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Tetrapod Zoology

Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - living and extinct
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    Darren Naish Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.
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  • People Are Modifying Monitors to Make Gargantuan Geckos

    Note the long, slender tail, the five-toed foot, five-fingered hand, and the blunt tips to the digits. The animal's right eye might be visible in this shot. It's gecko-like, but not like any gecko we know.

    Over the last several days a consortium of people interested in herpetology, weird animals, animal lore, and special effects have worked together to help resolve an incredible and bizarre ‘mystery’*. People in Indonesia (and perhaps elsewhere in tropical Asia) are modifying live monitor lizards to make them look like gargantuan Tokay geckos Gekko gecko. * [...]

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    The Turcana and Other Valachians

    A Turkana sheep encountered in the field at Pui, Transylvania. This sheep is not three-legged - it's just a quirk of composition. Photo by Darren Naish.

    I’m about as interested in domestic animals as I am in non-domesticated ones. Sheep of various kinds have been discussed on Tet Zoo a few times, and right now I want to say a few brief things about a breed I recently saw on several occasions in Romania – the Turcana or Tsurcana, a highly [...]

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    Cetacean Heresies: How the Chromatic Truthometer Busts the Monochromatic Paradigm

    If you can't see the True colours of Science, you're an ordinary dullard and you should go away. True appearance of the Humpback. Rendition by Darren Naish and Gareth Monger.

    Check any mainstream book on the whales, dolphins and porpoises of the world and you’ll see these creatures depicted in tedious monochrome; as eternally decked out in blacks and greys. It’s a stale, boring, bland view of these remarkable creatures, and as a young student, flicking through the cetological books in the library, I would [...]

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    A Fine First Finding of Darevskia

    Here's the refresher for squamate head scalation you were looking for. This image (depicting a lacertid) is from Arnold (1989). In case it isn't obvious, you need to obtain and read Nick Arnold's papers if you're really interested in lacertid diversity and evolution.

    While in Romania back in 2011, I photographed the lizard you see here. It’s clearly a lacertid: a member of the Eurasian-African group that contains the familiar Lacerta sand lizards and green lizards as well as many other groups. But, beyond that, I couldn’t identify it in the field. Back at Tet Zoo Towers, and [...]

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    You Never Hear Much About Shrew-Opossums

    Caenolestes fuliginosus, image by Joseph Wolf, in the public domain.

    You never really hear much about shrew-opossums or rat-opossums, the small group of living, South American marsupials properly called caenolestids or caenolestoids. Small (c 20-30 cm long in total), long-tailed, mostly dark brown, and predominantly faunivorous and nocturnal, they inhabit the grasslands and forests of the western side of the Andes. They’re said to be [...]

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    The Huia and the Sexually Dimorphic Bill

    Heads of male (above) and female Huia in old bird anatomy display at London's Natural History Museum. Photo by Darren Naish.

    It’s time for one of those classic ‘from the archives’ type articles. This one was originally published in July 2008 at Tet Zoo ver 2. Apart from tiny editorial tweaks, it hasn’t been updated. Anyway… The original title for this article was going to be “Sorry Heteralocha, but you ain’t that special”. I ended up [...]

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    Curious Complex Contentious Coots

    A pugnacious, highly aquatic, lobe-toed rallid grazing on grass in close proximity to humans? What form of devilry is this? COOTS.

    One of the birds I see most regularly here in southern England is the Eurasian coot Fulica atra. This is another of those oh-so-familiar animals that we see so often that we normally pay it little attention. Stop and look properly, and you’ll discover something pretty incredible. While at Kew Gardens recently I took a [...]

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    The Atomic Worm-Lizard and Other Aprasia Flapfoots

    Flinders worm-lizard (Aprasia pseudopulchella). Note the strong superficial resemblance to a typhlopid blindsnake.

    I’m feeling the urge to blog about lizards. So, today I’d like to talk about the Aprasia species, a group of short-tailed, near-limbless gekkotans that belong to the Australian Pygopodidae family, the so-called flapfoots, flap-footed lizards or pygopods. Historically, the term Pygopodidae has been used in more than one fashion. For the purposes of removing [...]

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    New Books on Dinosaurs 2: Dean Lomax and Nobumichi Tamura’s Dinosaurs of the British Isles

    Front cover of Lomax & Tamura (2014). Life reconstruction of Eustreptospondylus, with skeletal reconstruction of Cetiosaurus, and bones of Iguanodon, Megalosaurus and Mantellisaurus.

    Following on from February’s review of Matthew P. Martyniuk’s Beasts of Antiquity: Stem-Birds in the Solnhofen Limestone, it’s time once again to look at another recently published dinosaur-themed book. Anyone who knows anything about Mesozoic dinosaurs will know that the British Isles – England specifically – has a special role in the history of our [...]

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    Meet the Scaly-Tail Gliders

    Lesser anomalure (Anomalurus pusillus), a small member of the group (c 45 cm long in total) from equatorial Africa. Painting by Joseph Smit, in public domain.

    Among the weirdest and most fascinating of rodents are the scalytails/scaly-tails, scaly-tailed squirrels or anomalures, properly termed Anomaluridae. For those of you that don’t know, this is a small group of exclusively* African, mostly gliding herbivores that have a weird method of supporting their gliding membranes. Only three or four extant anomalure genera are recognised. Idiurus [...]

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