Reptile News – Surprising New Study on Snake Eyes and Vision

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Herp enthusiasts are a lucky bunch, as we never need to wait too long for the next new discovery.  I’m especially thrilled by those that are completely unexpected, and which change “what we know” about animals and their lives.  The past few years have been especially productive, with news of Reticulated Pythons that regularly attacked people (Philippines), skin-feeding tadpoles, communal skinks, lung-less frogs and so much more (please see the articles linked below).  Recently, a Waterloo University researcher was startled to discover that snake spectacles (eye-caps) contain a maze of blood vessels.  These would seem to interfere with vision.  Intrigued, he investigated further…and made discoveries that broke new ground in snake biology.

Diamond Python shedding

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Peter Ellis

Eye Caps Gain New Respect

Snakes view the world through fused, transparent eye lids known as the spectacles, brille or eye-caps.  Perhaps because they are shed along with the skin (please see photo), hobbyists and herpetologists alike have long considered them to be mere “goggles” that protect the eye while allowing for vision.  But we know have evidence that the spectacles are dynamic structures that assist in vision, and change according to the snake’s needs. Read More »

Small Boa Constrictors as Pets – Island Races of the Common Boa

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Despite decades in the pet trade, the Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor) remains one of the most popular of all reptilian pets. Unfortunately, the average Boa grows too large for many households, and cannot be safely handled by young or inexperienced keepers.  A number of smaller relatives, such as the Rosy, Rubber and Sand Boas, are available in the trade, along with some of the “dwarf species (Bimini and Panamanian Dwarf Boas). However, for the true Boa Constrictor enthusiast, they do not “fit the bill”.

Fortunately, a number of dedicated snake breeders have focused on the unique populations of smaller Boa Constrictors that inhabit many Caribbean islands.  Averaging only 4-5 feet when fully grown, these beautiful creatures are ideal choices for those seeking a large, but not giant, snake.  More importantly, island-bound Boas offer hobbyists the chance to dabble in snake conservation.  As all are restricted to tiny ranges, everything that we learn will be helpful in assuring their future survival.

Boa constrictor imperator

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Belizian

Read More »

Spectacular New Species of Leaf-Tailed Gecko Discovered in Australia

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Madagascar’s bizarre Leaf-Tailed Geckos (Uroplatus spp.) are on the wish lists of many lizard enthusiasts.  Even after decades of keeping reptiles in zoos, I was shocked by the sight of my first specimen.  Equally unique are Australia’s fantastic Leaf-Tailed Geckos (genus Saltuarius).  In color, shape (some look like insect-chewed leaves!), movement and body position, both groups take camouflage to its extreme.  The recent (October, 2013) discovery of a new Australian species, the Cape Melville Leaf Tailed Gecko, has caused quite a stir.  Its Latin name means “exceptional, extraordinary and exquisite”…and it is very fitting! I know that I’m not alone in being thrilled that there are still such unusual creatures waiting to be found.

NE Australian rainforest

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Adam.J.W.C.

A Tiny Range and Very Specific Habitat

The Cape Melville Leaf Tailed Gecko, Saltuarius eximius, seems limited in distribution to the Cape Melville Mountains on the Cape York Peninsula in tropical northeastern Queensland, Australia.

Only 6 individuals have been found, all on granite boulders beneath a rainforest canopy (please see habitat photo). This same mountain range is also home to 3 endemic (found nowhere else) frogs and 2 endemic skinks. Read More »

How to Breed Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Dwarf African Clawed Frogs, also known as Dwarf African Frogs (Hymenochirus boettgeri and H. curtipes) are very popular pets, yet few hobbyists attempt to breed them in captivity. Reproduction sometimes occurs spontaneously, but unless one is prepared, the eggs and tadpoles rarely survive.  As both a lifelong frog enthusiast and career herpetologist, I find this to be a sad state of affairs.  For these tiny aquatic frogs can be easily induced to breed and exhibit some of the amphibian world’s most amazing reproductive behaviors – including a circular egg-laying “dance” that may go on for 7 hours!  The bizarre tadpoles are equipped with tubular mouths and swim in a head up position at the water’s surface, propelled by rapidly-beating tails.  Looking somewhat like tiny skin-divers, rearing a tankful of these charming little amphibians is a most interesting and pleasurable undertaking.

Amplexus

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Quatermass

Distinguishing the Species and the Sexes

Hymenochirus boettgeri and H. curtipes are the only species regularly available in the pet trade.  Hymenochirus boettgeri has proportionally longer rear legs than H. curtipes, and its skin appears more granular.  The tadpoles are easy to distinguish (please see below).

Females are larger than males, and they are positively rotund when carrying eggs.  Males can be distinguished by their postaxillary glands, which appear as a tiny white bump behind each forearm. Read More »

Swollen Eyes in Red Eared Sliders and other Aquatic Turtles

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Swollen, inflamed eyes are commonly seen in a wide variety of captive turtles.  Strangely, the hardy Red Eared Slider seems especially prone to this annoying and potentially life-threatening condition (as we’ll see, popular feeding practices may partially explain this).  From childhood through my career as a herpetologist, standard wisdom has blamed the condition on a Vitamin A deficiency. Today we also know that poor water quality is responsible for many, if not most, of the eye problems seen in Sliders, Cooters, Painted Turtles and similar species.  In this article we will look at the symptoms, causes, prevention and treatment of various turtle eye maladies.

HAIDEN , TURTLE, CLOSESymptoms

Most eye problems first manifest as a slight but noticeable puffiness of the eyelids.  Vitamin A deficiencies and fungal/bacterial infections can cause tissue within and around the eyes to degrade.  As a result, epithelial cell “debris” collects along the eye rims and under the lids. Pressure and irritation causes the lids and tear ducts to swell. Read More »

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