Herping in Calabria and Sicilia (Southern Italy)

wouter

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I haven't posted here for a long time, so to "blow new life" in my account, I'll start with a short report of a herping trip me, my father and Mark Bakkers made in spring 2008. We travelled to southern Italy, more specifically we flew to Sicilia to observe some endemic herps, and then crossed the Messina strait to Calabria were we looked for two salamanders which had fascinated us for years.

First Sicilia and a bit of Calabria. Altough we went in late april, spring was already over in Sicilia, temperatures were high and the landscape was somewhat dissapointing. Lots of agricultural fields. We failed in finding individuals in a naturalised population of Xenopus laevis, but did find some other interesting herps at the first herping site ao Hierophis viridiflavus carbonarius, a whip snake species. A mountain close to Palermo (terrible traffic btw in Palermo) delivered Bufo siculus, a relative of the African (note, not of the much closer, Italian) Green Toads. Sadly Discoglossus pictus had left the water already.

After this we crossed to Calabria. We weren't planning on driving north, so no Triturus carnifex or the glacial relict Ichtyosaura alpestris inexpectatus. Our first findings were eggs of Rana italica in a cistern. After this we arrived in a beautiful climax forest with huge Fagus sylvatica and Abies alba; I've been in Bialowieza prime forest in Poland but I'm tempted to say that this Calabrian forest looked more impressive.
 

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wouter

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After this it was time for salamanders. We didn't have much trouble in finding beautiful southern Italian (the "real ones") Salamandra salamandra gigliolii. These are somewhat different in morphology than northern gigliolii, for instance with a really flat head, prominant dorsolateral points and a red throat. Lots of them were walking around during the day. Searches for the other salamander species proved to be in vain... We had a lot of fun though with just finding this species in the nice habitat. The almost yellow individual was a real treat.
 

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wouter

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After this we drove south again to find the missing species; Salamandrina terdigitata. After a longer search than planned, we found a female and juvenile S. terdigitata in a southern Calabrian mountainrange. The female was found under a rock in a stream while depositing the first eggs. We searched several streams intensively already, so were very glad with this result. It seems that activity for this salamander had only just begon.
Finding the one female motivated us to take up sticks and browse through the leaflitter as shown on the pic below; this resulted in one 2-3 cm juvenile noticed by my father because of its red-white underside.

We sadly failed to find Lissotriton italicus, mainly because we spend a lot of time in the forest, but also because suitable habitat was hard to find while driving randomly around Calabria. Something for next time!
 

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Jan

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Beautiful! Thanks for sharing your experiences and exquisite photographs. Welcome back.
 

Azhael

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I´ve fallen in love with that nearly completely yellow gigliolii O_O
Great photos, thank you for sharing, definitely a little paradise for herpers.
 

Kaysie

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Wouter, it's good to see you. Thank you for your amazing photographs! You definitely have made me jealous!
 

benw

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Wouter,

Really, impressive photos, loved the S s gigliolli!!

Looks like a fantastic herp trip, and thanks for sharing.

Ben
 

mantighoul

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Thanks for this herping account. I will have to remember this information when I head back to Calabria. I will be in a nice area to look for some Salamandra, :)
 

pierson_hill

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Those are some beautiful animals! I don't think I've ever seen photos of Salamandrina terdigitata before.
 

Azhael

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Does anybody else see a clear similarity between Salamandrina and Tylototriton species...??? Ô_o
 

aramcheck

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Those pictures are sumptuous!

I need to go back to the South of Europe soon, that black wipsnake reminded me of the many encounter I had with the yellow and black form in French hillside when I started herping as a kid...

Those snakes are really aggressive and stand their ground, I did come back home with bloodied finger a couple of time before I perfected my catching techniques!!!! :D
 

John

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Well I haven't been very active on caudata.org either so I guess I missed Wouter's post. Here some of my photo's. A bit overdue but well ;)
Those are stunning, Mark. Thank you for taking the time to share them with us.
 
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