Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

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Rothdigga
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Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by Rothdigga » April 30th, 2013, 10:21 am

This might seem weird, Belize with a little Brazil? I'll explain later.

I took a trip with my wife to Belize from April 3-11. We did 4 days in the Cayo District (semi-rainforest) and then 4 days on a small island offshore.
We stayed at Black Rock Lodge near San Ignacio. April is the tail end of the dry season, and it showed. The ground was pretty dried up, although we did get 1 evening of rain, it wasn't enough to really bring much out. I had high expectations of even basics like fer-de-lance, boas and any of the other common sightings doused by the dry hiking I did.
Here are some of the highlights...

Overview of what the area looks like from a hike we did above the lodge area.
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There was always a Basilisk chilling on the porch each day (Basiliscus vittatus)
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Of course, a lot more birds seen than reptiles. I like shooting photos of birds, but when you're in the mood for finding snakes, they're a distant second for me.
Blue-grey Tanagers
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Black-headed Trogon
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Red-legged Honeycreeper
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Love these guys, Collared Aracari
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I hiked each of the 3 nights we were there for about 3 hours as well as driving the access road (which went about 4-5 miles through some dense forest) looking for anything I could find.
Lots and lots of toads out. Cane Toads (I didn't bother shooting photos of) as well as these varied Gulf Coast Toads...
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some getting REAL friendly with eachother
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At a pond right behind the workers housing on the grounds we found a few frogs as well...
Rio Grande Leopard Frogs
This one looks like it had a wound I just noticed while uploading photos
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as well as a couple of unidentified frogs I found on the lily-pads
Maybe a Mexican Treefrog?
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this guy was super tiny
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and of course lots of these eight legged homies
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While up near San Ignacio, we of course visited some ruins. Xuantunich was very close to us so we just drove over there 1 day as well as hitting Cahal Pech in San Ignacio. It's kind of amazing you get to walk all over these ruins, it almost feels wrong.
Xunantunich
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Cahal Pech
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We also did the ATM cave, which stands for Actun Tunichil Muknal. It's a small hike, to a cave entrance you have to swim into, then hike further into the cave where tons and tons of Mayan artifacts and bones/skeletons are strewn about the cave. Again, it's amazing that they let anyone walk into the cave at all. They USED to allow cameras in, but that ended last year when someone was shooting a photo of a skull and while leaning on a wall dropped a rock right onto the skull (putting a nice hole in it). So, no photos of the ATM cave but it was pretty epic. The final skeleton you see in cave is a full skeleton that was used on a National Geographic cover that is being slowly crystalized.

When we got back from the cave, I had to grab something from the office and my wife went to the cabin. When I got there she said "You're going to be so bummed at me." I thought...crap...she left the door open and something got stolen. Nope, when she got back there was a snake on the porch and she didn't see it, accidentally scaring it off. After not seeing any snakes I was a little bummed, but whatever.
Before going out that night I decided to look on the side of the porch to see if there was anything there...luckily there was and it would be the only snake I would find of the trip.
I'm a "I have to hold every snake I see" person, but this little guy wouldn't hold still no matter what I tried.
Blotched Hooknose Snake (Ficimia publia)
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I was pumped after finding it, then we went road cruising. Of course I figured it would be a good omen and I would be finding loads of snakes on the road that night.
Well....that was not the case. BUT, while I was driving I saw something small on the dirt road move in the leaves. I'm SO glad I stopped to check it out. This might be the best gecko I've ever seen.
Yucatan Banded Gecko (Coleonyx elegans)
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The head pattern is unreal, as is the color
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Alas, there was nothing else found that night but I still was pretty pumped on the little gecko.

We left Black Rock Lodge and went to the coast where we would be taking a boat out to South Water Caye. This island is maybe 100 meters wide and just about 500+meters long. Took us 5 minutes to walk around the whole thing. But snorkeling directly offshore is a real plus.
Every evening, we would go to the dock and watch tons of Spotted Eagle Rays cruise the water
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Sunsets are pretty killer there, island life yo
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A few UW shots...
Nurse sharks were plentiful there
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little squid
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stingrays were everywhere you looked. Especially in the seagrass
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various flounder as well
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did a night snorkel and found this awesome octopus
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BRAZIL
I flew home from vacation on April 11th at night, only to turn right around and fly down to Brazil to judge the XGames skateboard portion on April 15. The contest was at Iguazu Falls. I did quite a bit of research online and the images of snakes taken there were mostly coral snakes with a few vipers mixed in. I thought "it's a national park though, I'll definitely be able to find something". Well, this national park closes at 6pm and there aren't any non-paved trails on the Brazil side at all. So it's kind of a bust.
Here's the scenery though...
The falls area is pretty much insane. It makes Niagara look like a pond. Everywhere you look it's just water rushing over.
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Here's the views from my "office" while there
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I did venture over to the Argentina side while there. That's where most of the snake photos I saw were. Much more extensive trail system there. There actually was one dirt trail there but when I walked up to use it, it said TRAIL CLOSED DUE TO MAINTENANCE. I was so pissed, but then quickly realized I was in another country and it was pretty damn beautiful around me, so suck it up buddy.
Lookin for those Fruit Loops...
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Capuchin Monkey- I saw a lady poke one of these with an umbrella to get it out from behind a bush. Which goes to show you, people are idiots all over the world. Not just here.
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The walkways/trails are littered with Coatis. Everywhere you look they're begging for food and what not. I had a tough time getting past these guys.
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I SO wish this guy would have got bit by this Coati. He wasn't the only one I saw petting them, but he did shoot a "selfie" of himself to no doubt post to Instagram/Facebook. I wanted it to bite him right in the groin.
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I did manage to see a few lizards while down there, I think these are all the same species...
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I've also seen a ton of photos of Black and White Tegu's from that side, but I found none. It was a little chilly while we were there at night so I'm guessing everything was down.
These 2 turtles were sick looking though.
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LIARS! I hate it when people lie to me
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will lattea
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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by will lattea » April 30th, 2013, 11:14 am

awesome post!

i also dug your zimbabwe part... before the wheels got all small and stuff

:beer:

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Rothdigga
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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by Rothdigga » April 30th, 2013, 11:18 am

Thanks Will. Digging deep in the skate history for that one. Much appreciated.

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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by JakeScott » April 30th, 2013, 12:21 pm

Unreal experiences there. The Coleonyx elegans is by far my favorite, nice work on the close-ups.
Just a little side note, I partook as a contestant in the first x-games in Newport. Unfortunately, I was an inline skater (or a fruitbooter in your language ;) ). I tried to gap the big 20 step and ate-it good and didn't get past the first round. I had a good 10 years, but my knees will never be the same. worth it!

How did the Iguazu Falls area handle all the people? I mean was there enough room there already, or did they have to tear it up pretty good in order to create adequate accommodations? Just curious.

-Jake

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Rothdigga
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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by Rothdigga » April 30th, 2013, 12:42 pm

Jake,
I also skated the first XGames in Newport. Funny that they put everyone up in that weird college around all the fancy mansions.

It seems like they had enough hotels and everthing to accommodate everyone. That town is really, really touristy, so they're used to large crowds of outsiders coming in.
I talked to the organizer and he said they negotiated with one of the local farmers to basically tear up his cornfield and that's where the entire contest was set up (except the vert ramp which was at the falls). So at least they didn't tear up any of the forest to put in a mega-ramp that was going to be set up for only 3 weeks.

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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by Antonsrkn » April 30th, 2013, 12:44 pm

Great stuff, I really liked that Yucatan gecko, I was hopeful about seeing them a few times but struck out each and every time. The turtles from the falls were also stood out for me, really cool pattern on the chin.
I saw a lady poke one of these with an umbrella to get it out from behind a bush.
I SO wish this guy would have got bit by this Coati. He wasn't the only one I saw petting them,
Wow, stupidity knows no bounds. It's hard to feel sorry for some people when stuff does happen. I once struck up conversation with some Russian girls I met while hiking in a park in Costa Rica, they asked me if it was ok to touch wild animals. At first I laughed but then realized they were serious, I explained to them why not and they were very attentive and understanding. They just hadn't seen a lot of wildlife in their day and didn't know better, sometimes people realize they're acting stupid and do it anyways other times they just need a little additional info to set them straight. Still seems like common sense though, right?

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Rothdigga
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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by Rothdigga » April 30th, 2013, 12:56 pm

It does seem like common sense...but we all know that the majority out there lack common sense.
Not to start this as a discussion in idiots abroad, but my wife and I were in Hawaii on Oahu at this awesome beach that had a ton of sea turtles. We were stoked because you could just lay there on the sand nearby about 4-5 green sea turtles while they relaxed as well. Some were also in the water which was cool, we got close to some but knew not to touch them (again, common sense). A short time later, no joke, a limo pulled up and about 10-15 japanese tourists got out. They wasted no time stripping down to their tighty whities and jumping in the water with the turtles. One guy was literally riding one of the turtles in the water while the others were basically laying on the ones on the sand and shooting photos. I was so pissed! A Fish and Game warden pulled up and just berated their tour guide. It was a pretty heated argument they had. The tour guide and 3-4 of the tourists were arguing that they should be allowed to touch and play with the turtles all they want. I believe an exact quote was "What's the point of having this protected area if we can't use it to touch the turtles?". Hmmm, some people just don't get it.

With all that being said, thanks for checking out the photos and enjoying the gecko, ha.

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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by yoloherper » April 30th, 2013, 4:43 pm

Great post and to echo what others have said, that banded gecko is pretty awesome.
Your Sibon doesn't look quite right though. Based on that pointed rostral scale
and head shape, I'd guess it's a hooknose snake or Ficimia of some sort. Looks
like Ficimia publia lives in the area ands some of the pictures on google look
similar.
Awesome post though!

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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by Rothdigga » April 30th, 2013, 4:48 pm

You're probably right Yolo. I'll switch that out. I was told Snail Sucker by the guys there on site and it looked close enough from what I searched, but yours looks much closer after searching.

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gbin
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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by gbin » April 30th, 2013, 5:52 pm

Awesome report! :thumb:

I agree, Ficimia publia. The ones I found in Guatemala's Tikal National Park were always quite wriggly (and seemed to have some muscle to put into it!), too, and were also adept at using that rostrum backed up by those muscles to poke a hole in the bottom of a cloth snake bag. One lived in my car for a week or so because of that, before I very luckily managed to recapture it. :oops:

And yeah, tourists in Tikal often fed the coatis, too - and they didn't take nearly enough care around them, either. Adult males in particular have very large lower canines and know how to use them. While I was living and studying the coatis there, I heard numerous stories of folks who kept coatis as pets while young (as is that one being petted in your picture), then when a male reached sexual maturity something would promptly happen such as a neighbor's dog would get gutted by it in a fight and it would have to be killed. One day I met a tourist with a good-sized hole all the way through his hand right by the bone at the base of one finger; he sheepishly told me that he'd just been teasing a coati with his sandwich - reaching it out toward the animal, then snatching it away when the coati would stand up on its hind legs to get the sandwich, etc. - and the coati quickly tired of the game and lunged for and bit his hand with authority, causing him to drop the sandwich and enabling the coati to get it. (They're plenty smart, too.) At least the guy was wise enough to recognize that the bite was his own fault.

There's a great book about this kind of thing resulting in fatalities in Yellowstone National Park, appropriatedly titled Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park. Well worth the read if one has a morbid sense of humor.

Gerry

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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by jimoo742 » May 1st, 2013, 5:14 am

ATM was a great tour. I went when we could bring cameras so have a photo of the main skeleton and pottery, etc. It was kind of crazy at the time that you could walk all around the stuff.

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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by Rothdigga » May 1st, 2013, 8:31 am

Gerry,
I remember reading about you staying in Tikal when I was doing my research before going. At least the guy owns up to that mistake and I'm guessing he probably doesn't go around teasing wildlife as well. Better than the kid who lost all of her fingers when we were in the Kgalagadi in South Africa trying to feed a wild hyena through a fence...right next to the sign that says "DO NOT FEED HYENAS".

Jimoo,
I was a little bummed I couldn't shoot photos of it, but also realize that pretty soon, you probably won't be able to walk in that cave at all anymore I'm guessing. It's pretty crazy just walking around all the artifacts within inches of stepping on everything. How much bad juju do you think the guy got who dropped his camera and fractured an ancient Maya sacrificial skull? I'm guessing that dude lost his job as soon as he got home among other things.

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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by jimoo742 » May 1st, 2013, 9:02 am

Yeah, I thought it was crazy (but cool). I only got a bad kodak disposable camera photo in there, but it is something. I'll post it (of the skeleton) if you don't mind so people know what is like...

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gbin
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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by gbin » May 1st, 2013, 9:16 am

That's too bad about the kid's fingers being lost to a hyena, especially as it must have been at least partly the parents' fault (depending on the kid's age). Back when I was working for the MN Zoo we once had an adult volunteer reach through the chain link fence to interact with one of our wolves, which promptly bit her. She wasn't really hurt, but the bite broke the skin so... the wolf was put down to check for rabies. Captive born and well kept all its life leaving it virtually no chance of contracting the disease, behaving perfectly normally if somewhat fearfully toward a human invading its space (how many of us have dogs that are potential fear biters?), but that was the policy in place at the time. (Now that wolves and dogs are considered the same species by many scientists, hopefully the canine rabies vaccine is approved for and used with captive wolves.) The woman begged them not to do it, saying she'd happily take her chances (which were admittedly awfully good, as I said), to no avail. At least we didn't have any further incidents of volunteer misconduct for a long time afterward.

I understand restrictions to protect the resource (an archaeological site, a captive animal, whatever), but I think we tend to get carried away with protecting the tourist, especially here in the U.S. When I was in Tikal there were serious discussions held on whether to substantially reduce access to temple tops or more likely to erect significant structures (railed-in stairways and platforms) to improve safety for folks who wanted to climb these structures. At the time (and hopefully still now) all that was in place were sturdy but decidedly unnerving to some (and yes, potentially dangerous if a person wasn't careful) old, iron open-air ladders on some steep temple sides on a very few temples. Those ladders at least had some history behind them, as presumably the first archaeologists excavating Tikal erected them to accommodate their work, and they had a very slight profile that didn't really detract from the temples' aesthetics; the new constructions would have been absolute monstrosities. Fortunately they decided to leave things as they were for the time being - always a likely decision in Latin America. ;) May it remain so at least in this respect!

Gerry

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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by Antonsrkn » May 1st, 2013, 9:43 am

Dendropsophus microcephalus maybe?
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I think your ID is correct certainly looks like a Smilisca sp. to me.
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Off topic but:
the wolf was put down to check for rabies.
Its not possible to check without putting the animal down? That is a really sad story and I'm sure the volunteer still regrets her part in it. I really can't imagine anyone was anything but extremely upset about it.

When I was at Tikal there was atleast one wooden staircase that I can remember, i don't know if that was new since your time but I agree it would be shame if they dotted the temples with them. I don't have my own photos handy on this computer but I looked and found probably the same one I have photos of somewhere...
Not my photo
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jleduc/3216222588/

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gbin
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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by gbin » May 1st, 2013, 10:07 am

Antonsrkn wrote:When I was at Tikal there was atleast one wooden staircase that I can remember, i don't know if that was new since your time but I agree it would be shame if they dotted the temples with them. I don't have my own photos handy on this computer but I looked and found probably the same one I have photos of somewhere...
Not my photo
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jleduc/3216222588/
Good heavens! No, that staircase wasn't present when I was there. All that existed were a few heavy iron ladders bolted directly and deeply into the temples' sides, very minimal, permanent fixtures. That wooden monstrosity already looks somewhat unsafe from overly modest construction and predictable weathering. I wonder how many people will be injured when it inevitably collapses from need of repair/replacement?

Do you happen to remember, Anton, what temple they encumbered with that thing? :(

Gerry

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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by Antonsrkn » May 1st, 2013, 10:46 am

Do you happen to remember, Anton, what temple they encumbered with that thing?
No unfortunately, I have no idea. I was there back in 2008 and my memory is hazy. I do remember only climbing one such walkway but I don't recall at which temple.

A quick search seems to confirm there is also a staircase at temple 5, again not my photo:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/4116860046/

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gbin
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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by gbin » May 1st, 2013, 12:24 pm

Nope, that Temple V staircase didn't exist when I was there, either. My wife and I climbed that temple a number of times for our studies (radiotelemetry in Tikal was greatly aided by seeking the high ground of whatever temple tops were appropriate at the time, though Temple V only rarely qualified as such) and it was a heck of a lot of work, as the temple's base was largely unexcavated. They must have cleared plenty of not only trees but also earth prior to constructing that staircase. Looks like an awful lot of vegetation must have been cleared for that earlier staircase you shared (which I'm guessing was at the base of Temple IV, the highest temple in the park), too.

We left Tikal late in 1996 - and we've been missing it ever since!

Gerry

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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by jimoo742 » May 2nd, 2013, 4:33 am

So, not a hijacking, but just to post a couple of (BAD) pics of inside ATM cave that don't do it justice...

The floor is littered with calcium covered bones and pottery. When I was there there were no guide ropes and you could walk anywhere.

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The highlight is the crystal sepulcher, a crystalized? calcium covered skeleton. The pic doesn't do it any justice, is sparkles when lights hit it...

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It is really good if they're taking more precautions now... but I'm glad I visited it. I didn't have enough money for Tikal, so I just picked this as a splurge instead. I was younger and poorer at the time and it was my first overseas trip.

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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » May 2nd, 2013, 5:30 am

Wow, what a post! Thank you very much! That Red-legged Honeycreeper looks like something out of a Japanese cartoon....

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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by Ribbit » May 2nd, 2013, 9:24 am

Great stuff. That gecko is fantastic!

I think your Iguazu lizards are Tropidurus torquatus.

John

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Re: Belize April 2013...and a little Brazil as well

Post by chrish » May 2nd, 2013, 12:07 pm

This is Lithobates brownorum. They were split off from the Rio Grande Leopard Frog last I heard -

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Smilisca baudinii

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Dendropsophus microcephalus

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