For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A special "Thank you" to Johan Marais

I have taken the art of multi-tasking to a whole new level these past few months, although I will admit that sometimes I have made myself coffee and got back to the computer to find I have left it standing in the kitchen or found myself carrying the cup to my workstation and find I have forgotten to put the water in with the sugar and coffee powder. LOL!! Oh well, I never said I had multi-tasking perfected. LOL!! LOL!!

I am always meeting the most wonderful, helpful people and it was a pleasure to meet Johan Marais last week. He is the co-author of the book "A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa". When I contacted him and asked if he would help on the project identifying reptiles for the website, he confirmed that he would without any hesitation.

It is a fascinating book and a "must have" in any home, with beautiful pictures and full of excellent advice, descriptions and information on the species found here. To find out more about him and his book, please click on the book cover below.

Thank you Johan, you do not know how much I appreciate your help in this. Your book is fascinating to say the least. I have spent all my free time reading it and I have already learnt so much. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.
Tree Agama (Acanthocercus atricollis) also know as the Blue-headed lizard for obvious reasons. They are found throughout SA and are very large, this specimen being about 12-13 inches in body length. Under threat, they are able to change their skin color.
Sungazer lizards (Cordylus giganteus) are very spiny and this specimen is about 12 inches in length. Their prey consists of beetles, millipedes, bugs, ants, grasshoppers and ants.
Female tortoises dig nesting burrows in which they lay from one to thirty eggs. Egg laying typically occurs at night, after which the mother tortoise covers her clutch with sand, soil, and organic material. The eggs are left unattended, and depending on the species, take from 60 to 120 days to incubate.
This is a Madagascan Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans)
The Yellow-throated Plated Lizard (Gerrhosaurus flavigularis). During the breeding season, the throat of the males becomes a bright orange in color. In some areas they are very common and this picture was taken in Pilansberg Game Reserve which I so often go to.
TheTropical House Gecko (Hemidactylus maboeia) is one of more than 1,130 found worldwide. This little one s tiny as you can see and I think it was playing dead in the hop I would let it go which I of course did. They are mostly nocturnal so it was unusual to find one during the day.
Hinged tortiouse are so called because of a well developed hinge between the 7th and 8th marginal scutes on the posterior half of the carapace. Egg laying takes place from November to April with clutches numbering 2-10 hard-shelled eggs.
This is a completely new one to me and Johan said it is a Cape Wolf Snake (Lycophidion capense) and no, we do not have wolves in SA but are named for their long teeth which have adapted for grasping prey. :) They are completely harmless though for someone like me who does not know snakes at all, I will not try to go near or pick up any of the species.
The Snouted Cobra (naja annulifera) is venomous as all in the species are. Females lay clutches of 8-33 eggs in early summer. They are found in the northern parts of SA.
Male Rainbow Skinks (Trachylepis margaritifer) are a copper brown in color while the famels have this wonderful blue tail. They are fairly common here and I see them almost all the places I travel to. At most, they are about 6 inches in length.
One very interesting pieces of information Johan has in his book is the following:
"Tails can be shed in response to physical grasping or stress of impending capture. Some species lose tails much more easily than others. A lizard will often return and eat its own tail if it has not been consumed by the predator. In this way, the lizard wins back some of the resources sacrificed in flight."
The Water Monitor (Varanus niloticus) is the largest of our species of lizards and I have seen them reach about 5 feet in length including the tail. They get their name from the fact that they are usually found near water and are excellent swimmers propelling themselves through the water with their tails.


Firefly the Travel Guy said...

We have lots of Tropical House Geckos around our place. I also often spot little lizards on the boundary wall, but they never sit still long enough for a photo.

Diane said...

Thanks Joan for this one, I am a reptile fan, one of the few people who love snakes, but I do stay away from cobras, Mambas etc. I owned a 12 foot Indian python when I was about 7 years old!!!

As for the multi tasking I am for ever doing strange things. I put things in the oven that should be in the fridge, or visa versa, leave out the most important ingredient and the list is endless..... Give my love to S.A. One place I will not forget :-) Diane

Philip said...

I got this Book it is excellent very interesting you know the author :)

Birdy Official said...

A wonderful post Joan! I Love the pictures of reptiles in spite of the fact that I'm very afraid of them. Your post remind me about the mother scorpion which I have kept in a bottle.

Gaelyn said...

How wonderful to have Johan's help with the reptiles. I could do without the snakes myself.

You, who are so good at making coffee forgets to put in the sweet stuff. LOL

Andrea said...

I really love Geckos.
But my overall favourite is the Cape Cobra:absolutely beautiful!!!

Unknown said...

Great reptile shots, Joan! I'm very familiar with the Rainbow Skinks, there were many at my bungallow yard in MalaMala! :-)
The book must be fantastic.

Jose's World said...

I noticed that you started watermarking your images...a sign of being a 'famous photographer!!!

Unknown said...

Oh, I love lizards! I think that some of them might scare me if I saw them out in the bush, unexpectedly. For some reason I do much better with the larger ones than the smaller ones. I have enjoyed the snakes I have 'met' in captivity but have never met one in the wild and I think that I might just pee a little if/when I do. LOL!

re: multitasking... last week I got to work and tasted my tea (that I made before I left the house) and thought "boy this tea is weak. Must be an old tea bag." But I drank it all and then switched to coffee after it was gone. I got home after work and found the tea bag sitting on the counter! I had fixed myself a nice mug of hot water for the journey to work. LOL!

Craver Vii said...

That is an impressive collection of lizard shots, Joan. The book looks interesting. I hope I never go swimming with that monitor, by the way!

...Hey, where's my coffee?

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

They are not easy to get shots of I agree Jonker. The best thing for them it a 300mm lens.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Oh wow Diane, that must have been fun!! I must admit I have never had one as a pet. A while back someone in Florida was telling me what a problem the pythons are as people buy them and when they get too big, they let them go in the Everglads, now they are taking over the territory of the local snakes.

LOL!! Your multi-tasking sounds VERY familiar. :)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

It is a fantastic book Philp and Johan turned out to be such a wonderful person. But then, everyone in the realm of nature usually is as it takes a special type of person to be interested in nature.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Birdy. That sounds interesting, what are you going to do with it? I kept one for a while too but let it go as I am always scared they die.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Getting his help was so great. As a beginner, I would not know where to start at identifyiny the reptiles myself so the book has been a brilliant addition to my collection. There is just SO much valuable information in it.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

They are beautiful snakes Andrea. Where I grew up we had a lot of Rinkhals around and although deadly, it has pretty markings on it.

I have always loved the pythons and wanted one as a pet but never got as far as getting one.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

This book is so interesting Jose (JM) as it gives so much information on them as to how they have adapted to life in the desert etc. Fascinating reading.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I wish Jose (Jose's World)!! LOL!! Someone told me that my photographs and articles were being uses on another site so I started to put my name on them.

I will never be a famous photographer like you as I am not that good. :)

It is wonderful to hear from you!!

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

LOL!! I think you are not the only one who might have pee'd themselves Krista!! LOL!!

It is starange though, but all my years of doing walks in the bush, I have never come across one. Now and then I saw one while driving but that is the closest I have come.

At the lodge where I worked we had a problem of them coming into the chalets but we would catch them and return them to the bush.

I had to laugh at your tea story. LOL!! It sounds SO familiar. Last night I was having coffee and though that it did not taste very sweet but when I got to the last drops, it was pure syrup as I had forgotten to stir it. LOL!!

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Craver. Our largest eagle is fond of having them for dinner and I have watched many a fight between the two.

Hope you found your coffee? LOL!! Read my comment to Krista above regarding mine from last night.

Many years ago my sugar pot disappeared and I eventually found it three days later in the fridge. LOL!!

Zane said...

This blog makes my life easier - I will not have to page through endless reptile guides - just ask Joan - and she can look them up for me.

I will go and buy myself the guide when the need arises - I do not specialise in mamba or adder macro photography at this point. I will stick with the odd lizard or gecko for now.

I love the diversity of the post - so many different photos.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Joan: I do enjoy seeing these cold blooded critters but wouldn't handle any of them.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

LOL!! Now you HOPE Joan will identify it for you Zane. :) It is so much easier if we have someone to ask isn't it? :)

I cannot understand why you do not want to take pictures of mambas and adders, they are so pretty!! LOL!!

Thank, these reptile pictures are what I have collected over the years but I never seems to run across more than just the lizards in the garden so now I am going to have to go out there and actively search for more of the species.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Me neither Tom. Just taking pictures is enough for me. :)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks sebi_2569, I am pleased you enjoyed it.

Becky said...

Love all your goodie info Joan. We don't see any of these ccritters up here, and if it weren't for you we might not ever know how many wonderful creatures there are out there.

Anonymous said...

Interesting our mourning doves and blow many of their feathers if trying to escape from a hawk..I wonder if we have any little reptiles here..some salamanders I would guess. I guess I need to explore that....Michelle

Mary said...

It's always nice to get expert help and find books you like. This looks like a winner for anyone interested in reptiles.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I am pleased I can show them to you Becky. With the difference in our climates we do have a whole lot more here as far as wildlife goes.

In Johan's book he says we have more species of reptiles than you do in the USA, a fact I was surprised to learn.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

An interesting question Michelle. I know that have many species in Florida and in the desert. If you see one please let me know.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

It sure is a fantastic book Mary and is full of some extremely interesting information. I find it wonderful that these experts are willing to take their time to help me.