reptiles

Slow Mover

Slow Mover

We headed to the heart of the Mojave Desert in search of one of two species of tortoises! These desert tortoises call this their home and we were thrilled to learn more about them!

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Desert Tortoise Fun Facts:

  • These tortoises spend most of their time in burrows and shelters. They are inactive most of the year. They stay in cool areas to avoid losing water during the heat and they hibernate during the winter.
  • You’ll find them mostly after a rain.
  • They can live up to 80 years.
  • Desert tortoises have sharp claws that help them dig burrows. They can spend 95% of their lives in burrows.
  • Desert tortoises are slow growing. They still are only around 8 inches at 16 years old. They can reach up to 30 inches total.
  • These herbivores are listed as threatened and vulnerable- depending on the population.
  • Their biggest threat is habitat loss.

Desert Tortoise

These amazing creatures are made for the desert. They can survive a year without direct access to water! WOW!!

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Blue Spines

Blue Spines

After encountering a prairie dog town yesterday, we met a little reptile who calls these parts home! It’s always good to see so many species and this unusual looking lizard definitely caught our eye.

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Blue Spiny Lizard Fun Facts: 

  • These lizards can grow up to 14 inches long.
  • They have spiny scales,
  • Males are more blue-green in color. Both males and females have a black ring around on their neck.
  • These relatives of the iguana spend much of their day under rocks and crevices to avoid the hottest part of the day.
  • Blue spiny lizards are carnivores. They eat insects.
  • They are listsed as Least Concern by the IUCN.

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These interesting lizards are so neat looking with bumpy scales. We think they are quiet handsome.

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Back to Basics- Reptiles & Amphibians

Back to Basics- Reptiles & Amphibians

We are on our last day of learning the basics on the groups! We have much more to learn! Today Professor Carl the Chameleon is catching everyone up on reptiles and amphibians.

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Let’s learn some reptile basics first and then more about our amphibian friends.

There are around 7,984 reptile species on earth. Reptiles first appeared on earth around 340 million years ago. The largest group of reptiles is lizards. You can find us on most continents except Antarctica. You can even find some of us in the worlds’ oceans.

What makes a reptile a reptile?

  • We are covered in scales.
  • We lay eggs.
  • We are ectothermic.
  • We have lungs for breathing.
  • We are vertebrates.

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Our scales cover our epidermis and they are made of keratin. When we grow we shed our scales. Some of us do this in pieces and some of us, like snakes- shed their whole layer at once.

Turtles, tortoises, crocodiles and most lizards have movable eyelids. Snakes have a fixed clear eye covering that they shed when they grow too.

Most reptiles have poor hearing and none of us can taste.

Snakes and some lizards have a forked tongue that they “smell” with. They pick up scent molecules with their tongue and use an organ in their brain called the Jacobson’s organ to analyze those molecules.

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Most reptiles lay their eggs and leave them. They provide no parental care for their young.  There are some reptiles that incubate their eggs inside their body and give birth to live young.  The crocodilian family and a few lizards to protect their eggs and young.

 

Amphibians

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Now let’s talk some about our amphibian friends.

There are around 5,000 species of amphibians. They have been around for 370 million years.  There are three groups of amphibians; newts/salamander, frogs/toads and caecilians.

The word amphibian means dual life. They live a life in the water (usually as young) and then on land (usually as adults).

What makes an amphibian an amphibian?

  • We are ectothermic.
  • We are vertebrates.
  • We breathe through our skin.
  • We go through metamorphosis. We do not look the same as young as we do as adults.

Amphibian young use gills to breathe. Young frogs and toads are called tadpoles and they have tails and no legs.

We have no scales and no hair. Our skin can absorb water and we need water to keep it moist, this helps us breathe. We all have poison glands in our skin!

Adult amphibians have lungs, but we do not have rib cages. We can also absorb oxygen through our skin and through the lining of our mouth.

Most amphibians deposit eggs in water. We can lay anywhere from 2 to 50,000 eggs.

 

 

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Monitoring a Monitor!

Monitoring a Monitor!

We went looking for a medium sized reptile today! We found this gorgeous animal and it was so fun to watch!

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Date: 4/19

Location: Great Victorian Desert

Sand Goanna Fun Facts:

  • Sand goannas are members of the monitor family.

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  • Sand goannas are burrows. They dig burrows for shelter.
  • They are diurnal (active during the day).
  • They have forked tongues to help them “smell” the air.
  • Sand goannas sense of smell is so good they can find buried prey.
  • Sand goannas lay their eggs in a termite mound. The termites keep the eggs warm.

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These monitors are so cool to watch! Other members of the monitor family include the famous Komodo dragon!

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A Skink not a Skunk!

A Skink not a Skunk!

After we settled in at camp we decided where we should go on our first adventure! We wanted to meet a neat little lizard we knew lived in this habitat! We headed off for the day with our day packs full of snacks and MUD SPF 30 sunscreen!

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Date: 4/3

Location: Great Victorian Desert

Great Desert Skink Fun Facts:

  • Great desert skinks vary in color from tan to grey or dark brown.
  • They store fat in their tales during the winter.
  • Males are slightly larger than females.
  • Great desert skinks live in complex burrows with several entrances and areas.

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  • A family group occupies the burrow. Babies stay with their family for up to three years.
  • They generally hunt at night in the hotter months.

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We had such fun going to look for these little short legged lizards! They remind us of another Australian skink- the blue tongued skink! They are both so cool! And they aren’t slimy at all- very smooth!

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Howdy Gecko!

Howdy Gecko!

What’s more fun than meeting a new friend right in your camp? When you’re out exploring, some of the coolest animals can be found wandering around your home base! In this case, we found the Madagascar Day Gecko on the porch!

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Date: 3/27

Location: Madagascar- Base Camp

Madagascar Day Gecko:

  • Madagascar day geckos do not have eyelids.
  • They have flat toe pads to help them grip when climbing.
  • Madagascar day geckos are one of the largest day gecko species.

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  • They can range from green to bluish-green in color.
  • Madagascar day geckos prefer a humid habitat.

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We had the best time watching these little reptiles at camp. They are so cute and funny!

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One Tiny Lizard!

One Tiny Lizard!

We headed into the forest to look for one of smallest lizards in the world! Madagascar is home to many species of chameleons. We wanted to find some of the smaller ones- the brown leaf chameleon. It takes a good eye, some nice binoculars and a great guide to find these cute reptiles!

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Date: 3/20

Location: Madagascar

Brown Leaf Chameleon Fun Facts:

  • Brown leaf chameleons resemble dried up leaves on the forest floor.

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  • When threatened, they curl up their legs and tail and roll over on their side and stay perfectly still.
  • Like other chameleons their eyes move independently of each other.
  • Male brown leaf chameleons attract a female by rocking their body and nodding their head.
  • Professor Carl is showing us how long the brown leaf chameleon is!

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  • Brown leaf chameleons are not always brown! They can be olive, green, beige or red!
  • They have a stiff ridge running down their spine.
  • Brown leaf chameleons are diurnal.

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We had a lovely day exploring the forest. We had to walk carefully to watch for these small reptile predators. We love chameleons and their crazy eyeballs and funny feet!

 

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We’re Monitoring a Monitor

We’re Monitoring a Monitor

We’re spent our day looking for a large lizard that calls the Serengeti home. The monitor family includes the famous Komodo dragon! The lizard we were searching for does not get to be as big as a komodo, but they are just as cool!

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Date: 2/6

Location: Serengeti

Nile Monitor Fun Facts:

  • Nile monitor lizards are known by many names including the African small grain lizard.
  • Nile monitor lizards have long sharp claws for climbing, digging and ripping apart prey.
  • They have a range of colors from olive to to brown.
  • Nile monitors are the largest lizard in Africa.
  • They have a stout strong tail to help ward off predators.

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  • Those forked tongues give the Nile monitor a keen sense of smell.
  • They are known to hunt cooperatively. One monitor will lead a crocodile away from the  nest, while another eats the eggs.
  • Nile monitors are excellent swimmers and will take to water to escape a predator.

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We watched a monitor for quiet a while. These amazing lizards are intimidating to see in the wild. They are often kept as pets. As with all exotic pets, it is important to do your homework before getting a pet that will grow large and possibly unruly. There are now populations of Nile monitors in California and Florida. These lizards can be harmful to the local wildlife.

Categories: adventure, africa, Animals, Children, conservation, education, Environment, nature, reptiles, science, Today's Post, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is That an Iguana in the Ocean?

Is That an Iguana in the Ocean?

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Date: 10/11

Location: Galapagos Islands

  • Marine Iguanas colors vary by the island they live on.
  • The iguanas on Espanola are nicknamed “Christmas Iguanas” because of their red coloration.
  • They have large flat tails to help them swim along the rocky coasts.
  • Only the largest iguanas swim often. They do not lose body heat as much.
  • Marine Iguanas have razor sharp teeth that they use to scrape off algae and eat seaweed.

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  • They sun themselves on lava rocks after being the cold ocean waters.
  • During years when food is in shortage, marine iguanas actually get smaller. They are the only known vertebrate to be able to shrink.
  • Marine iguanas can live up to 60 years.

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We woke up a little late after our evening excursion looking for the rice rats. Once we were up, we headed back on the island to meet it’s little dinosaur looking iguanas! Marine iguanas may not be the cutest, but they are spectacular! We love their knobby heads and spiky spines. Watching them sneeze, is so funny too!

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That is One Big Tortoise

That is One Big Tortoise

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Date: 10/3

Location:  Galapagos Islands

  • Galapagos tortoises are the largest tortoise species on earth.

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  • These large reptiles can spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping.
  • They can also go up to a year without food or water, due to slow metabolisms.
  • The Galapagos Islands were actually  named after these gentle giants. Galapago is Spanish for tortoise!
  • There are 11 subspecies of Galapagos tortoise. They can be found on the different islands.
  • Galapagos finches are known to “clean” the tortoises by eating parasites off their skin. This mutual symbiotic relationship benefits the birds and the tortoise.

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We found a guide to help us through our tour of these special islands. Most of the Galapagos are now protected and people and horse & elephant adventurers can not just go exploring around on their own. These magnificent animals, were once hunted to near extinction with only 3,000 of them left. Conservationists have worked with captive breeding programs to bring those numbers up to around 19,000. Thank goodness we have such great people to protect these old reptiles!

We can not wait to go on to our next island to see an insect! We’ll need to get Edmond some sea sickness medicine first!

Categories: adventure, Animals, Children, conservation, education, endangered species, Environment, nature, reptiles, science, Today's Post, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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