REPTILE HUSBANDRY THE KEY TO KEEPING YOUR PET (REPTILE) HEALTY……
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WHAT IS REPTILE? Reptiles (Reptilia) are members of a group of air-breathing, ectothermic (cold-blooded) vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs (except for some vipers and constrictor snakes that give live birth), and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors. Modern reptiles inhabit every continent with the exception of Antarctica. Reptiles originated around 320-310 million years ago during the Carboniferous period, having evolved from advanced reptile-like amphibians that became increasingly adapted to life on dry land.
Right now, reptiles are becoming popular pets. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, pet ownership statistics show that reptile ownership has significantly increased in the past five years. In fact, in 2008, the British Herpetological Federation reported that UK reptile ownership (8 million) surpassed dog ownership (6.5 million) that year.
KINDS OF REPTILE HUSBANDRY Crocodilia(crocodiles, gavials, caimans, and alligators): 23 species Sphenodontia(tuataras from New Zealand): 2 species Squamata(lizards, snakes, and worm lizards): approximately 7,900 species Testudines(turtles, terrapins and tortoises): approximately 300 species
A crocodile is any species belonging to the family Crocodylidae (sometimes classified instead as the subfamily Crocodylinae). Member species of the family Crocodylidae are large aquatic reptiles that live throughout the tropics in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia. Crocodiles tend to congregate in freshwater habitats like rivers, lakes, wetlands and sometimes in brackish water. They feed mostly on vertebrates like fish, reptiles, and mammals, sometimes on invertebrates like molluscs and crustaceans, depending on species. They first appeared during the Eocene epoch, about 55 million years ago
The gharial(Gavialisgangeticus), also called Indian gavial or gavial, is the only surviving member of the once well-represented family Gavialidae, a long-established group of crocodilians with long, slender snouts. The gharial is listed as a critically endangered species by IUCN. The gharial is one of the three crocodilians found in India, apart from the Mugger crocodile and the Saltwater crocodile. It is one of the longest of all living crocodilians.
Caimans are alligatoridcrocodylians within the subfamily Caimaninae. The group is one of two subfamilies of the family Alligatoridae, the other being alligators. Caimans inhabit Central and South America. They are relatively small crocodilians, with most species reaching lengths of only a few meters, although one species, the Black caiman, can exceed 4 metres (13 ft) in length. Several extinct forms are known, including Purussaurus, a giant Miocene genus that grew to 12 metres (39 ft) and the equally large Mourasuchus, which had a wide duck-like snout.[1
An alligator is a crocodilian in the genus Alligator of the family Alligatoridae. There are two extant alligator species: the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and the Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis). • The name alligator is an anglicized form of el lagarto, the Spanish term for "lizard", which early Spanish explorers and settlers in Florida called the alligator.
The tuatara is a reptile endemic to New Zealand which, though it resembles most lizards, is actually part of a distinct lineage, order Sphenodontia.The two species of tuatara are the only surviving members of its order, which flourished around 200 million years ago. Their most recent common ancestor with any other extant group is with the squamates (lizards and snakes • Tuatara are greenish brown, and measure up to 80 cm (31 in) from head to tail-tip and weigh up to 1.3 kilograms (2.9 lb) with a spiny crest along the back, especially pronounced in males. Their dentition, in which two rows of teeth in the upper jaw overlap one row on the lower jaw, is unique among living species.
Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with nearly 3800 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica as well as most oceanic island chains. The group, traditionally recognized as the suborder Lacertilia, is defined as all extant members of the Lepidosauria (reptiles with overlapping scales), which are neither sphenodonts (i.e., tuatara) nor snakes – they form an evolutionary grade.\While the snakes are recognized as falling phylogenetically within the Toxicoferaclade from which they evolved, the Sphenodonts are the sister group to the Squamates, the larger monophyletic group, which includes both the lizards and the snakes. • Lizards typically have limbs and external ears, while snakes lack both of these characteristics. However, because they are defined negatively as excluding snakes, lizards have no unique distinguishing characteristic as a group. Lizards and snakes share a movable quadrate bone, distinguishing them from the sphenodonts, which have a more primitive and solid diapsid skull. Many lizards can detach their tails to escape from predators, an act called autotomy, but this ability is not shared by all lizards. Vision, including color vision, is particularly well developed in most lizards, and most communicate with body language or bright colors on their bodies as well as with pheromones. • The adult length of species within the suborder ranges from a few cm for some chameleons and geckos to nearly 3 m (9.8 ft) in the case of the largest living varanid lizard, the Komodo Dragon. Some extinct varanids reached great size. The extinct aquatic mosasaurs reached 17 m (56 ft), and the giant monitor Megalaniaprisca is estimated to have reached perhaps 7 m (23 ft).
Snakes are elongate, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. Like all squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales. Many species of snakes have skulls with many more joints than their lizard ancestors, enabling them to swallow prey much larger than their heads with their highly mobile jaws. To accommodate their narrow bodies, snakes' paired organs (such as kidneys) appear one in front of the other instead of side by side, and most have only one functional lung. Some species retain a pelvic girdle with a pair of vestigial claws on either side of the cloaca. • Living snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica and on most islands. Fifteen families are currently recognized, comprising 456 genera and over 2,900 species.They range in size from the tiny, 10 cm-long thread snake to pythons and anacondas of up to 7.6 meters (25 ft) in length. • Most species are nonvenomous and those that have venom use it primarily to kill and subdue prey rather than for self-defense. Some possess venom potent enough to cause painful injury or death to humans. Nonvenomous snakes either swallow prey alive or kill by constriction.
The Amphisbaenia(or worm lizards) are a usually legless suborder of squamates closely related to lizards and snakes. As many species possess a pink body coloration and scales arranged in rings, they have a superficial resemblance to earthworms. They are very poorly understood, due to their burrowing lifestyle and general rarity. Most species are found in Africa and South America, with a few in other parts of the world. Little is known of them outside of their anatomy, and even that is difficult to study due to the mechanics of dissecting something so small. Most species are less than 6 inches (150 mm) long.
Turtles are reptiles of the order Testudines (the crown group of the superorderChelonia), characterised by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs that acts as a shield. "Turtle" may either refer to the Testudines as a whole, or to particular Testudines which make up a form taxon that is not monophyletic. • The order Testudines includes both extant (living) and extinct species. The earliest known turtles date from 215 million years ago,making turtles one of the oldest reptile groups and a more ancient group than lizards, snakes and crocodiles. Of the many species alive today, some are highly endangered. • Like other reptiles, turtles are ectotherms—their internal temperature varies according to the ambient environment, commonly called cold-blooded. However, leatherback sea turtles have noticeably higher body temperature than surrounding water because of their high metabolic rate. • Like other amniotes (reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, and mammals), they breathe air and do not lay eggs underwater, although many species live in or around water. The largest turtles are aquatic.
A terrapin is a turtle living in fresh or brackish water. The term originally referred to the diamondback terrapin Malaclemys terrapin, but in British English the name is widely applied to other freshwater turtles such as red-eared sliders, known in the UK as "red-eared terrapin".
Tortoises (Testudinidae) are a family of land-dwelling reptiles of the order of turtles (Testudines). Like their marine cousins, the sea turtles, tortoises are shielded from predators by a shell. The top part of the shell is the carapace, the underside is the plastron, and the two are connected by the bridge. The tortoise has both an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton. Tortoises can vary in size from a few centimeters to two meters. Tortoises are usually diurnal animals with tendencies to be crepuscular depending on the ambient temperatures. They are generally reclusive animals.
THE Characteristic of Reptile • As the reptiles are heterothermal they depend on the environment to remain warm. No wonder they are found basking in the sunlight, lying around lazily on rocks on a sunny afternoon, to give their body that much needed warmth, as the scales on their body, absorb the suns heat. Some reptiles like the Blandingii turtles prefer to live in colder areas like the ice lakes, while some can survive in temperatures as high as 104 degree Fahrenheit. If they do not find the temperatures conducive, they prefer to hibernate. Usually the period ranging from September to April is the time to hibernate. After that follows the period of mating, wherein, they dig holes or construct underground tunnels to lay their eggs. Some reptiles like the snakes shed the outer layer of their skin at regular intervals. Thus we can broadly classify the characteristics of reptiles as follows: • Blood circulation in reptiles: Except for crocodiles, which have four chambers in their heart, the rest have three chambers. • Respiratory system of reptiles: Reptiles has lungs through which they breathe, unlike some Amphibians who have gills. • Skeletal system of reptiles: A backbone is there in every reptile to protect their spinal column. All reptiles are tetrapods i.e. they have four legs, except for the snakes. • Reproductive system of reptiles: Reptiles usually mate after finishing their period of hibernation. Their membranes and shells are made of substances through which oxygen and other gases can permeate. Although snakes only lay eggs, yet the Boa constrictors and rattle snakes bear young ones. • Body temperature control: Temperature of the body is regulated by the surroundings. Thus they need the heat of the sun to keep them warm. • Skin texture of reptiles: Their skin scaly and tough. This prevents loss of moisture and preserves the heat of the body. • Sense organs of reptiles:Some snakes are blind. They follow the scent of their prey by flicking their tongue in the air. While some reptiles have ear drums, just close to their eyes, through which they can sense their prey. • Physical development of reptiles: Unlike amphibians, reptiles possesses all the adult characteristics at the time of birth. They do not cross various stages of metamorphism.
Way to keep your reptile healty Here are some helpful hints we recommend to help keep your pet disease-free: • Take your pet to a reptile veterinarian for a physical exam and fecal exam. • Make sure you get a properly sized enclosure, the proper substrate, lighting, heating, water source and instruments to measure temperature and humidity. Cage furniture, hide boxes, shed boxes and branches will vary in necessity depending on the specific reptile species you choose. • Keep the enclosure clean and teach kids how to safely handle their pets. Reptiles can carry Salmonella on their skin, so hygiene is important. • Learn about the natural diet of your pet. Avoid insects high in fat, fruits and learn how to shop for healthy reptile salads for our leaf-eaters. • Have at least two to three thermometers in your animal’s cage to measure trends in temperature zones in your tank. • Learn your reptile lights and heating options. UVB lights are very important for calcium absorption and necessary for healthy bone and kidney health. • If you note poor appetites, weakness, fractures, diarrhea, broken limbs, abdominal swelling, pain and/or open-mouth breathing, we strongly recommend you should seek veterinary care for your pet.
Conslusion • Remember, several species of reptiles are pets for life! There are snakes that can live up to 40 years and some turtles can live from 50 to 80 years. Investing in the proper husbandry helps to keep them disease-free and increases the time you can have with your pet.