small groups. Often these birds can be heard before they are seen, hence ‘babblers’! They make distinctive harsh contact calls as they move around foraging for insects. Roberts Birds VII notes that their nests (usually in Terminalia trees in this area) can be parasitised by Levaillant’s Cuckoo.

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