Thursday 30 July 2020

Japanese ‘Snow’ Monkeys. After bathing in a hot spring, how much heat do they lose?

In the days before central heating who can remember having to get out of a warm bath into the cold air of a bathroom in winter? It was a case of getting dry and into clothes as quickly as possible. That thought never left me as I watched the Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata) sitting for several hours at a time in the hot spring of Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan. I was reminded again when I looked through the video and photographs we had taken in 2009. We wondered at first if the thick coats of these monkeys did not wet easily and water therefore did not penetrate to the skin. However, we saw—and this can be seen in the video where there is grooming going on—that their coat is absolutely saturated. They really do get soaked to the skin.

In the depths of the Japanese winter it is easy to see that monkeys would save a considerable amount of energy needed to keep warm by sitting in volcanically warmed hot spring or onsen for part of the day. But even with a good shake after emerging from their soak in the onsen, there seemed a lot of water left to evaporate and therefore cool the body in air temperatures well below freezing.
Regardless of the length of time in the water, the cost of keeping the body warm after coming out into the cold air in terms of energy consumption would be the same. Therefore, in order to ensure that the bathing experience does not result in a net energy loss, one might expect that monkeys would stay in the hot water for relatively long periods, and that is what they do. Some sit, sometimes with their eyes closed, with their heads on a surrounding rock; others groom or are groomed while some dive to the bottom to retrieve grains of corn (which looked like wheat) that are scattered throughout the park during the day.

While I have seen research on thermoregulation in Japanese monkeys I have seen no studies or calculations on their energy balance as a result of their getting warm in onsen and then getting out with saturated thick fur, although potential problem was raised in the 1970s. The question is important because of the demonstration that the conception rate of females is higher in those with higher energy reserves and body fat. Any mechanism to reduce energy expenditure in the cold will be of advantage so there must be some sort of balance being achieved between time spent foraging and time spent immersed in hot water—and of course the downside of emerging sodden into cold air. I have been unable to find out if bathing is related to supplementary feeding in the park. A well-fed monkey that does not have to forage for so long could be one that can take time out in an onsen and thus help its energy balance.

The importance of bodily condition for reproduction in female Japanese Macaques is apparently reflected in the use of the onsen: it is mainly dominant females (who defend the pool) and they pass the habit to their daughters. Subordinate females rarely get the chance. Some adult females spend up to 10 hours in the water and some have been seen to stay there overnight. The young (who would get even colder with their relatively large surface area after emerging sodden) rarely enter the water voluntarily, although as the last sequence in the video shows, do sometimes get very wet when trying to reach their mothers in the pool.

The bathing behaviour is said to have been first seen in the early 1960s with a female immersing itself to reach some floating beans. I have not been able to find out whether bathing is confined to the one troupe which, as I noted above, receives supplementary food, or if the behaviour has been observed elsewhere where the range of the monkeys and hot springs coincide.

Here is the video from 2009:

Garcia C, Huffman MA, Shimizu K, Speakman JR. 2011. Energetic consequences of seasonal breeding in female Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata). American Journal of Physical Anthropology 146, 161-170.

Zhang P, Watanabe K, Eishi T. 2007. The habit of hot-spring bath in a free ranging group of Japanese macaque in the Jigokudani, Nagano Prefecture. American Journal of Primatology 69, 1425-1430.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Fruit bats in a Hong Kong garden—but what are they?

Last week AJP noticed a fruit bat roost in the garden of his flat in Kowloon Tong. The short-nosed fruit bats nibble the stems of palm fronds such that they partially collapse and form a sheltering umbrella under which the bats roost. We read that it is the males who set up such day roosts where they are joined by a harem of usually 1-6 females. So this bat has only been seen with one female—and she is sometimes absent for the day. Reports on bat numbers in the roost are eagerly awaited each day. Will he increase the size of his harem? Is it the same female with him? Who is she with when not in the roost? No soap opera can compete with a roost of fruit bats.


All the Hong Kong publications refer to this bat as Cynopterus sphinx, the Greater Short-nosed Fruit Bat. However, when I looked up this species in the final volume of that amazing series Handbook of the Mammals of the World, published at the end of 2019, I found that this species is not shown as occurring in Hong Kong. By contrast, the Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bat, C. brachyotis, is shown occurring in an isolated patch of Guangdong Province. However, looking at the same distribution map on the IUCN Red List website, that distribution does not extend to Hong Kong. In fact neither species is shown as occurring in Hong Kong!

Partial distribution maps from the IUCN Red List website. Hong Kong is circled in RED


So what are the Hong Kong short-nosed fruit bats? Since there is an isolated patch of C. sphinx recorded for the Chinese mainland opposite Taiwan, could there be another patch in Hong Kong, or should the distribution of C. brachyotis be extended a little to the south-east? Given the quantity of literature on the fruit bat of Hong Kong it does seem surprising that little note of them seems to have been taken by those taking an encyclopaedic approach.

The entry for the Lesser in the Handbook does note: ‘Cynopterus brachyotis is often confused with C. sphinx and other species with which it overlaps in many physical dimensions’.

Clearly, more work is needed to put Hong Kong’s fruit bat—a protected species—to be put on the map, literally.

A very short video - look for the white-rimmed ears:

Sunday 26 July 2020

An unusual house gecko in Hong Kong, Gray’s Chinese Gecko

AJP spotted this gecko in his flat at the northern end of Kowloon last week. Usually known by its common name of Chinese Gecko in Hong Kong publications, I see that IUCN gives the name Gray’s Chinese Gecko, Gekko chinensis after the man who described it in 1842, John Edward Gray (1800-1875) of the British Museum. Although common in Hong Kong, it is described as ‘rarely found inside buildings’.

The photographs show the characteristic absence of a claw on the inner digits.

Friday 17 July 2020

The Curious and Sad Case of Joan Procter’s Honorary Degree

A serious and unfortunate error has crept into some accounts of the life of Joan Procter (1897-1931), Curator of Reptiles at London Zoo, about whom I have written several times before. Her entry in Wikipedia, repeated of course elsewhere, states that she was awarded an honorary D.Sc. degree by the University of Chicago in view of her contributions to herpetology. The Linnean Society, of which she was a Fellow, also put out the same information in 2018. However, the footnote in the Wikipedia entry itself shows that the information came from her papers, held along with those of her sister, Chrystabel, in the archives of Girton College, Cambridge. Not only does the footnote show where the information came from but that the entry in the main text is wrong. It was not an honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago but the Intercollegiate University of Chicago which, as I found out, was something completely different, indeed an embarrassment.

As I delved into this curious ‘university’ I realised that an important clue lay in the account of her funeral at Golders Green crematorium on 23 September 1931. The Times reported: ‘The officiating clergy were the Archbishop of Antioch (the Most Rev. Dr. Churchill Sibley) and the Rev. Herbert Trundle.’ Herbert Trundle was chaplain of the crematorium and a Church of England cleric from St Alban’s in Golders Green who, for our purposes can be ignored. Sibley though is a different kettle of fish. He had founded a branch of the Intercollegiate University, based in Chicago, in England.

Reading further, I found that Sibley—the Archbishop of Antioch—belonged to a catholic sect that had nothing whatever to do with the one run from Rome and which seems to have gone under the name of the Orthodox Catholic Church. Sibley had been ordained in 1924 by the leader of the American Catholic Church, Frederick Ebenezer Lloyd, but ran his enterprise in England as a separate empire.

The various machinations by which Sibley assumed the title of Archbishop of Antioch are too tortuous to recount. He and others of his ilk have been described apparently with good reason as ‘religious confidence men’. Nevertheless, hagiographies of Sibley appear online, including on Wikipedia, containing claims and items of information that are blatantly incorrect. What is known is that Sibley was a church organist, conductor and music teacher who was born in Crewkerne, Somerset in 1858, the son of a house painter and glazier. In 1929, five years after his ‘ordination’ he was installed by Lloyd as Archbishop Metropolitan of the Orthodox Catholic Church in the British Empire. As far as I can make out the Antioch bit was added later by Sibley himself.

Articles on Sibley suggest he was attacked by clergy of the Church of England and that the magazine John Bull carried an exposé by a female undercover reporter. A search through old copies of that magazine might prove instructive.

In parallel with what some people might describe as the spiritual side of Lloyd and Sibley, they had a parallel commercial organisation, the Intercollegiate University, founded in Kansas but later based in Chicago, of which Lloyd held the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Lloyd took it over as President and then, with Sibley, expanded to England, where its base was on Thanet in Kent. It conducted correspondence courses, offering ““exceptional advantages to earnest students through its varied carefully arranged courses of study in theology, arts, music and practical business” with degrees conferred “after thorough preparation” at an annual service in St George’s Church, Bloomsbury, London”. The Intercollegiate University has been described as a ‘notorious degree mill’; in other words, conferring paid for ‘degrees’ with little or no study. Clergymen were the main recipients of the numerous doctorates on offer, and local newspapers took them to task in letters and articles questioning their validity. Extracts appear below. Sibley is said to have ‘scattered honorary doctorates on English clergymen’ to drum up trade.

John Churchill died in December 1938. Being a mere Archbishop was obviously too lowly and he was raised in status to Blessed Saint.

The question arises of how did Joan Procter, six months before her death, become involved in all of this? She was known to regard herself as an agnostic, with no religious inclination. My guess, without having looked at the papers in Girton College, is that her elder sister was involved with Sibley. Chrystabel Prudence Goldsmith Procter (1894–1982) was a gardener who after her sister’s death became head gardener and garden steward at Girton. Both sisters were known for their forceful personalities and I have found that in her middle years she was a catholic, not perhaps of the Roman kind but that propounded by Sibley and his few acolytes in England. His appearance in the lead at Joan’s funeral suggests a close link with the remaining (and, the cynic must add, wealthy) family. Had Chrystabel and/or her father taken it on themselves to suggest to Sibley that an honorary doctorate for her ailing sister would be a kind gesture?

However it came about, the honorary doctorate from the Intercollegiate “University” was not worth the vellum it may or not have been printed on. The record is best corrected and the whole affair quietly put aside. The geegaw added nothing to her achievements.

Two examples of articles and letters in the press:

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 8 June 1922
The letter of the clergyman who signs himself a “Bachelor of Divinity” of the unknown institution which he describes by the singular abbreviation, “Ch. Coll. Mus., Inter. Colleg. Univer., U.S.A.” is a piteous attempt to induce the public to believe that his “B.D.” “degree” has been conferred by a university of reputable standing. I have authoritative information before me of this co-called college. The extension of the curious abbreviation appended by your correspondent after his “degree” is “The College of Church Musicians, Intercollegiate University.” This so-called college originated among some church musicians in Kansas, where they first secured articles of incorporation and a charter in 1880. Later they removed to Chicago and changed their title. Now they give all kind of “degrees,” not one of which is recognised as of any value in the United States, and happily is not now admitted to the official list of the ministry of any religious denomination. They would be laughed out of court if put forward by an elementary or secondary teacher as a claim for receiving the additional salary…

Rugby Advertiser 25 May 1923
…The transparent ignorance manifested in Mr Middleton’s frequent attacks…gives anyone the right to look into the Rec. Vicar’s credentials, and to appraise the value of what he is pleased to call his “degrees and University status.” We have only Mr. Middleton’s authority before us for the statement that “increasing numbers of graduates from the English universities are taking the examinations for and are obtaining further degrees from the Intercollegiate University, U.S.A.” This assertion is worth what it is worth. Needless to say, Mr. Middleton is not one of these graduates from the English Universities. He has no English degree whatever. As far as our Universities are concerned, the Doctorate in Literature is one of the highest academical distinctions, and it is no discourtesy in this scholastic centre to note that there is no one here with such a qualification. As to the Yankee doctorate and its value, well, Mr. Middleton was apparently able to take the necessary papers and pay down his dollars. “‘Nuff said.:…

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Just how many lemurs have we seen?

A few weeks ago we were looking at some old videos I made on our two trips—one long, one very short—to Madagascar in 2003 and 2006. As we viewed the array of lemurs we had seen by day and by night we wondered just how many lemur species we had seen. The answer turned out to be 25. The smallest (at 44 g) was the Rufous Mouse Lemur; the largest—and largest lemur—at up to 9 kg, the Indri.

Grey Mouse Lemur Microcebus murinus by night at Berenty, November 2003


I also took the opportunity to check if any of the ones we had seen in the various locations would now be considered as belonging to a different species. There has been a great deal of activity in trying to sort out the smaller lemurs and there have been numerous ‘splits’ as more knowledge has been gained and as different species concepts have been applied, rightly or wrongly. However, I could find nothing to change the original identifications.

The extent of the increase in the number of species is particularly evident in the case of the mouse lemurs, Microcebus. From just one recognised species in the 1960s, there were 19 listed in Volume 3 of Handbook of the Mammals of the World published in 2013. At the last count there were 24. Those of us sceptical of the methods of some taxonomists will doubt that number of ‘good’ biological species. Nevertheless, the radiation of lemurs on Madagascar never ceases to astonish while the sound of Indris at dawn is one that stays in the mind forever as does being urinated on from a great height by a Diademed Sifaka…But we have not seen an Aye-aye in the wild.

These are the species we have seen:

Grey Mouse Lemur Microcebus murinus
Rufous Mouse Lemur Microcebus rufus
Golden-brown Mouse Lemur Microcebus ravelovensis
Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur Cheirogaleus medius
Greater Dwarf Lemur Cheirogaleus major
Milne-Edwards’s Sportive Lemur Lepilemur edwardsi
White-footed Sportive Lemur Lepilemur leucopus
Small-toothed Sportive Lemur Lepilemur microdon
Red-tailed Sportive Lemur Lepilemur ruficaudatus
Ring-tailed Lemur Lemur catta
Mongoose Lemur Eulemur mongoz
Red-bellied Lemur Eulemur rubriventer
Brown Lemur Eulemur fulvus
Red-fronted Lemur Eulemur rufifrons
Black Lemur Eulemur macaco
Grey Bamboo Lemur Hapalemur griseus
Golden Bamboo Lemur Hapalemur aureus
Greater Bamboo Lemur Prolemur simus
Eastern Woolly Lemur Avahi laniger
Western Woolly Lemur Avahi occidentalis
Indri Indri indri
Diademed Sifaka Propithecus diadema
Coquerel’s Sifaka Propithecus coquereli
Verreaux’s Sifaka Propithecus verrauxi
Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur Varecia variegata

Coquerel's Sifaka Propithecus coquereli at Ampijoroa
November 2003

Sunday 12 July 2020

Marshall & Hurst’s Practical Zoology: a textbook from the 1800s we used in the mid 1900s

It would be difficult for today’s students to comprehend that in the early 1960s students were using a textbook on practical zoology written by academics who both died before 1900. The book must have made a lot of money for its publishers, originally Smith, Elder & Co of London. The first edition of  A Junior Course of Practical Zoology appeared in 1887. Its authors were Arthur Milnes Marshall FRS and Charles Herbert Hurst, professor and lecturer respectively in Owens College, Manchester, part of the federal Victoria University which eventually morphed into the University of Manchester.

There is an excellent articles on Marshall (1852-1893) and his legacy online here* but much less has been published on his co-author, Charles Herbert Hurst.

Hurst was born in 1855 in Rochdale, Lancashire the son of a cotton spinner; a cotton spinner not in the sense of a man who spun cotton himself but of the owner of a factory for spinning cotton. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and then went to the Royal College of Science in London (now Imperial College) as a science teacher in training. There he was influenced greatly by Thomas Henry Huxley. After a spell teaching at a boarding school in Yorkshire, he returned to Huxley for an honours degree in biology. His biographer is sketchy on what happened next other than that ‘he went abroad to continue his zoological studies’ after spending some time in Manchester working with Marshall. Around 1883 at Marshall’s invitation, he returned to Manchester as his assistant. In 1889, having taken advantage of a long period of leave, he graduated from the University of Leipzig with a PhD on the life-history of the gnat and subsequently published on the anatomy and sense organs of insects.

Arthur Milnes Marshall
The accidental death of his chief and friend Marshall in 1893 at the age of 41 saw Hurst running the department until the end of the academic session. However, he was greatly disappointed not be appointed in Marshall’s stead. Perhaps in a huff he moved to Ireland, as demonstrator in zoology at the Royal College of Science, Dublin (later absorbed by University College, Dublin) which was held together with a lectureship at the Ringsend Fishery School. Known for the accuracy of his work, he was uninterested in field work, considering his memory not suited to systematics. This is what his biographer wrote of his character:

With that sturdiness of character so marked in the people of the North of England he had, to a certain extent, the less amiable quality of outspokenness which is apt to offend the more sensitive southerner. Yet no one would give himself more trouble than he did to help a student,—time, knowledge, books, specimens were freely placed at anyone’s disposal.

Hurst worked on the fossil bird Archaeopteryx, and visited Berlin to examine a specimen. He believed the consensus of the time on the function of the wing bones to be wrong.

Hurst, known for the clarity of his drawings, was also an amateur artist. Somerset & Wood Fine Art Ltd have some of his drawings and watercolour landscapes for sale. This is one of them:

Like Marshall, Hurst had an unfortunate and early death. Around Christmas 1897 he had a number of teeth removed, followed by what is described as the loss of blood and then ‘blood-poisoning’. Dublin newspapers show he gave a very well attended series of public lectures in January 1898. However, his biographer, ’T.J.’, states that he was in a weakened state when he caught influenza and died on 10 May 1898, aged 42.

I have been unable to find a photograph of Hurst.

The textbook Marshall & Hurst was clearly an immediate success, several editions appearing while the authors were alive. Later editions were revised by Frederick William Gamble (1869-1926) who had an early career remarkably similar to that of Hurst: Manchester Grammar School, Owens College, University of Leipzig and then back to Manchester. He became Professor of Zoology in Birmingham in 1909. Editions bearing his name were published until 1928. A lecturer in Gamble’s department, Herbert Greenway Newth (1885-1940) then took on the job. The last edition I have found was published in 1937; by then John Murray had succeeded Smith, Elder. The later editions were in interesting hands. Newth and his wife were leading members of the Communist Party in Birmingham during the 1930s. After Newth’s death in 1940 after a long period of illness, Annie or Nan Newth, a schoolteacher and school librarian, became associated with what were described as ‘subversive’ activities first in Birmingham and then in London. A Security Service (MI5) dossier on the couple is held at the National Archives. David Richmond Newth (1921-1988), their son whom I knew distantly, was Professor of Zoology in Glasgow from 1965 until retirement in 1981. Maurice Wilkins in his book, The Third Man of the Double Helix (OUP 2003), describes lodging with the Newths in Birmingham (moving out when he left the Communist Party) and, later, with Nan after she moved to London.

Hurst's drawing of Vorticella

Marshall & Hurst, a book for laboratory practicals, was very much in the ‘types’ tradition of T.H. Huxley, with the student working through a series of representatives of the major groups of animals from an amoeba to a mammal and bird. My copy disappeared some years ago but the third edition can be found in its entirety online. Organisms described are: Amoeba, Paramecium, Opalina, Vorticella, Hydra, Fasciola, Hirudo, Lumbricus, Anodonta, Helix, Astacus, Periplaneta, Amphioxus, and then on to dogfish, rabbit and pigeon. There were sections on the tools needed for dissection and on microscopical techniques. There were few diagrams; the student had to work from the step-by-step description.

Absent from this book was the frog. This was because Marshall had published a book on this animal in 1882. Because the frog was a major type in most syllabuses, it cannot have escaped the publisher or the royalty-earning author that two books were needed by students rather than just one. Later editions of The Frog were again revised first by Gamble and then by Newth.

The book continued in use because the type system of instruction remained part of advanced school and university teaching for so long. But perhaps I should not have been so surprised to realise we had been using a book from the 1800s in the mid-1900s. After all I looked something up in the ever useful J.Z. Young the other day—the first edition of Life of Vertebrates, intended to replace the approach of old textbooks like Marshall & Hurst, was published 70 years ago!

Marshall's drawing of the cranial nerves and brain of the dogfish
Who can forget the mixed smell of fish and formalin and digging out the cranial nerves
from cartilage?

*Luck’s account of Marshall’s death (being hit by a falling rock) does not accord with detailed accounts of the inquest. It would seem that he was standing or sitting on a rock on Scafell in the Lake District which gave way and he then fell to his death. There is no mention of that he could have been struck by a falling rock (Maryport Advertiser, 6 January 1894). The possibility that he died of natural causes and then fell, dislodging a rock in the process, does not seem to have been considered by the coroner and no autopsy appears to have been done.

†T.J. is obviously Thomas Johnson (1863-1954), Professor of Botany for 36 years in the Catholic University of Ireland (from 1909 University College Dublin), an active contributor to the Irish Naturalist.

Johnson T. 1898. C. Herbert Hurst, Ph.D. The Irish Naturalist 7, 153-155.

Thursday 9 July 2020

Pacific Black Skink: another lizard from our travels

Another lizard seen on our travels. This one was in Samoa 12 years ago. It is a Pacific Black Skink  or Black Emo Skink (Emoia nigra). We came across it and several others in the undergrowth of the grounds of Vailima, Robert Louis Stevenson’s house, now a museum, on the island of ‘Upolu. It occurs from the Solomon Islands through Vanuatu to Tonga and Samoa.

Pacific Black Skink, Emoia nigra


In the trees above was a Samoan endemic bird, the Flat-billed Kingfisher (Todiramphus recurvirostris) while a pair of White-tailed Tropicbirds (Phaethon lepturus) flew overhead.

Friday 3 July 2020

The Moral of this Story: Do Not Keep Frogs in the Bedroom if You Want to Sleep

Writing about Edward J. Bles and his breeding of Xenopus laevis in Cambridge and Glasgow, I was reminded that more than 55 years ago I received from Kenya a small batch of Xenopus. Over the years I realised they could not have been the species the man who sent them described them as. My frogs were collected in an around Nairobi and he thought they were Müller’s Clawed Frog, Xenopus muelleri. However, with the benefit over 50 years of research, more observations and the description of new or resurrected species lumped into X. laevis, it is now clear that this species does not occur around Nairobi. Local naturalists described finding X. laevis in that area in the 1960s and 70s. However, present distribution maps show two species might be encountered around Nairobi: the Marsabit Clawed Frog, X. borealis and, less commonly, the Mwanza or Lake Victoria Clawed Frog, X. victorianus. Both of these have been included in X. laevis in the past. But which ones were sent to me?

Xenopus borealis
from here
Comparing the rather poor descriptions and photographs available on internet searches, my best guess is that they were X. borealis. I remember that they were smaller and darker in colour than X. laevis, with darker markings on the back. The call of both X. victorianus and X. borealis appears to be different from X. laevis, the latter likened to the winding of a watch. One keeper of X. borealis noted that their call is like ping pong balls hitting the bat. I haven’t been able to find a sound recording of that species on internet searches. However, I did find a recording of X. victorianus, and that was very much as I remembered it. I find that I described it in print as ‘hitting an empty cup with a tea spoon’.

The reason I have a vivid memory of the call is that I installed a small group in a tank in my room in Sheffield. Sustained sleep was impossible. Shortly after the light went out, several started calling. It was impossible to see which individuals were responsible since they produce their call without an external sign of movement. The loud calling went on night after night—matching the reports that the call of X. borealis is louder than X. laevis—so that by the end of the week the frogs were moved to pastures new.

Little did we know in the 1960s, of course, that the movement of Xenopus around the world for pregnancy tests, for developmental biology research and for amphibian keepers would be implicated in the spread of the chytrid fungal disease of amphibians, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. throughout the world, causing devastation to populations of some species that lack resistance. I find all sorts and ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ about the chytrid disease story but I do note with interest that the fungus has recently been detected in preserved specimens of X. borealis collected in Kenya in 1934.

Wednesday 1 July 2020

A lizard we saw Zambia that I had forgotten about: Johnston’s Long-tailed Lizard

Latastia johnstoni
South Luangwa, Zambia, October 2007
still from video
One morning nearly thirteen years ago while walking beside a dry river bed in the South Luangwa Valley of Zambia we spotted a lizard with a very long and very bright red tail. I took some video noting in my mind to look up what it was. The local guides, brilliant on birds and mammals, called it a ‘skink’ but I suspected it was one of the African members of the Lacertidae, that family of lizards represented so strongly in Europe including two species in Britain.

During covid-lockdown we looked at some old videos and I realised that I never had never identified our lizard. After a bit of searching I found it was Latastia johnstoni, Johnston’s Long-tailed Lizard found in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe as well as in Malawi. Another common name is Malawi or Nyasaland Long-tailed Lizard. It is, as I strongly suspected, a lacertid.

I read that the bright red tail, rear of the back and legs is characteristic of juveniles and that the colour dulls down with age.

The ten currently recognised species of Latastia, apart from one species also found in Yemen, occur only in Africa. L. johnstoni was described in 1907 by George Albert Boulenger from two specimens collected in what is now Malawi by Sir Harry Johnston—yes, the man who discovered the Okapi—in 1897.

Boulenger GA. 1907. Descriptions of two new African lizards of the genus Latastia. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Zoology, Botany and Geology 19, 392-394.