Impact of the Miocene orogenesis on Kaloula radiation

New collaborative research paper in Integrative Zoology led by Siti N. Othman from Ewha Womans University!

The phylogeography of the Kaloula genus is still poorly understood. One of the difficulties is the absence of fossils to corroborate molecular dating estimates. Here, we examined the mitochondrial structure of Kaloula spp. in East Asia and focused on the impact of glaciations and past geological events on the northernmost species: Kaloula borealis.

Kaloula borealis from the Republic of Korea

We determined the phylogenetic relationships, molecular dating and genetic connectivity assessments within the genus from 1,211 bp of concatenated mitochondrial 12S and 16S. The relaxed clock analyses reveal the emergence of Kaloula spp. common ancestor in East and South East Asia between the Eocene and Oligocene, c. 38.47 Ma (24.69 – 53.65). The genetic diversification of lineages then increased on the East Asian Mainland during the Lower Miocene, c. 20.10 Ma (8.73 – 30.65), most likely originating from the vicariance and radiation triggered by the orogeny of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Later, the dispersal towards the North East Asian Mainland during the Upper Miocene drove the population diversification of K. borealis c. 9.01 Ma (3.66 – 15.29). Finally, the central mainland population became isolated following orogenesis events and diverged into K. rugifera during the Pliocene, c. 3.06 Ma (0.02 – 10.90).

Miocene Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau orogenesis and related dynamic of Kaloula populations

The combination of population genetic and barrier analyses revealed a significant genetic isolation between populations of Kaloula spp. matching with the massive Qinling-Daba Mountain chain located in south-central China. Finally, we highlight a young divergence within the Eastern Mainland population of K. borealis, possibly attributed to refugia in South Eastern China from which populations later expanded.

Direct download here.

1970년부터 2020년까지 남한 내 독사교상에 대한 고찰

이화여자대학교의 장이권 교수님과 공동으로 수행한 연구가 출판되었습니다! 논문은 여기에서 보실 수 있습니다. Post in English here.

요약된 연구 결과. 문헌 자료와 건강보험 데이터로부터 독사 교상에 대한 상반된 패턴이 유추되었음을 볼 수 있다. 사진: 김현태 선생님 제공.

1970 년부터 2020년까지 남한 내 독사 교상 (snakebite envenomings)의 패턴을 리뷰하고 분석한 저희 논문이 독성학 저널 Toxicon에 게재되었습니다. 남한의 육상 뱀 중 살모사(Gloydius brevicaudus), 까치살모사(G. intermedius), 쇠살모사(G. ussuriensis), 그리고 유혈목이(Rhabdophis tigrinus)가 독사로 알려져 있고 그간 우리나라에서 독사 교상에 대한 사례 연구, 임상적 고찰 등의 연구가 출간되긴 했지만, 독사 교상의 전국적인 패턴은 잘 알려지지 않은 상황입니다.


따라서, 이번 연구에서는 1970년부터 2020년까지 우리나라에서 출간된 연구결과들을 종합하여 데이터를 추출한 후 독사 교상의 전국적인 패턴을 유추하고자 했고, 한편으로는 건강보험심사평가원의 데이터를 사용하여 문헌자료에서 추출된 데이터와 비교했습니다.

결과를 요약하자면, 문헌 및 건강보험 데이터에서 유추된 연간 독사교상 발생 건수는 실제 발생하는 건수에 훨씬 못 미칠 것으로 예상되며, 또한 문헌자료로부터 유추된 패턴과 건강보험 데이터로부터 유추된 패턴 사이에 상당한 충돌이 있는 것을 확인할 수 있었습니다. 이런 문제를 해결하기 위해 추후에 보다 포괄적인 연구가 필요할 것으로 생각됩니다.

문헌 자료로부터 수행한 분석의 개요. 사진: 김현태 선생님 제공.

A review of snakebite envenomings in the Republic of Korea from the 1970s to the 2020s

New publication in collaboration with Prof. Yikweon Jang from Ewha Womans University published in Toxicon! The full paper is accessible here. 여기에서 한국어로 보실 수 있습니다.

Summary of the main results, highlighting the conflicting patterns of envenomings between the literature and public health data Photographs courtesy of Mr. Kim Hyun-Tae

In our new paper published in the journal Toxicon, we reviewed the patterns of snakebite envenomings in the Republic of Korea (ROK), covering almost 50 years of compiled data.


There are four species of medically significant terrestrial venomous snakes in the ROK: Gloydius brevicaudus (Short-tailed pitviper; 살모사*), G. intermedius (Rockpitviper; 까치살모사*), G. ussuriensis (Ussuri pitviper; 쇠살모사*), and Rhabdophis tigrinus (Tiger keelback; 유혈목이*). However, information on the broad patterns of snakebite envenomings (e.g., geographical, demographic) in the ROK are either partially documented and/or poorly represented in the global-scale research on snakebite envenomings.

So, we compiled available literature and also accessed public health database to summarize and synthesize the broad patterns of snakebite envenomings in the ROK. Our results show that the annual number of snakebite cases based on the literature and public health database (which are in turn based on hospital admissions) are most likely an underestimation of the true number of annual snakebite occurrences. Also, our results highlight the conflicting patterns of snakebite envenomings between the literature and public health database.


Our study filled in some gaps in our knowledge of snakebite envenomings in the ROK, but opened up some new ones. More comprehensive studies are needed to improve our knowledge on the snakebite envenomings in the country.

Overview of analyses conducted in the study based on the literature review dataset. Photographs courtesy of Mr. Kim Hyun-Tae

*We provide names in Korean as one of the reason for the lack of data is the non-consistent use of common names. 여기에서 한국어로 보실 수 있습니다.

How threatened is the Huanren ground skink?

How threatened is Scincella huanrenensis? An update on threats and trends. https://doi.org/10.3390/conservation1010005

The Huanren skink is restricted to continental northeast Asia but it’s range and threats had not been understood and summarised until the fruition of this project. Our results are a collaboration of the work conducted by Yucheol Shin and Kevin Messenger as lead authors, and Kyo Soung Koo, Sang Cheol Lee, Mian Hou and Amaël Borzée.

It is important to understand the dynamics of population size to accurately assess threats and implement conservation activities when required. However, inaccurate estimates are harming both the threat estimation process, and the resulting conservation actions.

Here, we address the extinction threats to Scincella huanrenensis, a species described in the People’s Republic of China, but also occurring on the Korean peninsula. Estimating the threats to the species is not an easy task due to its unknown population status in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Here we analysed the literature to acquire the known presence point for the species, along with datapoints originating from opportunistic field surveys, and employed habitat suitability models to estimate the range of the species.

Scincella huanrenensis photographed in Odaesan National Park in September 2019.

We then followed the categories and criteria of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species to assess and update the extinction risk of the species. We found the species not to be fitting the threatened category at the global scale based on the range size, the only category for which enough data was available. We recommend the status of the species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species to be updated as it is now listed as Critically Endangered, a listing fitting a national assessment for the People’s Republic of China.

While this species is possibly less threatened than currently listed, this is not a genuine improvement, and specific conservation aspects should not be neglected due to its specialisation to medium to high elevation habitat.

Ranges for Scincella huanrenensis. The range shaded in red was computed from a minimum convex polygon (MCP) restricted to land area and the Maxent binary presence map. The range size estimated from the MCP (87,648.1 km2) was considerably broader than the one based on Maxent binary map (26,721.9 km2). This discrepancy is likely due to poor sampling in Jilin and and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Also, the range “gap” between Liaoning-Jilin and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea likely reflects poor sampling in these regions.

Link to the original publication: https://www.mdpi.com/2673-7159/1/1/5

Link to supplementary files: https://www.mdpi.com/2673-7159/1/1/5/s1

Conservation Requirements for the Suweon Treefrog

New publication in collaboration with Il-Kook Park and Prof Daesik Park from Gangwon National University! Here, we highlight that the survival of Suweon treefrog populations is linked to non-fragmented rice paddy cover (as there is no natural habitat left). We also demonstrate that the presence of greenhouses and other infrastructures in rice paddy complexes has a significant negative impact on populations.

Habitat suitability for the Suweon treefrog (Dryophytes suweonensis) in Sihung, Republic of Korea, highlighting the areas where the species is extirpated, and the presence of greenhouses as their presence relates to the extirpation of the species at a site.

The Suweon treefrog (Dryophytes suweonensis) is threatened with habitat loss and most populations are under threat of extirpation. Over the last decades, sub-populations have become increasingly disconnected and specifically the density of paved roads has increased around the only site connecting northern and southern Seoul populations. We surveyed the locality in Hojobeol, Siheung, Republic of Korea to first confirm the decline in the number of sites where D. suweonensis was present. We then determined the remaining suitable habitat for D. suweonensis through a species distribution model.

Rice paddy cover and distance from the paved road are the most important factor defining suitable habitat for D. suweonensis. At this locality, uninterrupted rice paddies are a suitable habitat for the species when reaching at least 0.19 km2, with an average distance of 138 ± 93 m2 from the roads. We link the decrease in the number of sites where D. suweonensis is present with the decrease in rice paddy cover, generally replaced by localized infrastructures, greenhouses and habitat fragmentation. Rice paddies should remain connected over a large area for the protection of the remaining populations.

The PDF of the paper is available here.