Museum data sheds light on coral snakes and their mimics

A U-M led team of herpetologists has just published a pair of papers dealing with the evolution of warning coloration and mimicry in New World snakes. The first is published in Nature Communications and deals with the evolutionary dynamics of coral snake-like coloration (red-and-black banding) in both space and time. The University of Michigan released a really nice multimedia feature on this paper, which includes some great video footage from our recent UMMZ Herpetology expedition to the Peruvian Amazon. One of my favorite subclips from the accompanying video comes at 1:55, where you can see some footage we shot of a harmless litter-dwelling snake (Atractus elaps) doing a spectacular imitation of a coral snake defensive display (see below). This display was quite convincing and inspired a considerable level of caution among our group of professional herpetologists!

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UMMZ Herpetology in the Amazon

The Herpetology Division at the University of Michigan has just returned from a scientific expedition to the Peruvian Amazon. Our team included researchers from the University of Michigan, four Peruvian institutions, and the Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife. Four University of Michigan graduate students participated in the expedition. Our objectives were to collect baseline data about amphibian and reptile diversity in one of the world’s most species-rich tropical rainforests.

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MichiganBiodiversity Blog

Welcome to the MichiganBiodiversity! This is an unofficial blog of the biodiversity research community at the University of Michigan, focusing on the activities and collections of the Museum of Zoology and U-M Herbarium. Here at Michigan, we host some of the world’s largest and most scientifically important biodiversity collections. You can learn more about the scale and scope of our collections here and here; we will profile some of these collections in more detail on this site in the future. There are many ways of studying “biodiversity”, but this blog will focus in particular on a vision of biodiversity science that is dedicated to the discovery, documentation, and archival of basic natural history information about life on Earth. In our view, biological collections – and the community of knowledge they support – is the foundation for the more process-oriented (and closely-allied) disciplines of ecology and evolution.

Some of the topics we hope to explore through this blog include:

  • Expeditionary field research and collection building at the University of Michigan
  • The value of our natural history collections in a changing world
  • Ongoing research by students, staff, and faculty in the U-M biodiversity research community
  • Emerging technologies that have the potential to transform biodiversity science
  • History of biodiversity science at U-M
  • Profiles of the objects (organisms) in our collections and the stories they tell

Stay tuned as we take a closer look at U-M’s role in exploring the spectacular diversity of life on Earth….