TIMOR-LESTE REPTILE & AMPHIBIAN SURVEY
PHASE IV: OVER AND OUT
On the 6th we visited the Kinokuniya bookshop on Orchard Road, chilled-out, ran an exam for the students, went for a final group meal and then Hinrich dropped me at the airport for my Emirates flight to Dubai and Birmingham. The following morning everyone else flew to Tokyo and Los Angeles aboard a Singapore Airlines flight.
Our final species count was four amphibians and 28 reptiles species making a total of 32 species.
Click links for species checklists in order of first record or by family.
It will be noticed that reptiles are much more prevent than amphibians. This is a reflection of the fact that Timor is an island which was never part of a larger landmass so all species must arrive by a) rafting; b) island hopping, or c) deliberately or accidentally through the actions of man. But for the last method reptiles, with their protective scalation and shelled amniotic eggs, make much better colonisers over saltwater than semi-permiable-skinned, freshwater-reliant amphibians. Timor is a large and diverse Wallacean* island, 9th largest in the entire Indo-Malay-Philippine archipelago, so it contains an array of habitats of varying humidity, temperature, vegetational cover and altitude, potentially allowing for a great deal of speciation (the evolution of different species) so apart from widespread Indo-Malay or localised Lesser Sunda taxa, there is also considerable scope for endemism (species confined only to Timor).
Many of the species recorded were listed
as 'sp.' which means their precise identify has yet to be determined at the specific level (some of these are assuredly new species to science, the Timor endemics mentioned above). Others are listed as 'cf.' which means 'confer', in other words they are closest to the species name that follows, but may yet be new taxa (again more possible Timor endemics). Those species listed as 'sp.' or 'cf.' may indeed contain more than one species once molecular analysis of liver samples (for DNA) and morphological characteristics (from simple scale counts to more detailed study of hemipenal anatomy, and x-rays of skeletal structures) are completed in the coming months, so the actual species count for Phase IV may well be higher than 32.
* Wallacea is the name give to the overlap zone between the Oriental Zone faunas of South-East Asia and the Sunda Islands of Borneo-Java-Sumatra-Bali and the Australasian Zone faunas of Australia-New Guinea. Located in the region between the famous Wallace's Line and the less well known Lydekker's Line, this overlap zone contains elements of both faunas as well as localised endemics. It is named in honour of the "Father of Island Biogeography" (and Darwin contempory) Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913). It is into his esteemed footsteps that we step when we visit Timor-Leste to conduct our herpetological surveys.
Phase IV is now completed, roll on Phase V in the summer (although I may have a trip back to Papua New Guinea before that).
If you enjoyed following this blog you might be interested to read the full expedition field reports for the previous three phases of the Victor Valley College, Tropical Research Initiative Reptile and Amphibian Survey of Timor-Leste.
Click here and scroll down to 2009 and 2010, then mouse-over and click Phases I, II or III.