WHAT IS HERPETOLOGY?
No, it’s nothing to do with STDs. Herpetology is the study of herpetofauna, that is, reptiles and amphibians. The name is derived from the Greek word, “ἑρπετόν”, herpeton, which refers to the creeping nature of the subjects.
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the monster was a strange amalgam of human body parts, scavenged from beyond the grave. In many ways, herpetology is that monster. Confused? Let us explain.
When Linnaeus first set out to classify the living world over 200 years ago, amphibians and reptiles were placed together, for understandable reasons.
It was only in the 19th Century that the two groups were separated. While it may be taxonomically irrelevant, the term, “herp” is still used to refer to both reptiles and amphibians, mainly out of convenience. For the more pedantic among us, the study of amphibians alone is known as “Batrachology”. (Don’t worry batrachologists, we love you too!)
So, much like Mary Shelley’s monster, herpetology is a field that has been cobbled together with other parts!
Note: The word “reptile” itself is rather ambiguous. Mammals, birds and reptiles are all classified as amniotes. However, mammals and birds are excluded from class Reptilia. It is a paraphyletic clade that is not universally recognised. However, it persists as a term of convenience. As far as this blog is concerned, the word “reptile” will refer to non-avian, non-mammalian, amniotes.
So, what’s up with our logo? We thought long and hard about what animals we should choose to represent the Herps of Singapore. There were several candidates, and we considered all of them seriously.
On the left of the badge, we have a silhouette of the Common Gliding Lizard (Draco sumatranus) This is a resilient lizard that thrives even in disturbed or man-made environments. It is able to expand its ribcage and skin flaps to glide from one tree to another! This lizard represents the resilience that we envision for the Herps of Singapore
The top center of the badge features the Spiny Hill Terrapin (Heosemys spinosa). This is an attractive forest-dweller that can be difficult to spot amidst the leaf litter. This is a very recognizable ambassador for turtles, tortoises and terrapins across Singapore. Sadly though, it is endangered due to human trade. The Spiny Hill Terrapin represents the danger that the Herps of Singapore (and indeed the world) constantly face.
On the right, is the Malayan Horned Frog (Megophrys nasuta). This guy brings amphibian representation to the table and like the Spiny Hill Terrapin, is instantly recognizeable by the shape. The frog has amazing camouflage, mimicking leaf litter almost perfectly. This frog represents the fact that the Herps of Singapore are everywhere, even when we don’t realise.
In the foreground, we have the Big-Eyed Whip Snake (Ahaetulla mycterizans). Unfortunately, snakes do not have fantastic Public Relations. They have a bad reputation that is almost entirely unjustified. This guy is a docile, yet beautiful snake that defies stereotypes. Very little is known about the ecology and behaviour of this snake. As such, it represents the overarching theme of mystery and the knowledge that we hope to pursue as a society.
Finally, all of our mascots are leaning out of the badge. This represents one of our objectives at HSS, which is outreach. We hope to educate Singaporeans (and everyone else) about our amazing herpetological diversity!
With that, we conclude our first proper post on the HSS blog!
Frankenstein’s Monster: Source