Kemp’s Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)
The Kemp’s ridley turtle is the world’s most endangered sea turtle, and with a worldwide female nesting population roughly estimated at just 1,000 individuals, its survival truly hangs in the balance. Their perilous situation is attributed primarily to the over-harvesting of their eggs during the last century. And though their nesting grounds are protected and many commercial fishing fleets now use turtle excluder devices in their nets, these turtles have not been able to rebound. A 1947 amateur film showed some 40,000 female Kemp’s ridley turtles nesting in Mexico in a single day. Today, it is estimated that only about 1,000 breeding females exist worldwide.
For this reason, their nesting processions, called arribadas, make for especially high drama. During an arribada, females take over entire portions of beaches, lugging their big bodies through the sand with their flippers until they find a satisfying spot to lay their eggs. Even more riveting is the later struggle to the ocean of each tiny, vulnerable hatchling. Beset by predators, hatchlings make this journey at night, breaking out of their shells using their caruncle, a single temporary tooth grown just for this purpose.
Okay so, I’ll cover your question but to make sure everyone’s on the same page I’m gonna give a refresher on how to hold a snake by the head.
Using Robert as an example, this is the typical way to restrain a snake:
You’re going to be using three fingers (middle, pointer and thumb), with the last two fingers gently curling inward to brace the neck into your palm if they’re really twisting around (be sure not to choke the animal).
The pointer finger is aiming for where the back of the skull meets the spine, here:
Your thumb and middle finger are aiming to get behind the jaw, which is back here (I’m pressing inward a little to highlight the jaw curve):
The fingers can switch positions as the snake struggles, and if the snake starts pushing or pulling out of your grasp you can switch to using the same grip with the opposite hand, but as you get better at it you’ll figure out how to use very little pre ssure, and the snake will likely calm down faster.
(Robert is already chill and doesn’t care about me messing with his face, so don’t worry if your attempts don’t look as nice as these examples)
So now, finally, for tiny snakes. To be short, I use the same general premise for all tiny babies, including Limeade. This should generally be safe for almost all snakes if you’re doing it right. Just be gentle, and when in doubt loosen up and reposition.
So instead of gripping, you’re going to be using the pads of your fingers like pillows. Babies are prone to twisting about, but the three points should still be covered this way (and for things like assist feeding, I definitely brace the neck in my palm to keep them straightened out). The only thing to really watch out for, is to be sure to keep the throat uncovered.
Here’s a couple examples, using Cosmo (but this applies to smaller babies too):
Hopefully that helps! Definitely let me know if I’ve missed something or if anyone needs clarification.
Probably the group of snakes most well-known for parental care are now the vipers, which is somewhat ironic considering the fierce but undeserved reputation of these venomous snakes. Although it was documented as early as 1850, parental care by vipers was not widely known or accepted by the scientific community until the 1990s;like crocodilians, it was assumed that these animals were too vicious to exhibit such caring behavior. WhenLaurence Klauber, at the time the world’s foremost authority on rattlesnakes, wrote in 1956 that “Their propinquity [to aggregate]…does not result from any maternal solicitude; rather it is only because the refuge sought by the mother is also used as a hiding place by the young.”, he was uncharacteristically incorrect; in hindsight, his words now seem almost willfully ignorant. In the 1990s, credible reports of parental care in wild pitvipers began to accumulate, corroborating the many older stories listed by Klauber , and in 2002, a seminal review paper based around two studies using radio-telemetry and DNA proved once and for all that mother rattlesnakes do stay with and care for their young.
Today, you can read a whole blog about parental care in rattlesnakes, and we think that parental care is widespread (but not ubiquitous) among the ~230 species of pitvipers (aka crotalines or New World vipers). This is particularly remarkable because ma ny of them give birth to live young, which they guard until the young’s first shed, even though they may not have eaten for 9-10 months beforehand. It appears that the completion of the first shed cycle is the cue for them to separate, an event which is mediated by the same hormone in snakes as it is in birds and mammals. Because snakes swallow their food whole, the mother can’t really feed her offspring, and they forage for themselves after they disperse. Pitvipers are the only snakes known to care for their living young; other snakes with parental care limit themselves to care of their eggs.
Products and Chemicals Dangerous For snakes
Unfortunately if you google around for substances that are toxic for our scale-babies, most of the results you’ll get back are for snake repellents and chemicals to kill wild reptiles. People just haven’t done the research required yet for us to have a complete list of things that might be harmful for our pets, and the sad fact is that there are many, many people in the world still fearful and full of hatred for snakes, so they don’t care.
I’ve gone through and compiled a short list for us snake-keepers to reference, in the hopes of helping to avoid an accidental loss of someone’s precious animal.
Please note that this list may not be complete!
- Cedar; Reptiles exposed to cedar may exhibit respiratory symptoms or develop skin lesions.
- Pine and Eucalyptus Trees; Pine trees and eucalyptus trees are similar to cedar trees, and produce aromatic phenols. Though there isn’t as much evidence linking pine and eucalyptus to health problems as there is for cedar, their use is discouraged.
- Chemically Treated Wood; A variety of different chemicals may be used to treat wood based on its intended use. Wood destined for construction is often treated with chemicals to increase its resistance to decay; some of these chemicals can leach out of the wood or disperse through the air. Additionally, some tree branches – particularly those of fruit trees – may have been sprayed with pesticides. Do not use wood in reptile habitats if it has been contaminated by pesticides, herbicides or wood preservatives. I have a post on how to clean any wood you find in the wild that you want to use in a terrarium
- Chemically Treated Plastic; Plastic made with polyethylene are toxic to snakes. Most companies do allow their plastics to cure properly however, so they are mostly safe. You will know if it hasn’t been cured properly because the item will smell heavily of plastic… if it does, DO NOT USE IT, get a different product.
- Wood with Thorns; Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos ) and hawthorne (Crataegus sp.) trees are noted for their long, sharp thorns and should not be used in reptile caging. Additionally, it’s important to avoid using branches with sharp edges or holes that may trap your pet. Generally speaking, use common sense and inspect any branches used in a cage for potential dangers.
- Smoke and fumes; Smoke from any source is hazardous. Secondhand smoke from cigars and cigarettes can cause chronic eye, skin, and respiratory disease. Tobacco is also toxic, so remove any whole or smoked cigars or cigarettes before allowing your herp access to a room. Marijuana is also toxic. Gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid, and other petroleum products. Paint, wood stains and preservatives, mineral spirits, turpentine, paint remover, paint thinner, and other solvents. Cleaning supplies and disinfectants including bleach, phenols, ammonia, pine oil, spot remover, window cleaning solution, floor and furniture polish. Scented candles, potpourri, tea tree oils, essential oils, air fresheners. Perfumes, hairsprays, room deodorizers, deodorant, nail polish remover – anything with a propellant. Other items that can give off fumes such as glues, permanent markers, and mothballs.
- Zinc; is present in galvanized metal such as nails, staples, and solder. It may also be present in zinc oxide skin preparations, such as Desitin and sunblock containing zinc oxide; calamine lotion; suppositories; shampoos; zinc undecylenate (Desenex); and fertilizers. Be sure to wash your hands after using these items and before handling your herp.
- Lead; is present in lead-containing paint, linoleum, tile, batteries, plumbing materials, putty, lead foil, solder, and acid (soft) drinking water from lead pipes or improperly glazed ceramic water bowls.
- Arsenic; is a highly poisonous metal used in insecticides, pesticides, rodenticides, weed killers, wood preservatives, some insulation, and some alloys.Other poisons, such as herbicides (weed killers), snail and slug bait, insecticides (flea and tick control products), pesticides (ant poison), and rodenticides (rat poison). Be careful where you allow your snake to roam outdoors and keep them away from areas that have been (or may have been) sprayed with chemicals. Better safe than sorry!
AND PLEASE REMEMBER, IF YOU THINK YOUR ANIMAL MAY HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO ANY OF THESE CHEMICALS, OR IF IT SUDDENLY STARTS BEHAVING STRANGELY, A VET TRIP IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA. THERE IS NO STUPID REASON TO TAKE YOUR ANIMAL IN FOR A CHECKUP. IF YOU’RE WORRIED, ASK A PROFESSIONAL!
If anyone has any more for this list, please let me know!
Tagging because they were curious about toxic chemicals
Wood Turtle - Glyptemys insculpa, and I.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of this past herping season was the moment I got to meet this amazing species. I spent 3 years or so walking through shallow creeks, surveying the waters edge for the testudine they call the Wood Turtle. In early April, the 3 year search came to a wonderful conclusion, with two spotted within 5 feet from one another. This was one of the two found about a month after the first encounter. I still consider the Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) my favorite turtle (and favorite animal for that matter), but Glyptemys insculpta has captivated me for quite some time. It’s a species that may not be around in the coming centuries, as it faces an array of threats. Hopefully we put forth the effort to save this a mazing creature, before its too late.
Until next time,
There’s a world we can visit, if we go Outside
Put this together for someone last night. Using the hand tent method to pick up baby boas. It works especially well on nervous and defensive animals. All my babies are handled this way and are very easy to move whenever I need to move them.
Asked by Anonymous
IBD is a viral disease that mostly affects boids but there have been a very few cases of other types of snakes being affected. As far as we know it spread via infected fecal material which sounds like it would be easy to avoid but it spreads like wildfire. Entire collections of snakes can be infected and die within a matter of weeks.
Signs vary between individuals and pretty much any abnormality could be attributed to IBD. The most common signs are regurgitation, tremors, “star gazing”, inability for the snake to flip itself over if placed on its back, and sudden death.
The absolute best way to diagnose IBD is with a PCR test for arenavirus done on infected tissues. The best tissues to test are brain, kidney, small intestine, and thyroid although it could be found anywhere. As for right now, the only place offering this test is the University of Florida and samples can only be submitted by a veterinarian. The old way was looking for microscopic inclusion bodies in cells of infected tissue and this is still valid although other diseases can cause them as well. Simply doing a necropsy without histopathology and other testing will not rule out IBD. Blood tests are useless for IBD but would be great for checking out other diseases.
There is no treatment for IBD and the current recommendation is euthanasia and meticulous cleaning of the environment to prevent spread. This is one reason it is so important to quarantine all animals for several months before introducing them into main areas where disease can spread. There was a fairly prominent ball python breeder that I will not name, that brought in one sick snake and in 4 months he had lost 500 animals. He never recovered and ended up getting out of the business.
Asked by Anonymous
you mean. the cheek egg
this weird button is called the subtympanic shield ( sometimes the helmet scale) and is basically exactly what it looks like - just one large scale that sits over the cheek on each side of an iguanas head. its not found on other species of iguana, and as far as people know, there actually ISNT a defined purpose for it ! theories have been thrown around about how its supposed to break up the iguanas outline in the trees, or maybe act as an eyespot to startle things trying to eat em. maybe green iguanas just really like the moon
Scientists discover rare sea snakes, previously thought extinct, off Western Australia
via: ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies
Scientists have discovered two critically endangered species of sea snakes, previously thought to be extinct, off the coast of Western Australia. It’s the first time the snakes have been spotted alive and healthy since disappearing from their only known habitat on Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea more than fifteen years ago.
The discovery of the critically endangered short nose sea snake was confirmed after a Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Officer, Grant Griffin, sent a photo of a pair of snakes taken on Ningaloo Reef to Ms D'Anastasi for identification. The researchers also made another unexpected discovery, uncovering a significant population of the rare leaf scaled sea snake in the lush seagrass beds of Shark Bay…
(read more: Science Daily)
photo: Short-nosed Sea Snake by Grant Griffin, W.A. Dept. Parks and Wildlife
I had a tie for this. The runner up is the Surinam Toad, who I might write about someday, but the winner is the Caucasian rock lizard, Darevskia (or Lacerta, the nomenclature is confusing) rostombekovi.
Now these gals are parthenogenetic, which isn’t particularly weird for a herp. There’s several species that do this. Some, like whiptails in the genus Cnemidophorus, are neat in that they actually practice female-female courting behavior and require stimulation to reproduce. Another species, the mourning gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris), is fascinating because sometimes physical males do crop up that produce sperm… that’s completely useless. They can’t impregnate a female. But the Caucasian rock lizard is something else entirely.< figure data-orig-width="650" data-orig-height="353" class="tmblr-full">
Also called Rostombekov’s Lizard, this creature is unique because it’s monoclonal, meaning there’s only one genetic lineage. There never was a male. Literally every single member of this species is genetically identical to her sisters.
There are several parthenogenetic species in the genus Darevskia, but the rest of them have multiple lineages and so there’s some genetic diversity. That is absolutely not true of this particular lizard. How did this happen? What kind of speciation event led to a single clonal line for an entire species? We do know that the other Caucasian rock lizards that are strictly parthenogenetic have wider ranges than their bisexual ancestors, but this species is shamefully under-studied; we know very little about them, other than that they’re threatened by land development and they’re all genetically identical. That is unheard of in vertebrates.
So here’s to you, weird identical lizard ladies. Science can’t tell me what the hell happened to you, but you do you.
Literally. Because you&rsqu o;re all clones of each other.
Never underestimate man’s drive to make a buck.
Academic journals have begun withholding the geographical locations of newly discovered species after poachers used the information in peer-reviewed papers to collect previously unknown lizards, frogs and snakes from the wild, the Guardian has learned.
In an age of extinctions, scientists usually love to trumpet the discovery of new species, revealing biological and geographical data that sheds new light on the mysteries of evolution.
“Due to the popularity of this genus a s novelty pets, and recurring cases of scientific descriptions driving herpetofauna to near-extinction by commercial collectors, we do not disclose the collecting localities of these restricted-range species in this publication,” the paper said.
Goniurosaurus kwangsiensis, is a new species of gecko discovered in China. Photograph: Yang Jian-Huang and Bosco Chan Pui-lok/Kadoorie Conservation China
Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum)
Masticophis flagellum is a species of nonvenomous colubrid snake which is endemic to the United States and Mexico. Seven subspecies are recognized. Adult sizes of 127–183 cm are common. Coachwhips are commonly found in open areas with sandy soil, open pine forests, old fields, and prairies. They thrive in sandhill scrub and coastal dunes. Coachwhips are diurnal, and actively hunt and eat lizards, small birds, and rodents. They tend to be sensitive to potential threats, and often bolt at the first sign of one; they are extremely fast-moving snakes. They are curious snakes with good eyesight, and are sometimes seen raising their heads above the level of the grass or rocks to see what is around them.
Asked by Anonymous
oh sure i love talkin about tuatara, theyre so interesting ! first notable thing about them: this thing right here ??
not actually a lizard !
despite its appearance, the tuatara belongs to a distinct and Very Old order called rhynchocephalia, which used to be full of scaly things and now is down to the two remaining species of these guys. the resemblance to lizards is mostly superficial though, and theres a bunch of things about em thatre specific only to this reptile
so ! tuatara ! both species are only found in areas of new zealand, theyre Pretty Endangered, and the name comes from maori meaning “peaks on the back”. most of em look like jim henson puppets. despite having gone through quite a few changes when compared to their extinct ancestors, the tuatara is an immense source of fascination because of what it HAS retained : youve got a parietal eye, which is a primitive lightsensing organ that used to be found on most reptiles ( and a lot of other things ) before being phased out, although some reptiles and amphibians still have em, and in the tuatara it actually has traces of a lens and rods and cones, suggesting that at one point there used to be much more developed eye there
the spot is largely unnoticeable when theyre adults, but its definitely more distinctive in younger ones, OR SAY…. green iguanas
theyve also proved they can hear despite having no external ear holes, similar to sea turtles, and compared to every other reptile on earth theyve got INCREDIBLY slow metabolisms and lifestyles. they thrive in lower temperatures down to 41 F, and anything over 80 degrees or so will actually just. kill em. damn
it takes up to TWENTY YEARS…… for a tuatara to reach maturity. THEN after a lengthy courtship dance involving crests, it can take an impregnated female another four years to lay and then up to ANOTHER fifteen dang months to hatch, earning the tuatara the award for the longest period between offspring found in any reptile
the slow living has an upside though !! these reptiles have Ridiculously long lifespans, living on average around 60 years in the wild and Much Longer in captivity - in fact one breeding pair in 2009 recently saw the hatching of 11 eggs made by 111 year old henry and 80 year old mildred, which are their actual names
(here is prince harry holding Tuatara Henry, who was 100 at th e time and lookin great)
111 years !!! and some scientist theorize that with the right conditions, they could live up to around 200. not bad for a reptile who looks like they were run through a washing machine and got their skin all shrunk up
Well my silly hingie is digging a nest yet again. Has no one told this daft girl she is supposed to have retired?! No more babies, we’ve talked about this Phoebe! She is in her 50s and ready for a good rest. 9 babies is more than enough. I don’t want to disturb her as she has been quite ill lately and in no condition to really be laying at all. This is a video of her laying several years ago. You can hear her rolling the eggs into place in the nest if you listen carefully :)