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Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Keeled Box Turtle – a Hardy Species in Need of Captive Breeding – Part 1

Keeled Box TurtleAsia’s Keeled Box Turtle, also known as the Jagged-shelled or Indian Thorn Turtle (Pyxidea mouhotii) is an attractive, interesting species that has somehow never become very popular with turtle keepers.  Wild populations have plummeted in recent years and, as zoos pay little attention to this turtle, I’d like to ask that hobbyists consider working with it.


I was taken in by the Keeled Box Turtle’s subtle beauty and unique shell construction early on.  The extremely flat dorsal surface of the carapace is distinctive, as is the presence of the 3 well-defined keels or ridges that decorate it.  The carapace, which reaches 7 inches in length, is brown, tan or rust in color and is serrated at the posterior.  The limbs are gray to dark brown.  A hinge develops in the plastron (lower shell) of the adults, allowing the head and front limbs to be sealed tightly into the shell.

Range and Habitat

The Keeled Box Turtle ranges widely throughout South and Southeast Asia, occurring from southern China (including Hainan Island) through Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar to eastern India.

It is, however, rarely encountered as it prefers rainforests and heavily wooded areas.  The Keeled Box Turtle may soak in shallow pools but rarely enters deep water.

Status in the Wild

As is true for many Asian turtles, the Keeled Box Turtle is declining throughout its range due to habitat loss and collection for the food trade.  It is designated as “Endangered” by the IUCN and listed on Appendix II of CITES.


Further Reading

Please see the Turtles of the World website for more natural history information.

Keeled Box Turtle image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Torsten Blanck

Rough and Smooth Green Snakes – Beautiful Insect-Eaters for Planted Terrariums – Part 1

Rough Green SnakeLarger rodent-eating snakes, especially those that take well to handling, have long dominated reptile collections.  However, there is another side to snake-keeping – small, insectivorous species that, unlike their larger relatives, thrive in naturalistic terrariums.  Of these, my all-time favorites are the Rough and Smooth Green Snakes (Opheodrys aestivus and O. vernalis).

The captive care information below refers mainly to the Rough Green Snake, which is more commonly kept, but applies to the Smooth Green as well. Read More »

New Form of Communication Revealed – Plant-Vibrating Red-Eyed Treefrogs

Red-eyed Tree FrogHerpetologists at Panama’s Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute have uncovered a here-to-fore unknown form of communication among frogs. Using robotic frogs, infra-red lights and accelerometers, they have established that male Red-Eyed Treefrogs (Agalychnis callidryas) compete by shaking their bodies, which in turn vibrates the plant stems upon which they are perched.

Vibration Contests

Writing in the May 20, 2010 edition of Current Biology, researchers speculate that the vibrations sent through plant stems enable other male frogs can access the plant shaker’s intent, size and status. It appears that the frogs’ vocal calls may also vibrate plants, but further research is needed.

Additional studies are also being planned to determine if other herps, birds or mammals utilize vibration-based communication (invertebrates are known to do so). Read More »

Newly Discovered Texas Dinosaur Likely Engaged in Head-Butting Contests

PachycephalosaurusLike many fellow reptile and amphibian enthusiasts, I’m very interested in dinosaurs.  Happily, there have been many exciting new discoveries as of late…a beast recently christened Texacephale langstoni is a good case in point.

A New Hard-Headed Dinosaur

Years ago, most folks interested in dinosaurs were limited to gawking at fossils in museums. To be sure, these were fantastic, but modern study methods are now providing a glimpse at how these amazing creatures actually behaved.

Writing in the April, 2010 issue of Cretaceous Research, Yale University paleontologists theorize that a newly described Texas native probably rammed skulls with others of its kind, perhaps to establish dominance or mating rights.

The unique creature, related to the Pachycephalosaurs (please see drawing) but classified within its own genus, sported a rock-hard mass of bone atop its head.  This unusual growth, about the size of a softball, is similar to those found on only a dozen other dinosaur species.

More to Follow…

T. langstoni, which roamed the American Southwest 70-80 million years ago, was relatively small as dinosaurs go, weighing perhaps 40-50 pounds – I wonder if its “helmet” might have found use as a weapon of self-defense as well?

Hopefully we’ll learn more soon…until then, keep reading and please write in with any interesting stories you might come by.



Further Reading

Some amazing ancient reptiles inhabited the USA as well – please see my articles on giant, dinosaur–eating snakes and crocodiles.

You can learn more about the new head-ramming dinosaur on the Yale University website.
Pachycephalosaurus image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Keith Schengili-Roberts

Feeding Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

Most of the comments/questions I receive concerning Dwarf African Clawed Frog (Hymenochirus boettgeri or H. Curtipes) care go something like this: “My Frog Won’t Eat”! or “My Fishes Steal the Frog’s Food”!  This has been the case for, quite literally, decades.  Despite the fact that these charming little frogs are very popular in the pet trade, there remains a great deal of mystery surrounding their care – and this very often it leads to their early demise.

The Problem

Dwarf Clawed FrogDwarf Clawed Frogs are often confused with young African Clawed Frogs (Xenopus laevis), but their dietary needs differ radically from those of their larger cousin (the two species are easy to tell apart, please see article below).  Read More »

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