why you should like Europe

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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why you should like Europe

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » December 16th, 2011, 2:33 am

Over the past 7 years, I have seen most of Europe's herpetofauna over a lot of trips. Since temps are finally going down, my beloved fire salamanders have gone off to sleep for a while, and there's not a single bird in my bathroom, I thought I'd show you some of the highlights of that herping past.

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Corsican Fire Salamander (Salamandra corsica)

Isn't that a beauty to start off with? I have the privilege of living very close to a population of 'regular' fire salamanders, which I harass often (trying to do some population study).
These salamanders can be impossibly hard to find when it's dry, but given the right conditions, they are everywhere. December 2nd 2011, I found 140 during a 4h nocturnal hike.
They live mainly in deciduous woods with sparkling springs and streams.


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Macedonian Crested Newt (Triturus macedonicus)

One of a handful of crested newt species. This one is a rather attractive breeding male from N Greece. Crested newts are rather large and don't mind eating smaller newt species. This beauty made the cover of a book. :D
http://www.chimaira.de/gp/product_info. ... 77917b4e8d


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Iberian Midwife Toad (Alytes cisternasii)

Midwife toads got their name from the fact that males carry egg strands around their hindlegs until the larvae hatch into a shallow, vegetation-poor pond or brook, so I chose this little guy (about 4cm). Their breeding call is great, sounding like the sonar on a submarine. This one is from along a narrow mountain brook in S Portugal. Many of its habitats are now unfortunately infested with Procambarus clarkii, a US immigrant which causes huge problems for amphibian populations in the Mediterranean.


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Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata)

While dull grey-brown and warty above, the lower surface of this guy tells its potential predators to think twice. They are often quarreling (making not too loud, duck-like noises) in pools in small streams in SE Europe by day. Not readily visible from this picture, their eye's pupil is heart-shaped. When harassed, he lifts his legs to display his warning colours. This one's from a small brook in warm rocky hills in S Bulgaria.


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Eastern Spadefoot (Pelobates syriacus)

Just like from the US ;). Making soft croacking sounds while submerged during breeding season, these guys can really cry like a baby when you pick them up (very weird); their hindfeet have sharp heels which allow swift subsurface retreat. This toad was found in coastal dunes in NE Greece.


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Moor Frog (Rana arvalis)

While usually rather secretive and not particularly colourful, breeding season is quite something else for this frog - looking brown like females most of the time, males turn bright blue for only 1-3 days. These lovebirds are from my very own country, Belgium, where they are restricted to oligotrophic, quite acid, bogs and fens. Unfortunately, more than desirable acidification (in part due to air pollution) causes a lot of their eggs to mold.


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Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata)

All 3 European tortoise species can often be detected by the noise they make while making their way through bramble shrubs etc. Greece is the best place to spot them. This one was found on Sardinia. In ancient Greek times, these animals were offered to the bride-to-be as a wedding gift, causing them to be transported overseas. They also could serve as an easy snack, which hardly needed to be fed :( .


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Common Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon)

Maybe the most "basic" species of his family without horns or other weird features, but they are nevertheless funny little monkeys. To be honest, most European chameleon populations are thought to result from (ancient) introductions from Northern Africa and Turkey. This one's from S Spain.


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Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)

Nothing says "summer" better than geckoes on the walls at night. These animals can be very abundant, especially near lamp lights which attract their insect prey. Completely harmless, although some people in Central Spain associate its warty skin with lepracy. Europe has 4 gecko species, all of which are restricted to the Mediterranean lowlands, because they cannot take frost that well.

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Dalmatian Algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus)

Most European lizards belong to this one's family. The species of this genus are typical for semi-shade spots, like clearings in woods, often near some kind of water source. This one's from Montenegro, a former part of Yuguslavia, and a small country with a lot of species and beautifully diverse landscapes, providing for heat-loving lizards as well as mountain vipers.


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Ocellated Lizard (Timon lepidus)

Same family, but quite something else. More or less the largest European lizard, living in S France, Spain, Portugal and a tiny part of Italy. They tend to retreat into drystone walls long before you can get to them, but often they are too stupid to realise that their hiding place doesn't stretch deep enough to render them out of reach of herpers ;) . Anyone who grabs one of these dragons, should know that they have a very strong bite. Like all members of this family, they can also drop their tail, which then keeps moving to distract the predator, while the animal itself can escape.


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Western Green Lizard (Lacerta bilineata)

Related to the previous one, this is a medium-sized rather common lizard in France, Italy and the whole of Eastern Europe. Males have blue heads. This one's from the south of Italy.


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Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard (Podarcis tiliguerta)

Wall lizards are a genus with a lot of similar looking species. This one's from the island Sardinia - together with Corsica one of my favourite destinations.


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Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus)

Yes, this is Europe's very own strangler! Lives mostly underground, as visible from its strong diggers' snout, feeding on rodents. Best is to flip rocks in the morning or the late afternoon. The first one is from the Peloponnese, the fantastic southern peninsula of Greece. It was found in a not-too-clean olive orchard, which is also home to Nose-horned Vipers, Marginated Tortoises and much more.


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Coin-marked Snake (Hemorrhois nummifer)

This one comes from a Greek island which is in fact in Asia. I love the strong heads of these big snakes. The "coins" become more vague with age. This species is mildly venomous. Symptoms occur especially when they can get a good chew on your hand.


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Reddish Whip Snake (Platyceps collaris)

It takes a skilled and superfast snake hunter to catch one of these guys. Mainly centered in Asia, there is only one tiny area in Bulgaria where this species occurs, making it perhaps the "most wanted" for herpers. Unfortunately, it also has been poached heavily for the same reason.


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Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla)

Considered to be the absolute gem among European snakes by many, this species does not tend to bask in full sunlight that much, making it often rather hard to find. It loves small vegetable gardens with stonewalls and lives in SE Europe (Greece, Bulgaria, ...) but also on Sicily and in the heel of the "Italian boot". Usually spotted, some are striped.


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Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax)

Not that attractive, but my favourite European snake, due to its stealthy way of moving. Just a great sensation to hold one of these. It's a very agile climber, creeping up to geckoes during the night. I love nocturnal herping, so that also feeds my love for this species. The fact that you don't get to find one every day adds up to the attraction.
Its vernacular name in Greek is "agiophido", which means "holy snake". Until today it features in a religious ceremony on the island Kephallonia.


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Ottoman Viper (Montivipera xanthina)

While only occupying a small range within Europe, this is one of our most venomous snakes. They can become very big (over 1m50) and are not always happy to be handled. I love that strong look and muscular head. Originating from the extreme NE of Greece, from where it might be spreading to the west in recent years.


That's all for now. Yes, in the US everything is bigger and nicer, but I love the beasties of my own continent all the same. :mrgreen:

Now let's see if I succeeded in offering enough content to get more views and replies than our own Hitchcock and his bird massacre shower scene. :lol:

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » December 16th, 2011, 3:40 am

Perfect!

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Brandon D
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Brandon D » December 16th, 2011, 4:08 am

awesome post, dont get to see those everyday, did you find the zamenis situla under rocks or out crawling?
:beer:

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reptilist
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by reptilist » December 16th, 2011, 5:10 am

very good!

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by kevinb » December 16th, 2011, 5:36 am

Nice post Jeroen.

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by hellihooks » December 16th, 2011, 5:47 am

Top notch Jeroen :thumb: jim

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Martti Niskanen
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Martti Niskanen » December 16th, 2011, 6:01 am

Nice one!

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by joeysgreen » December 16th, 2011, 6:39 am

Most excellent! All cool animals but I like the fire salamander and moorish frogs the best.

Ian

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Andy Avram
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Andy Avram » December 16th, 2011, 6:44 am

Nice overview. I am planning a European trip next year and this gets my blood going!

I think Europe's newts win against the US newts handsdown!

Andy

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Joe Farah
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Joe Farah » December 16th, 2011, 7:18 am

Thanks Jeroen. Nice photos and interesting herps. The coin-marked snake is one i haven't heard of

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Mike Pingleton » December 16th, 2011, 7:26 am

awesome. I am thinking that an unkempt olive grove in Greece is the place to be :thumb:

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Rags » December 16th, 2011, 7:52 am

Interesting post and great photos.

The Platyceps collaris is a great find. Our own time spent herping in Bulgaria drew a blank for this species. In fact the weekend we headed for the coast at the start of June was so cold and wet most serpents stayed out of sight. I would love to return to the area again sometime.

The first Zamenis situla is a stunner.

Cheers, Rags.

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by monklet » December 16th, 2011, 8:33 am

Now let's see if I succeeded in offering enough content to get more views and replies than our own Hitchcock and his bird massacre shower scene.
:lol: :lol: :lol: ...probably not. ...and what does that say eh?

Fantastic post :thumb: :shock: ...and to think I almost passed it by. I'm escpecially interested in the Coin-marked Snake ...wonder how closely related that might be to Spalerosophis? Seems heavy bodied for a rear-fanged snake ...is it a constrictor also. How long do they get?

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by David O » December 16th, 2011, 9:16 am

Cool, cool stuff. Love the newts, and really surprised to see a Euroboa. Simply didn't know there were any.

Thanks for sharing!

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by erik loza » December 16th, 2011, 10:02 am

The sand boas are awesome. Thanks for sharing.

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by mikemike » December 16th, 2011, 10:12 am

Very awesome and super informative post! I love seeing the species we rarely see posted. Thanks a lot for sharing.

Any chance you have more shots of some of the other Vipera sp around??

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Porter » December 16th, 2011, 11:16 am

Nice! I really enjoy seeing how different environments/eco systems/habitats effects the camouflage/pattern on snake species/sub-species that are native to my home lands. (Reddish Whip Snake) :thumb: excellent photography as well

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moloch
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by moloch » December 16th, 2011, 3:19 pm

Lovely photos, Jeroen. You have found plenty of exciting animals. The Macedocnian Crested Newt was certainly an unusual looking creature.

After reading your narrative, it sounds like I should have gone out on night walks when the weather was warm. Amalfi had some good trails that looked like they would have been productive at night.

The Sand Boa was very nice.

Regards,
David

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » December 17th, 2011, 6:05 am

Thanks to all!
Brandon D wrote:did you find the zamenis situla under rocks or out crawling?
That first one was actually crossing a rocky slope during a warm but cloudy day. Usually, you'll find them underneath stuff, though. The thing is that more often than not they are under cover that you would not focus on to flip reptiles, because it seems too shaded, moist, ...

Joe Farah wrote:The coin-marked snake is one i haven't heard of
Used to be a subspecies of Hemorrhois ravergieri, which is more known as venomous colubrid.

Rags wrote:Platyceps collaris is a great find. Our own time spent herping in Bulgaria drew a blank for this species. In fact the weekend we headed for the coast at the start of June was so cold and wet most serpents stayed out of sight.
We found 3 in 2 days. You have to know where to look - habitat is rather specific (basically pure rock). They are often overlooked, perhaps in part because they are so damn lightning-fast.

monklet wrote:I'm escpecially interested in the Coin-marked Snake ...wonder how closely related that might be to Spalerosophis?
Seems heavy bodied for a rear-fanged snake ...is it a constrictor also. How long do they get?
Not sure about the relatedness, but I checked and you're right on.
http://life.bio.sunysb.edu/ee/wienslab/ ... l_2011.pdf
However, the Reddish Whip I showed is apparently still closer to Spalerosophis.
Books say they get only 1m20 or so, but we have found one of 1m40 and one of 1m44. Not gigantic, but I like the shape of the head.

moloch wrote:After reading your narrative, it sounds like I should have gone out on night walks when the weather was warm. Amalfi had some good trails that looked like they would have been productive at night.
Well, the fire salamanders of S Italy are stunning...

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mikemike wrote:Any chance you have more shots of some of the other Vipera sp around??
I believe I do... ;) => viewtopic.php?f=2&t=9418

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » December 17th, 2011, 6:05 am


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Dave S
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Dave S » December 17th, 2011, 6:44 am

Man you know how to get my attention with the Corsica and Italian Salamandra WOW :shock:
I wasn't going to ask but since I saw your "all the viper species of Europe" post and I'm a real sucker for Salamandra how about a "all the Fire Salamander species of Europe" post.....???????
Killer stuff!!!
Dave S

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » December 17th, 2011, 7:10 am

Dave S wrote:Man you know how to get my attention with the Corsica and Italian Salamandra WOW :shock:
I wasn't going to ask but since I saw your "all the viper species of Europe" post and I'm a real sucker for Salamandra how about a "all the Fire Salamander species of Europe" post.....???????
Killer stuff!!!
Dave S
There's actually only 2 species within Europe (possibly a 3rd might be split off), but I can post what I have in variation at some point, sure. Thanks for the appreciation!

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Coluber Constrictor » December 17th, 2011, 7:43 am

I had never heard of Hemorrhois or Platyceps before. Those are both pretty cool snakes.

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » December 17th, 2011, 8:08 am

Coluber Constrictor wrote:I had never heard of Hemorrhois or Platyceps before. Those are both pretty cool snakes.
All used to be Coluber, in an era when names were allowed to be simple...

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by monklet » December 17th, 2011, 8:13 am

Thanks much for the link Jeroen :) I've seem portions of that cladigram before. It's quite interesting really although so oftern in conflict with relationship based on phenotype that many have a tough time accepting it. My suspicion, as a know-nothing amateur, is that the science is in it's infancy and that over time methodologies will improve to resolove some of the obvious errors ;-)

This particular graph pretty much sums it up...
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by tbrock » December 17th, 2011, 9:37 am

Great post and pics! 8-)

Very interesting stuff on the relationship between Platyceps, Hemorrhois, and Spalerosophis!

Love the situla pics too!

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by JAMAUGHN » December 17th, 2011, 9:44 am

Great post, Jeroen. I had a wonderful time doing what little incidental herping I could fit in this summer in France and Spain. THose occelated lizards are something!

JimM

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by monklet » December 17th, 2011, 9:50 am

Jeroen wrote:Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax)

Not that attractive, but my favourite European snake, due to its stealthy way of moving. Just a great sensation to hold one of these. It's a very agile climber, creeping up to geckoes during the night.
Just read this part. I've noticed same "creeping" habit in my wild caught Lyre Snake captive, a rear-fanged species here in NA which also preys heavily on lizards at night. Presumably while the lizards are in semi-torpor. Mine moves very slowly and deliberately ...extreme stealth!

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » December 17th, 2011, 10:10 am

Indeed, the way that lyre snake that I saw with hellihooks last summer was moving reminded me immediately of Telescopus.

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by pete » December 17th, 2011, 12:13 pm

Absolutely WONDERFUL!!! Thanks for posting so many little seen animals! :thumb:

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by crocdoc » December 17th, 2011, 1:27 pm

Excellent photographs and animals, Jeroen! As the others said, we don't often get to see photographs of these animals. Seeing some of them in the middle of reproductive events, such as the blue male Rana and the male midwife toad doing what midwife toads are famous far, was an added bonus.
Jeroen Speybroeck wrote:Now let's see if I succeeded in offering enough content to get more views and replies than our own Hitchcock and his bird massacre shower scene. :lol:
If I may make a suggestion: Looking at photographs of reptiles and amphibians with complicated scientific names didn't do it for me and I barely made it past looking at the first one before falling off my seat in a fit of yawning. What I really want to see is a five or ten minute video showing nothing other than a close-up of your face as you tell us how you felt when you found a newt. ;)

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Paul White » December 17th, 2011, 4:25 pm

Telescopus fallax looks a lot like our night snake (Hypsiglena). Are they similar in habitat? Rocky crevices, go for lizards?

The crested newt is my favorite--it's like your own aquatic stegosaurus!

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by tdimler » December 18th, 2011, 10:59 am

Great post, but particularly thrilling for me to see S. corsica on here! I have some captives and they are among my favorite Salamandra. I would second Dave's request for a post about European Salamandra.

Travis

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » December 18th, 2011, 1:04 pm

Thanks again for the positive reception! I am glad you all like it, so I could give a little something back for all the great stuff I have been looking at around here. Only works if everyone does a little show-and-tell. :thumb:
crocdoc wrote:What I really want to see is a five or ten minute video showing nothing other than a close-up of your face as you tell us how you felt when you found a newt. ;)
Clearly, you've never seen my face. Luckily, crested newts have become extinct around my house, so I can fearlessly take a long lazy bath.
Paul White wrote:Telescopus fallax looks a lot like our night snake (Hypsiglena). Are they similar in habitat? Rocky crevices, go for lizards?
Sounds about right. Can be artificial wall with cracks...

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... but also something like this...

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Here's another one - I can't help it...

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tdimler wrote:I would second Dave's request for a post about European Salamandra.
OK, only a matter of time ;)

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by krisbell » February 26th, 2012, 10:41 am

Wow, some great animals there - what region was the chameleon found in in Spain? I've never heard of them being there.

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Ross Padilla » February 26th, 2012, 11:36 am

Great post. :thumb:

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » March 30th, 2012, 4:28 am

krisbell wrote:what region was the chameleon found in in Spain?
Andalucia.

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by jimoo742 » March 30th, 2012, 4:46 am

Huh, I may have to rethink my aversion to Europe. I usually don't associate it with good herps. That crested newt is great.

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Re: why you should like Europe

Post by intermedius » March 30th, 2012, 5:38 am

Very nice post Jeroen. I've also loved your work on the "herpetofauna of europe" website. Keep up the good work.

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