The process of hibernation (or brumation) in reptiles and amphibians seems subject to a great many factors. For example, I have noticed that spotted and Eastern box turtles, and other temperate North American species, vary greatly in this regard. In captivity, wild-caught individuals usually slow down (activity and feeding) during the winter, even if kept warm and given a photoperiod of 12 hours. Captive-born animals of the same species most often continue to feed throughout the winter.
Green frogs, garter snakes, musk turtles and others, however, usually stay active if kept warm in winter, even if wild-caught.
A recent email from a colleague brought up the subject of bearded dragons. His animal becomes lethargic and ceases feeding in October, despite a long photoperiod, and high ambient and basking temperatures. Most bearded dragons in the US pet trade are several generations removed from the wild, yet the tendency to hibernate persists in some. Many bearded dragons, however, remain active all year. I am wondering if what we are seeing is related to the natural range of our pets’ ancestors… perhaps those from certain areas hibernate in the wild and retain this pattern in captivity?
A Request for Help
Internal (circadian) rhythms exert their influence on most animals, and an understanding of their workings is vital from both a pet-keeping and conservation point of view. I would greatly appreciate being informed of any seasonal changes in activity that you notice among your pets.
Some North American turtles are incredibly cold-tolerant, and are being studied to see if the mechanisms they use might be applied to the possible storage of human organs destined for transplant. The abstract of an interesting The Journal of Herpetology article is posted at:
If you’re looking for general care information on bearded dragons, check out my article: Bearded Dragon Natural History and Captive Care.