SquaMates Ep. 3: Revenge of the Toxicofera

A totally serious herpetological podcast

SquaMates Ep. 3: Revenge of the Toxicofera

The third episode of the SquaMates podcast—bigger, better, and much, much longer than ever before! The show is rife with bad puns and brilliant science, and hosted by Mark D. Scherz, Gabriel Ugueto, and Ethan Kocak!

In this third episode, an unplanned drinking game is introduced, as well as a new section title! We talk about cobras, leafblowers, synapomorphic skull loss among stem Serpentes, and the ridiculous diversity of the Gymnophthghshmhalmidae, before diving into our main topic (by popular demand): the Toxicofera, and the age-old question, ‘just what is venom, anyway?’ and ‘why is my hand falling off?’ The featured #HERpers are a trifecta of amazing Victorian-Edwardian women, whose fates differed dramatically, but who helped light the way for women in herpetology.

Episode notes sometimes get clipped on your device or by your podcast provider; for full (extensive) notes, go to http://www.squamatespod.com

Missedsnakes References:

Smith, J.J., Timoshevskaya, N., Timoshevskiy, V.A., Keinath, M.C., Hardy, D. & Voss, S.R. (2018) A Chromosome-Scale Assembly of the Enormous (32 Gb) Axolotl Genome. bioRxiv, 10.1101/373548

Works in Frogress:

Mark’s blogpost about the new geckos and frogs he described

New books illustrated by Gabriel and Ethan: ‘So you think you know about… Dinosaurs’

Breaking Newts References:

Wüster, W., Chirio, L., Trape, J.-F., Ineich, I., Jackson, K., Greenbaum, E., Barron, C., Kusamba, C., Nagy, Z.T., Storey, R., Hall, C., Wüster, C.E., Barlow, A. & Broadley, D.G. (2018) Integration of nuclear and mitochondrial gene sequences and morphology reveals unexpected diversity in the forest cobra (Naja melanoleuca) species complex in Central and West Africa (Serpentes: Elapidae). Zootaxa, 4455, 68–98. 10.11646/zootaxa.4455.1.3

Donihue, C.M., Herrel, A., Fabre, A.-C., Kamath, A., Geneva, A.J., Schoener, T.W., Kolbe, J.J. & Losos, J.B. (2018) Hurricane-induced selection on the morphology of an island lizard. Nature, 560, 88–91. 10.1038/s41586-018-0352-3

*hilarious video here

Xing, L., Caldwell, M.W., Chen, R., Nydam, R.L., Palci, A., Simões, T.R., McKellar, R.C., Lee, M.S.Y., Liu, Y., Shi, H., Wang, K. & Bai, M. (2018) A mid-Cretaceous embryonic-to-neonate snake in amber from Myanmar. Science Advances, 4, eaat5042. 10.1126/sciadv.aat5042

Perry, B.W., Card, D.C., McGlothlin, J.W., Pasquesi, G.I.M., Adams, R.H., Schield, D.R., Hales, N.R., Corbin, A.B., Demuth, J.P., Hoffmann, F.G., Vandewege, M.W., Schott, R.K., Bhattacharyya, N., Chang, B.S.W., Casewell, N.R., Whiteley, G., Reyes-Velasco, J., Mackessy, S.P., Gamble, T., Storey, K.B., Biggar, K.K., Passow, C.N., Kuo, C.-H., McGaugh, S.E., Bronikowski, A.M., de Koning, J., Edwards, S.V., Pfrender, M.E., Minx, P., Brodie, I.I.I.E.D., Brodie, J.E.D., Warren, W.C. & Castoe, T.A. (in press) Molecular adaptations for sensing and securing prey and insight into amniote genome diversity from the garter snake genome. Genome Biology and Evolution, accepted, evy157. 10.1093/gbe/evy157

Edwards, R.J., Tuipulotu, D.E., Amos, T.G., O’Meally, D., Richardson, M.F., Russell, T.L., Vallinoto, M., Carneiro, M., Ferrand, N., Wilkins, M.R., Sequeira, F., Rollins, L.A., Holmes, E.C., Shine, R. & White, P.A. (in press) Draft genome assembly of the invasive cane toad, Rhinella marina. GigaScience, giy095. 10.1093/gigascience/giy095

Pasquesi, G.I.M., Adams, R.H., Card, D.C., Schield, D.R., Corbin, A.B., Perry, B.W., Reyes-Velasco, J., Ruggiero, R.P., Vandewege, M.W., Shortt, J.A. & Castoe, T.A. (2018) Squamate reptiles challenge paradigms of genomic repeat element evolution set by birds and mammals. Nature Communications, 9, 2774. 10.1038/s41467-018-05279-1

Portik, D.M., Bell, R.C., Blackburn, D.C., Bauer, A.M., Barratt, C.D., Branch, W.R., Burger, M., Channing, A., Colston, T.J., Conradie, W., Dehling, J.M., Drewes, R.C., Ernst, R., Greenbaum, E., Gvoždík, V., Harvey, J., Hillers, A., Hirschfeld, M., Jongsma, G., Kielgast, J., Kouete, M.T., Lawson, L.P., Leaché, A.D., Loader, S.P., Lötters, S., van der Meijden, A., Menegon, M., Müller, S., Nagy, Z.T., Ofori-Boateng, C., Ohler, A., Papenfuss, T.J., Rößler, D., Sinsch, U., Rödel, M.-O., Veith, M., Vindum, J., Zassi-Boulou, A.-G. & McGuire, J.A. (2018) Sexual dichromatism drives diversification within a major radiation of African amphibians. bioRxiv, 10.1101/372250

Moravec, J., Šmíd, J., Štundl, J. & Lehr, E. (2018) Systematics of Neotropical microteiid lizards (Gymnophthalmidae, Cercosaurinae), with the description of a new genus and species from the Andean montane forests. ZooKeys, 774, 10.3897/zookeys.774.25332

#HERper further reading:

Dr Doris Mable Cochran:


Smithsonian Institution Archives

A lovely and incredibly in-depth piece on this by Dr Leslie M.B. (full name unknown) 

Dr Bertha Lutz:


Feminism, Fascism, and Frogs: The Case of Bertha Lutz at the United Nations

Get to Know a Brazilian – Bertha Lutz

Enrica Calabresi:


Toxicofera citations:

Fry, B.G., Vidal, N., Norman, J.A., Vonk, F.J., Scheib, H., Ramjan, S.F., Kuruppu, S., Fung, K., Hedges, S.B., Richardson, M.K., Hodgson, W.C., Ignjatovic, V., Summerhayes, R. & Kochva, E. (2005) Early evolution of the venom system in lizards and snakes. Nature, 439, 584–588. 10.1038/nature04328

Vidal, N. & Hedges, S.B. (2005) The phylogeny of squamate reptiles (lizards, snakes, and amphisbaenians) inferred from nine nuclear protein-coding genes. Comptes Rendus Biologies, 328, 1000–1008. 10.1016/j.crvi.2005.10.001

Hargreaves, A.D., Swain, M.T., Logan, D.W. & Mulley, J.F. (2014) Testing the Toxicofera: Comparative transcriptomics casts doubt on the single, early evolution of the reptile venom system. Toxicon, 92, 140–156. 10.1016/j.toxicon.2014.10.004

Losos, J.B., Hillis, D.M. & Greene, H.W. (2012) Who Speaks with a Forked Tongue? Science, 338, 1428–1429. 10.1126/science.1232455 [pdf]

Gauthier, J.A., Kearney, M., Maisano, J.A., Rieppel, O. & Behlke, A.D.B. (2012) Assembling the squamate tree of life: perspectives from the phenotype and the fossil record. Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, 53, 3–308. 10.3374/014.053.0101

Fry, B.G., Casewell, N.R., Wüster, W., Vidal, N., Young, B. & Jackson, T.N.W. (2012) The structural and functional diversification of the Toxicofera reptile venom system. Toxicon, 60, 434–448. 10.1016/j.toxicon.2012.02.013

*This paper received a few replies… see the doi link and read those to formulate your own opinions.

Irisarri, I., Baurain, D., Brinkmann, H., Delsuc, F., Sire, J.-Y., Kupfer, A., Petersen, J., Jarek, M., Meyer, A., Vences, M. & Philippe, H. (2017) Phylotranscriptomic consolidation of the jawed vertebrate timetree. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 1, 1370–1378. 10.1038/s41559-017-0240-5

Streicher, J.W. & Wiens, J.J. (2017) Phylogenomic analyses of more than 4000 nuclear loci resolve the origin of snakes among lizard families. Biology Letters, 13, 20170393. 10.1098/rsbl.2017.0393

Reeder, T.W., Townsend, T.M., Mulcahy, D.G., Noonan, B.P., Wood, P.L., Jr., Sites, J.W., Jr. & Wiens, J.J. (2015) Integrated analyses resolve conflicts over squamate reptile phylogeny and reveal unexpected placements for fossil taxa. PLoS ONE, 10, e0118199. 10.1371/journal.pone.0118199

Koludarov, I., Jackson, T.N.W., op den Brouw, B., Dobson, J., Dashevsky, D., Arbuckle, K., Clemente, C.J., Stockdale, E.J., Cochran, C., Debono, J., Stephens, C., Panagides, N., Li, B., Roy Manchadi, M.-L., Violette, A., Fourmy, R., Hendrikx, I., Nouwens, A., Clements, J., Martelli, P., Kwok, H.F. & Fry, B.G. (2017) Enter the dragon: the dynamic and multifunctional evolution of Anguimorpha lizard venoms. Toxins, 9, 242. 10.3390/toxins9080242

*we fucked up: this was published on the 8th of August 2017, NOT 2018! Oops.

Questions from Lizardners References

Reynolds, R.G., Niemiller, M.L. & Revell, L.J. (2014) Toward a Tree-of-Life for the boas and pythons: Multilocus species-level phylogeny with unprecedented taxon sampling. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 71, 201–213. 10.1016/j.ympev.2013.11.011

Cieri, R.L., Craven, B.A., Schachner, E.R. & Farmer, C.G. (2014) New insight into the evolution of the vertebrate respiratory system and the discovery of unidirectional airflow in iguana lungs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111, 17218–17223. 10.1073/pnas.1405088111

Tetrapod Zoology: Skinks, Skinks, Skinks!

Tetrapod Zoology: Sandfishes and kin: of sand-swimming, placentation, and limb and digit reduction (skinks part III)

Tetrapod Zoology: Worm Lizards: Lifestyles of the limbless


Dr Darren Naish (@tetzoo) and John Conway (@thejohnconway), and the Tetrapod Zoology podcast http://www.tetzoo.com/

Julian Rossi @JulianJRossi

Dr Owen Davies @DrOwenDavies

Nicholas Sly @NickSlyBirdGuy

Sarah McAnulty @SarahMackAttack

Follow the show and the hosts on social media!

SquaMates: website • twitter • instagram • facebook

Mark D. Scherz: website • twitter • instagram • tumblr • facebook • researchgate

Gabriel Ugueto: website • twitter • instagram • facebook • artwork prints

Ethan Kocak: website • twitter • tumblr • facebook

7 Responses

  1. llewelly says:

    maybe loxocema crossed the south atlantic on the same eocene raft that brought new world primates and cavimorph rodents. According to timetree.org, the median separation time from pythons is about 44 mya, which is in the right ballpark. : )

  2. llewelly says:

    related to that, when you do your promised episode worm lizards, don’t forget to cover their fascinating rafting-driven biogeography!

  3. llewelly says:

    I meant to add – of course being rafted from Africa to S. America would require loxocema to later disappear from S. America (or just haven’t been found), after Central America gets connected to S. America, and they spread to Central America.

    But I don’t really think it was the “same raft” anyway, that’s a joke. But it seems to me fossorial snakes have high rafting potential (because that’s what happened to worm lizards)

    • SquaMatesThemselves says:

      An interesting suggestion for sure! Obviously, rafting together is vanishingly unlikely, but it does point toward the possibility of currents or other phenomena favouring simultaneous translocations.

      We hope to make a few episodes about strictly burrowing animals at some point!

  4. Crown House says:

    Hi, thats a great cotspad you are running! Somehow it reminds me of some other internet-thing I ran into, but can’t put my finger on it at the moment.
    Seriously: Thank you for #HERpers, thats great work you are doing; today it was especially touching. The information in combination with the way you handled it impressed me deeply.
    Best wishes from Vienna, and keep up the good work!
    C. H.

  5. DreadBalaur says:

    Binging the entire podcast after seeing Gabriel advertised ep 10. I’m loving it so far, learning lots of stuff on the way, and the length is awesome for listening at work. However, I do wish that there is a list in the podcast note of the taxonomic names that were discussed in an episode. I really appreciate that some names were spelled out (e.g Tretioscincus). But sometimes I cannot look names up for further readings right at work and it took a lot of time to browse through the podcast to find the name again, while other times it can be extremely hard to figure out the spelling just from pronunciation. Tried to check out the glossary but it didn’t help much since the only genus listed is Ambystoma.

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