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Breeding Leopard Geckos

Leopard GeckosAt some point, lizard keepers usually think about breeding their favorite species.  The ever-popular Leopard Gecko, Eublepharis macularius, is an excellent choice for both novice and advanced hobbyists.  It is a reliable breeder, yet the conditions that must be established if one is to succeed are similar to those required by many other species; a beneficial learning process is thus ensured.  Experienced breeders have developed a huge array of color and pattern morphs, and many enjoy “tinkering” with the genetics of these in order to create unique new gecko strains.

Note: Before attempting to breed any animal, it is important that you arrange homes for the youngsters.  Please don’t assume that friends or pet stores will accept them…plan ahead.

Distinguishing the Sexes

Directly above the vent, you will see a series of “V” shaped bumps, the pre-anal pores. These are large and readily-visible in males and less-evident in females.  Between the vent and the base of the tail, mature males also exhibit a pair of bulges, beneath which are the hemipenes.  Please see the article below for a complete guide to determining your pets’ sex. Read More »

New Test for Cryptosporidiosis, an Incurable Disease of Snakes and Lizards

Corn Snake and PreyA decade or so ago, Cryptosporidiosis became recognized as a major concern in captive snake and lizard collections.  Caused by a one-celled parasite known as Cryptosporidium varanii, the disease remains incurable to this day.  At the Bronx Zoo, where I worked at the time, tests showed that many snakes already in our collection, along with wild and pet reptiles, might be harboring Cryptosporidium.  But diagnosis was difficult and errors were common, resulting in the institution of expensive and time-consuming isolation protocols for new and sick animals.  So I was happy to learn of a newly devised test that ensures early, accurate diagnosis of Cryptosporidium…it will surely prove useful to pet keepers and zoos alike.

Crypto and the Pet Trade

A number of factors render Cryptosporidiosis as a major concern, including the popularity of reptile pets and the fact that the parasite can be transferred to people.  While not often of major concern to healthy adults, Crypto, as it came to be known, is a danger to immune-compromised individuals (please see article below).  A recent survey of 672 pets revealed that 1 in 6 of the Corn Snakes and 1 in 12 of the Leopard Geckos tested harbored Crypto in one form or another.  Read More »

Reptile and Amphibian Shelters – Choosing the Best Location

While the importance of providing a shelter for pet herps is well-known, the question of where to place the shelter is often not given adequate consideration.  In both zoo exhibits and home terrariums, I have noticed that animals sometimes refuse to enter perfectly suitable shelters.  Studies carried out at the University of Sydney have recently shed some light on the factors that influence shelter choice in lizards.

Safety vs. Warmth

Writing in the journal Behavioral Ecology (21:72-77), researchers report that Velvet Geckos (Oedura leseurii) avoided shelters that carried the scent of their predators (in this case, Broad-Headed and Small-Eyed Snakes).  The geckos refused to enter the shelters despite the fact that they represented the only warm areas within the enclosures, choosing instead to hide in cold shelters. When the cold shelters were also scented, the geckos remained in the open.  The experiment was repeated in the geckos’ natural habitat, with the same results.

Practical Applications for Pet Owners

While this behavior might seem to “make sense” to us, I think it is important to bear in mind that hiding from predators and thermo-regulating are key aspects of reptile and amphibian survival.  Remaining in the open is very stressful for most species, and may lead to illness and death.  Similarly, the failure to maintain the correct body temperature is a direct threat to their survival.

Other Considerations

Lesueur's Velvet geckoWhile we do not (hopefully!) house our pets with their predators, other factors may be at work.  For example, I have found that many animals will remain in a shelter even if the temperature within is too hot or too cold – safety trumping thermo-regulation in these cases.

Also, dominant tank-mates may prevent others from using shelters or basking sites, or cause them to remain within shelters for extended periods (thereby affecting feeding and basking behavior).  This can occur even in the absence of actual aggression – the mere presence of a dominant animal is often enough to influence the behavior of other animals.

Where highly territorial, visually-oriented animals are concerned, a dominant individual can cause stress just by being within the view of another animal, even if housed in a different terrarium.  I have observed this to occur among both chameleons and monitor lizards.


Further Reading

Turtles need shelters other than their shells!  Please see my article on Turtle Shelters.

Please see this Herpetologica article abstract for information on other factors that influence shelter choice.

Thanks, until next time,
Frank Indiviglio

Lesueur’s Velvet Geko from Sydney image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Hexasoft

Introducing the Nosy Be Gecko (or Spearpoint Leaf-Tailed Gecko) – Part 2

Orange Nosy Be GeckoPlease see Part 1 of this article for information on an interesting newcomer to the pet trade, the Nosy Be Gecko (Uroplatus ebenaui).  Today we’ll take a look at some related species and the gecko family in general.

Other Geckos in the Genus Uroplatus

All 12 species that have been assigned to the genus Uroplatus, collectively known as “Leaf-Tailed Geckos”, are endemic to Madagascar and considered threatened due to extensive deforestation.  Cryptic colors, nocturnal ways and arboreal habitats render it likely that other species await discovery…hopefully before they disappear forever. Read More »

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