The Basking Spot: Thermometers and Thermostats – November 2012

The Reptile Times

The Basking Spot

By Jennifer Greene

Thermometers and Thermostats

One of the very first things we learn about reptiles and amphibians is that they are “cold blooded”, or ectothermic, and as such are deeply dependent on their environment for their temperature needs.  In captivity, we, the keepers are responsible for providing them with suitable caging that allows our pets to seek out the conditions they need.  While reptiles do need to maintain a body temperature within a specific range, they do best when offered a range of temperatures to select from and utilize to maintain their own preferred body temperature.  This means controlling the amount of heat added to the cage, as well as accurately measuring temperatures within the cage.

You can measure the temperatures in the cage using a thermometer, which comes in a variety of options. Stick-on thermometers are the most inexpensive, and are ideal for getting a general idea of the temperatures within the cage.  Stick on thermometers most accurately tell you the temperature of the surface they are stuck to, so keep in mind when using them that air temperatures can be much cooler or much warmer than what the stick on thermometer reads.  However, they can be useful when placed on the glass directly touching a heat pad (allows you to check that it is working properly), or just to see at a glance that the cage is an acceptable temperature.

stick on thermometer

The next step up that is commonly used is a dial thermometer, or analog thermometer.  Because these are attached to one section of the cage and usually immovable, they are most useful for determining ambient air temperatures rather than specifics about areas within the cage.  When it comes to monitoring ambient temps, analog thermometers are my preferred type, as you can see the ambient air temp at a glance.

Analog thermometer

For more precise temperature readings, a digital thermometer with a probe is ideal.  To leave in the cages at all times and see temperatures at a glance, digital thermometers are the best you can use.  There are several brands, with some having memory that enables you to see the highest temperatures recorded as well as the lowest.  These thermometers with memory are extremely useful for monitoring temperatures when you’re not around, as well as testing new cages you are setting up to ensure they are reaching the desired temperatures.  Using these thermometers is delightfully easy – simply place the probe in the location that you’d like to know the temperature of (so inside the warm side hide, on top of a basking spot, or along the cool side) and check the screen!

digital thermometer

When it comes to measuring surface temperatures instantly and easily, the use of a temp gun is ideal.  Many advanced keepers prefer to use a temp gun to measure their temperatures, as the instantaneous readout of the temperature of the surface in question is extremely useful and efficient when it comes to maintaining larger collections.  Temp guns only measure the surface temperature, however, and ideally should be used with a thermometer that will measure the air temperature as well.  Temp guns are quite accurate, though, and as I said, when it comes to maintaining larger collections they are indispensable.

temp gun

A fantastic tool for any herper is the thermostat.  Thermostats work by maintaining your heating element for you, turning your heat sources off and on as needed to maintain a specific temperature that you determine. Rheostats are similar, and work much like a dimmer.  When using a rheostat, you simply dial down the level on the light bulb or heat pad plugged into it until it reaches the level you desire.  The downside to a rheostat as compared to a thermostat is that it does not maintain a specific temperature – you have just dialed down the intensity of the heat.  If temperatures in your home drop or spike significantly, then the rheostat will not compensate for that.


Thermostats work in two ways – proportional or analog.  A proportional thermostat, such as those manufactured by Helix, increases or decreases the amount of heat being put out by the devices plugged in to it.  This gradual increase and decrease is much gentler and less abrupt on the animal, as well as extends the life of the bulb.  An analog thermostat will turn your heating elements off and on to maintain the temperature you set – once the temperature goes above the temperature you’ve set, it will turn the heat off, and once it drops below the set temperature, it will turn the heat on.  Which you use is entirely up to you.

The combination of an effective thermometer to check temperatures throughout the cage, as well as a thermostat on your heat bulb or heat pads, will help ensure that your cage is maintained at the correct temperatures.

Husbandry of Montane Species of Chameleons – November 2012

The Reptile Times

Montane Chameleons

By Jennifer Greene

Within the last few decades, significant advances in the captive husbandry of chameleons has made it possible for a handful of species to be kept with moderate to significant success, with breeding taking place regularly for the most popular species.  Veiled Chameleons and Panther Chameleons are two of the most popular species, being the most commonly kept and bred of the numerous chameleon species out there.  As two of the larger species available, and the hardiest, their popularity is well deserved as excellent beginner species of chameleons.  However, for the keeper looking for a more unusual jewel to add to their collection, there are a few species of montane chameleons that are not too much more difficult to keep.  My focus in this article is the easier to keep montane species hailing from East Africa, namely those around Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda, as these species are often seasonally available in the reptile hobby.

My personal favorites are the Rudis Chameleons, which are small little jewels from the mountains around western Tanzania, southern Uganda, and the eastern edge of the Deomcratic Republic of the Congo.  The chameleon usually available under the common name “Rudis Chameleon” is in most cases actually Trioceros sternfeldi, rather than Trioceros rudis, but fortunately care is essentially identical for both species.  There is some variation among populations resulting in differences in appearance of both species, with some T. sternfeldi having brilliant and exotic blue and yellow coloration while others are a more emerald green depending on which locale they are from.  T. rudis range in color from a yellowish green to pea green to a brilliant grass green, with most having a yellowish stripe down their sides.  They mature at 3” to 4” snout-to-vent length, making them small but not so tiny they are exceptionally delicate, like the pygmy leaf chameleons of Madagascar.

adult female rudis chameleon

Another montane species worth considering is the Jackson’s Chameleon, of which there are 3 subspecies.  The most readily available is Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus, which will be the subspecies referred to within this article (being the hardiest in my experience, and the most suited for the beginning to intermediate chameleon keeper).   Naturally occurring in Tanzania and Kenya, there are also populations in Hawaii as well as Florida, and rumors of a small population located in a coastal region of San Diego County.  Males have 3 horns, one on their orbital (eye) crests, as well as a rostral (nose) horn.  Females are typically lacking the distinctly large horns of the males, but some may have poorly developed rostral horns.  Coloration of males is usually a light green, with some having yellowish tinted heads and backs and bluish flanks.  Females are typically a jewel green, with some individuals having a reddish pattern while at rest.  Adults range in size from 5” to 7” snout-to-vent length, with females often being slightly smaller than males.

Two other species can be kept using the methods I will be describing, and they are the Kenyan High Casqued Chameleon, or Trioceros hoehnelii, and the Werner’s Three Horned Chameleon, or Trioceros werneri.  Both of these species are similar in size to the Rudis, but they do look distinctly different.  T. hoehnelii can be exceptionally brightly colored, with lime green highlights, teals, and silvery blue colors throughout their body for males, with females being a more subdued silvery grey or rusty brown.  Werner’s look like smaller, stouter Jackson’s, with the brilliant green coloration of the Rudis, with some individuals having reddish or teal tones to them.

Helmeted Chameleon


For all species, while smaller individuals (4” or smaller SVL) can be housed in cages as small as 16” x 16” x 30”, I highly recommend at least a cage that is 18” x 18” x 36”, if not one of the largest cages commonly available at 24” x 24” x 48”.  While they can be housed in a smaller cage, this limits the range of temperatures you can offer them, as well as limits their available space.  I have had success with all of the species I described above being housed in the largest size of screen cage, as well as in the larger sizes of ExoTerra glass terrariums.  For neonate to mid-sized juvenile chameleons up to 4” SVL, a terrarium that is36” wide by 24” tall and 18” deep is suitable, but for adult chameleons I highly recommend the largest size, which is 36” x 18” x 36”.  For the montane species, glass terrariums (not glass cages, but front-opening terrariums) can work exceptionally well, as they can be kept at a more consistent level of humidity than fully screen cages.  The larger glass cages also allow for space for the chameleons to move around the cage, which they will do throughout the day, especially when provided with an appropriate temperature gradient.

Baby Rudis Chameleon

Babies can be housed in smaller cages than adults, but as they grow make sure to offer them more space!

Temperatures for these chameleons can be much cooler in range than for the more common panther and veiled chameleons.  The cooler ends of the cage should drop down to the mid to low 70’s, while the warmest areas within the cage can range upwards to 85, with the extreme high being 90.  In smaller cages, the high temperature should not rise above 85, but in larger cages a slightly higher high temperature is acceptable.  As all of these chameleons are from the mountain areas, they do not require exceptionally warm basking areas, but they can benefit from the option to seek it out if they are in a large enough cage.  Jackson’s Chameleons in particular can tolerate warmer temperatures, as evidenced from their thriving populations in Florida and Hawaii, both of which are much warmer areas than their natural habitat, but captive chameleons should always have a significantly cooler area of the cage to retreat to.  Night timetemperatures can and should drop down to the mid to low 70s, with drops down the 60s being perfectly acceptable as long as during the day a basking area is offered.

Jacksons Male Beautiful

When provided with suitable basking temperatures, your chameleons will color up and look their best like this Jackson’s!

Achieving these temperatures can be accomplished two ways.  Not only do chameleons require warmth to bask under, but they require UVB as well.  UVB is the wavelength of light required for your chameleon to properly metabolize vitamin D3, which is essential for absorbing calcium.  Captive chameleons need artificial sources of all three to thrive properly, and the first part of caring for your chameleon is providing them with suitable lighting.  A specialized reptile fluorescent tube is the most common method of offering your chameleon UVB, with different brands offering varying intensities of UVB.  A 5.0 fluorescent tube should be ideal for most applications with montane chameleons, and the tube itself should be long enough to stretch across the entire top of the cage.  Since relatively cool basking temperatures are all that is needed, a 50 watt basking bulb should be sufficient for providing a small, warm basking area without overly heating the rest of the cage.  Daylight style reptile bulbs can be used as well, but a slightly higher wattage may be needed for larger cages.

Baby Jacksons Chameleon

If you have the larger cages as I recommended earlier, and your home remains fairly cool (between 72 and 75 degrees), it is also possible to consider using a mercury vapor bulb.  These bulbs are quite warm, and provide significantly higher amounts of UVB, but in a larger cage offering your chameleons the options to escape the heat, they are worth considering.  If the basking areas below the light are too warm, the bulb may be lifted up and off the top of the cage several inches to ensure that the basking areas are not too hot.  It is vitally important to check that at least the bottom half of the cage returns to temperatures below 80 degrees when using a mercury vapor bulb, and if you cannot keep the cage cool then switch to a fluorescent light and traditional, lower wattage basking light.

In combination with the UVB light, it is essential to provide your chameleons with supplementation to meet their dietary needs for calcium and vitamin D3.  Chameleons housed outdoors do not need D3 added to their diet, as the intensity of UVB from natural sunlight enables them to metabolize D3 on their own – however, this is only valid if your chameleon is outdoors for more than 8 hours a day several days a week.  If your chameleon is indoors primarily, at least some vitamin D3 should be incorporated into their diet.  Due to their smaller size, these chameleons do not necessarily require supplementation with every meal.  For adults, a light coating of a balanced reptile calcium and multivitamin can be dusted on to their feeder insects every second or third feeding.  Neonates to juveniles, due to their extremely small size, typically only need a light coating of vitamins on their insects once every 7 to 10 days.  Rearing of neonate chameleons of the species discussed here (Hoehneli, Jackson’s, Rudis, and Werner’s) can be exceptionally difficult, and is typically best left to the more advanced keeper – if you have recently purchased a juvenile of these species, talk to the breeder regarding their current routine for the babies.

Baby Rudis Chameleon 2

When you see how tiny these little guys are, it is not hard to see how easy it could be to over-do their supplementation!

Now that you have the essentials, the fun part of acquiring a new chameleon is often the décor.  Manzanita branches work well, especially when combined with live plants such as ficus trees.  These smaller species of chameleons will be able to utilize the finer, thinner branches of the ficus trees, and within the trees themselves the humidity will be somewhat higher than just out in the sides of the cages.  Foliage is vital to the health and happiness of your chameleons, providing them with perches as well as visual barriers.  Having plentiful amounts of foliage in the cage ensures that your chameleon feels safe and secure, which in turn keeps their stress levels low.   Incorporating live plants into your cage is highly recommended, as live plants are not only aesthetically pleasing but they increase humidity for your chameleons.  I highly recommend the use ofmagnetic ledges and planters to add perches and levels to your cage, which your chameleons will use to bask and hunt from.  Using magnets to attach them means that they are fantastically flexible décor items, allowing you to adjust basking perches and locations as needed.  Get creative!

When it comes to feeding, don’t be afraid to seek out and offer as wide a variety of prey items as possible.  Keep in mind that in the wild, these chameleons would be eating at least several dozen different types of insects, if not more, and by comparison their diet in captivity seems paltry. Appropriate sized roaches of different species are often readily accepted, with Dubia roaches being a popular staple due to their rapid growth rate and ease of breeding.  In addition, offering appropriate sized cricketsmealworms,superworms, and waxworms is highly encouraged.  Most chameleons will also cheerfully consume hornworms and silkworms, which are soft bodied and easy for them to digest.  While you do not need to offer every single prey item at each feeding, try to make an effort to cycle through several different types throughout the month.

In conclusion, keeping a montane species of chameleon is not significantly more difficult, but they do have special considerations regarding temperatures.  Once set up and established, they can be rewarding little jewels within your home, without the need for excessively large cages or intense heat.  If you are looking for a new chameleon to add to your collection, and desire something a little off the beaten path, definitely check out the chameleons mentioned within this article!


The Reptile Times

Reviewed by Jonathan Rheins
There is no shortage of excellent general husbandry books available to the modern herepeteculturist.  These run the gamut from basic care for beginning hobbyists to extensive, professional texts written for the advanced keeper.  Many of these titles are but a few years old, yet have already secured their spot as “classic” references and some are in very high demand.  It is rare, however, for a field guide to gain as much attention or popular demand as Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of the San Diego Region has since its initial publication in 2006.
Written by San Diego native Jeffrey M. Lemm, this guide will provide the reader with a great opportunity to discover the herpetological diversity of San Diego County and the surrounding areas.  While most likely to appeal to field herpers and reptile keepers, this book will be of interest to nearly anyone who spends timeoutdoors and has an interest in the region’s native herpetofauna.

For those living in Southern California, this book is a must have.  And for those who do not, this book still gets the highest recommendation from myself and the entire LLLReptile staff.  Many of the species covered in this guide have naturally occurring ranges that extend far beyond just San Diego, making this reference a valuable tool for those living in and/or herping in adjacent states.

Now, on to the specifics of the book!  Each species account includes both common and Latin names, a detailed physical description, full color photo, and a thorough review of the species natural history.  Additionally, taxonomic notes are offered as well, and here the reader will find information regarding relevant subspecies, their taxonomical status, and history.  The majority of entries are accompanied by range maps showing both historical and current habitation.

Jeff Lemm is a noted conservation ecologist, with an emphasis in herpetolgy. His passion for helping to preserve our delicate flora and fauna shines through in this text.  Conservation status of each species is included in the individual species accounts, as well as a special chapter on conservation and issues surrounding reptiles and amphibians specifically.  Additionally, there is a very interesting chapter on amphibian chytridiomycosis, a fungus that has become one of the leading causes of amphibian population decline worldwide over the past decade.
Also included are chapters covering the geography, geologic history, and major habitats of the San Diego region.  A special chapter on snake envenomation by Dr. Sean Bush is included as well, along with an easy to use and very concise identification key to the herps of San Diego written by noted herpetologist Jay Savage.
The bulk of the book is devoted to the species accounts, which are broken up into orders (Caudata, Sauria, etc.) and each section is further designated by a color coded upper corner of each respective page.  This makes finding specific entries very easy when in a hurry.  The remainder of the book includes a thorough glossary, species checklist, index, and a detailed references section.
Overall, this is a great book and an excellent field guide.  The author clearly went above and beyond in his research and preparation of this work.  As an avid herper himself, Jeff Lemm  located and photographed every species noted in the text.  His level of interest and dedication is clearly represented in the final product.
Whether you spend your weekends cruising the desert for snakes, or studying herpetology from the comfort of your home, this book will provide you with more than enough information to find, identify, and truly appreciate the incredible herps that call Southern California their home!

Paperback, 326 pages.  Perfect bound with glossy, full color cover and photographs throughout.  In stock and available for purchase at, or in any of our retail stores!

Dangerous Discussions: Part Two – November 2012

The Reptile Times

By Kevin Scott

In Part I of Dangerous Discussions I gave an overview of the definitions of and differences between poisons, toxins and venom. In Part II, I will go into greater detail in describing what toxins and venoms are and where they occur in nature. Of course, it would be impossible to talk about more than a handful of occurrences, so I decided to choose those that I find most interesting.


Toxins are organic molecules that are produced via biological pathways and are often used as defense mechanisms by animals. As mentioned in Part I, amphibians secrete substances that are toxic to bacteria and fungi, as the external part of their immune system. Some amphibians also secrete substances that are toxic to predators in order to prevent becoming prey. Tomato frogs and toads, for example, secrete thick milky substances that serve as irritants to potential predators. Arrow Frogs, as discussed in Part I, also secrete toxic compounds, these often being far more toxic than any produced by other amphibians.

The most potent of these toxins are steroid alkaloids, but nearly all of them are neurotoxic. Batrachotoxin is the most toxic of these, but other common compounds include epibatidine, histrionicotoxin and pumiliotoxin. If you are familiar with the arrow frogs, you can see the names of a few species in the names of these molecules. Batrachotoxin targets sodium ion channels, while epibatidine and histrionicotoxin target nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, and pumiliotoxin targets calcium ion channels.

Some, but not all, of these substances are actually produced by the frogs themselves. Many of the more toxic compounds, however, are actually produced downstream in the food chain. Pyrrolidines like epibatadine, and piperidines that are present in species found in the genera Oophaga and Ranitomeya, and Ameerega, Dendrobates and Ranitomeya (Lötters et al 2007), respectively, come from the ants that they eat.

Being that invertebrates and plants are the sources of these toxins, it is not surprising that it is not only the arrow frogs that possess them. Mantellas, the Arrow Frog’s Malagasy counterpart in terms of parallel evolution, also possess some of these toxins. One advantage of the fact that these frogs get this defense from their food items is that they are not nearly as toxic in captivity as they are in the wild.

Another frog that we commonly see in captivity, the Fire Walking Frog (Phrynomantis bifasciatus), also has toxins that can be used as a defense toward predators. This toxin’s identity is not known, but wild caught specimens can cause a burning sensation on the skin of a human, and it is strong enough to cause cardiovascular arrest in other frogs.

fire walking frog

The fire walking frog secretes a substance that can cause intense burning sensations in humans, and death in other amphibians.


There are many animals that produce venoms, including spiders, scorpions, marine invertebrates, fish, snakes, lizards and even mammals. Of these, a good handful can be found in the reptile industry.

Venoms are made up of mixtures of low-molecular-weight proteins, mucus, salts and organic compounds that include oligopeptides, nucleotides and amino acids (Colis 1990). This mixture can serve a variety of functions that include defense, prey submission and pre-digestion. Some of the types of venom are as they follow: neurotoxins cause neuromuscular paralysis that can result in immobilization and death; presynaptic neurotoxins block the release of the physiological transmitter acetylcholine, destroying the nerve terminal, and postsynaptic neurotoxins competitively inhibit binding of acetylcholine, preventing the transmission of nerve impulses across the synaptic gap; haemotoxins destroy red blood cells, and extreme cases can lead to renal failure; myotoxins damage muscles, especially respiratory muscles; cytotoxins destroy tissue, and these can aid in pre-digestion; nephrotoxins damage the kidneys (O’Shea 2005).

While the toxins that we have discussed in frogs are passively delivered, venom is delivered with an active delivery system. Special apocrine glands are connected to or in the vicinity of specialized hollow teeth or fangs, grooved teeth or a stinger (in the cases of the reptiles, tarantulas and scorpions that are common in the industry) that act as a penetration device that allows the venom to be administered.

vine snake

The fang of this vine snake can be seen within the red patch of gums behind the eye.

The most advanced delivery systems utilize fangs as an application mechanism. These fangs are specialized hollow teeth, through which the venom is delivered. These are used by vipers (including rattlesnakes) and elapids (including cobras, sea-snakes and kraits). Vipers have long, movable fangs that can be used to alternately progress, ‘walking’ a prey item down during feeding. When not in use, these fangs fold inward, allowing the mouth to close. Elapids are also front-fanged, but they generally have shorter, fixed fangs.

Only relatively few colubrids are venomous, but the ones that are have grooved teeth toward the back of the skull, which is known as being rear-fanged. These teeth are located below or behind the eye socket, and below a specialized salivary gland know as a Duvernoy’s gland, which secretes a toxic saliva that is used in subduing prey (O’Shea 2005).

While they may outwardly appear similar, the fangs of a tarantula or centipede are actually not teeth at all. Rather, they are chelicerae. Chelicerae are pointed appendages that are found in all members of the subphylum Chelicerata, that are used for grasping food or for defense. In spiders and venomous myriapods the chelicerae are hollow, and are used to inject venom from the connected venom gland.


The chelicerae of tarantulas, spiders and centipedes can be quite large, and are used for grabbing and envenomating prey items, as well as for defense purposes.

Scorpions have a pretty unique venom delivery system known as a telson, or stinger. At the end of the tail, a specialized anatomical development contains both the venom gland and the sharp point used for injection.


The telson of a scorpion contains the venom gland and delivery system in one specialized evolutionary development.


Although there are many other animals that are capable of delivering venom and the systems with which venom is delivered are far too complex to discuss in any depth here, I hope that the topics discussed here were enlightening. Furthermore, I hope that the content was deep enough to hold the majority of the readers’ attention, but straight forward enough so that no reader was excluded due to complicated writing.

O’Shea, Mark. 2005. Venomous Snakes of the World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Polis, Gary A. 1990. The Biology  Of Scorpions. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Lötters, Stefan, Karl-Heinz Jungfer, Friedrich Wilhelm Henkel and Wolfgang Schmidt. 2007. Poison Frogs: Biology, Species and Captive Care. Frankfurt: Edition Chaimaira.

10 Questions with Ton Jones – November 2012

The Reptile Times

Ton Jones

By Scott Wesley

Clinton “Ton” Jones has run a reptile and exotic rescue for years, but is now best known for his starring role on the show “Auction Hunters” on Spike TV.  He is a man of many parts as we will discuss in some of these questions!

1. Let’s stick with reptiles for just a bit before we expand the conversation. What got you into reptiles in the first place and why?

What got me into reptiles was growing up in the desert and after school going out flipping boards chasing snakes and lizards ..great memories of my youth.

2. Besides working with reptiles – I hear you also work with exotics like big cats.  How did you get experience with those guys, and what is your favorite one to work with?

While working with snakes I have met a lot of people in the exotic animal world and I hung out with them and helped out at there sanctuaries after time I learned how to work with a lot of exotics including big cats. My favorite is a black leopard named Zoro .

3. After IMDb’ing you – you have done some weird stuff.  How did you end up on Dr. 90210 in a show called “Boobs, Dogs & Snakes” ?  That is more of a rhetorical question, but expand anyhow….

LMAO lets just say one of my friends was the Dr and another friend was the  producer and after a long night of BBQ and drinks a bet was made and I lost ….

4. Rumor has it you are coming out with a line of Rum bearing your name…  What input do you get to have on a project like this and what will the name be?  Any release date so we can look for it?

I have final say on this project but I do take the advice from my partners on just about everything. The rum will be called TON’s Trading co. Drunken Sailor  It’s a spiced rum. Looking to be released early next year.

5. Besides your TV show schedule – you travel the country doing many of the reptile industry shows as I am sure many of our readers know.  Is it harder to find time to do some of the things you use to do, or do you still manage to do the side stuff that you enjoy?

I have had to learn to manage my time very carefully but I don’t get to go camping and fishing as much as I would like but I’m going to make more time next year.

6. Something I found really interesting in talking to you was where the “stuff” ended up going from Auction Hunters and how much you actually help out a variety of charitable organizations.  Can you give that run-down again for our readers?

We donate to a lot of items such as clothes, dishes, unopened toys and other items to organizations and we recycle a lot of paper and electronics trying to limit our waste to a minimum keeping our carbon foot print as small as possible.

7. You have an amazing rattlesnake collection including Albino Speckled Rattlesnakes. How did you come across those, and what got you into keeping rattlers to begin with?

Over the years I have been lucky enough to work with Joel at Forever Wild exotic animal sanctuary in Phelan and he has the permits to keep hots so I have worked with Joel over the years putting together an impressive collection including a lot of albino rattlesnakes for display in there learning center where we can teach people about them and help get rid of some of the untrue rumors about them.

8. Having known you for years, I found it purely entertaining to watch customers walk by and get almost flustered when talking to you (especially those two girls at the show). Does anyone ever get “too in-your-face”, or do you still enjoy every fan that comes up to you?

It is mostly fun but there is moments where it’s too much.  I have been drenched in beer at ball games from happy drunk fans trying to hug me and I get the random drunk guy that will sit down at my table when I’m trying to eat with friends telling me how much he loves my show while spitting and drooling on my food the whole time 2 inches from my face.

9. Have you made TMZ yet or anything like that?  If not – do you consciously think about what you are doing all the time, or do you just ignore that stuff and live your life like you always have?

I figure it takes too much effort trying to be something other than what I am. I’m still a big kid at heart and love to hangout with friends camping fishing and chasing snakes at night …if people don’t like what I do or how I live my life they can kiss my ass…lol

10. I heard your show was picked up for another 26 episodes (congrats by the way!).  For the fans of your show – do you see yourself doing this for at least a few more years and do you still enjoy it like it was day 1 ?

I still enjoy doing this and I hope for more years of the show and every box I open is as fun as the first  that is what makes my job fun…

Arrow Frog Cohabitation – November 2012

The Reptile Times

Arrow Frogs

By Kevin Scott

Arrow frogs are a very popular display animal in today’s vivaria. It comes then as no surprise that a very common question we get is whether or not they can be kept with other animals. Of course, the answer to this question is dependent upon many variables, and there is no simple answer. Keeping arrow frogs with other types of frogs or reptiles is an in depth discussion, but keeping arrow frogs with other arrow frogs is one that we can discuss here.

Single Species Communal Housing

To the hobbyist, after keeping arrow frogs for sometime, attempting to breed them in captivity is a logical next step. Often times in the reptile industry people will buy a breeding trio of animals as a male and two females. Sometimes, however (arrow frogs being a perfect example), two males and one female are preferred.

It is commonly suggested that arrow frogs are ideally kept in pairs. However, when breeding is a goal it is sometimes beneficial to keep a second male in with a lone female. This two-to-one ratio of male-to-female has two advantages. First, the competitive calling between the two males will often stimulate the female to be more receptive. Second, having only a single female present will avoid competition over nesting sites, resulting in a safe environment for eggs to be laid.

Multi-species Communal Housing

It is generally advised not to keep more than one species together, but sometimes people will go against this advice. If it is done with careful consideration, this can actually be done quite successfully. Experienced keepers advise keeping species that inhabit different niches together. For example, a terrestrial species – maybe Dendrobates tinctoriusD. auratus or D. leucomelas – might be kept with a species that is more arboreal – like Ranitomeya ventrimaculata.


Hybridization has been observed between D. tinctorius, D. auratus, D. leucomelas and D. truncates, as well as between other less commonly kept species. This should be avoided when at all possible, especially because many of these animals are becoming less and less frequent in the wild. Preservation of species purity is essential to this and other facets of herpetoculture.


Toxicity of arrow frogs is something to consider, even though it is often stated that captive specimens are not toxic because they get their toxins from their prey. This is not entirely true – captive arrow frogs still produce toxins, and species in the genus Phyllobates can be particularly toxic, and should not be kept with other species.

In addition, when kept in small vivaria with water sources that aren’t kept clean, arrow frogs can also run into problems with toxicity, and even “tox out”.

Final Thoughts

In the end, it is at the discretion of the keeper whether or not he allows animals to cohabitate, and it is his sole responsibility to thoroughly research the species that are kept together. If problems are encountered, he was warned that it is not recommended to keep these animals together – and this article is only a set of guidelines that can be helpful, and to point out that it is possible.

Dangerous Discussions: Part One – October 2012

The Reptile Times



By Kevin Scott

Over the last couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss with various people the differences between poisons, toxins and venoms a surprising number of times. Having studied chemistry, carried out research in a biochemistry and molecular biology laboratory, and having worked in the reptile industry for close to a decade, I find the topic especially interesting when it pertains to herpetofauna.

Depending on whom you ask, the precise definitions for poison, toxin, and venom will differ slightly. There are, however, major differences between these terms, and often the terms are erroneously interchanged. The following is a brief discussion of these differences. Let’s start off by taking a look at and comparing definitions from The Oxford English Dictionary and Stedman’s Concise Medical Dictionary.

Oxford English Dictionary

Stedman’s Concise Medical Dictionary


A substance that, when introduced to or absorbed by a living organism causes death or injury. Any substance, either taken internally or applied externally, that is injurious to health or dangerous to life.


An antigenic poison or venom of plant or animal origin. A noxious or poisonous substance that is formed or elaborated during the metabolism and growth of certain microorganisms and some higher plant and animal species.


Poisonous fluid secreted by animals such as snakes and scorpions and typically injected into prey or aggressors by biting or stinging. A poisonous fluid secreted by snakes, spiders, scorpions and other cold-blooded animals.


According to the way that we have defined these terms here, the word poison behaves as sort of an umbrella term for things that can harm biological systems. Poisons include substances that range from household cleaners and pesticides to large organic molecules found in frogs and protein complexes found in snake venom. While the small, brightly colored South American dart frogs are commonly called Poison Frogs, or Poison Arrow Frogs (family Dendrobatidae), it is generally considered incorrect to refer to a venomous snake as a poisonous snake (I will explain why in a moment), although this happens rather often.


According to these definitions, a toxin is a type of poison that is produced through a biological pathway. Although this particular medical dictionary’s definition does not make it explicit, toxinologists generally agree that toxins must be taken into the body by absorption or consumption. Venoms, in contrast, must be ‘injected’ into the body by way a specially evolved mechanism, for instance, a stinger or fangs. (I use the word ‘injected’ loosely here, more on this in part II).

In addition to the differences in the mode of application, toxins and venoms are comprised of substances that are inherently different from one another. Toxins tend to consist of comparatively simple organic molecules while venom is usually comprised of an array of peptides and proteins that possess enzymatic activity. In general, venoms are extremely complex mixtures of different compounds while toxins are chemically well defined, pure, and homogenous substances (Mebs 2002).

All amphibians secrete ‘toxic’ substances through their skin that act as anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agents to help them avoid contracting illnesses (Clark 2007). Many species secrete more potent compounds as anti-predatory mechanisms. A particularly well-characterized group is the Arrow Frogs. Several species belonging to this group possess extremely potent toxins, many of which are alkaline steroids. The frogs use these compounds as a defense, and the mechanism through which they work are part of the definition of what a toxin is. Because there is no delivery system for these compounds, they must be consumed by a predator in order for them to be employed. Venom is usually secreted from specialized gland or tissue and is subsequently stored in specialized sacs until it is used. Technically venom can be referred to as being toxic or poisonous, but an animal, a snake for example, that is venomous, is not poisonous, because it wouldn’t harm you to eat it.


The origin of words is a topic that I find interesting and illuminating. Sometimes you can quickly see the Latin or Greek root of a word just by looking at it, but sometimes the derivation is not immediately obvious. The origin of the word toxin for example, I found surprising.


Comes from Middle English (probably 15th century) denoting a harmful medical drink, which comes from Old French poison, a potion or poisonous drink (14th century), previously simply a drink (12th century), but originally from Latin, potare, to drink.


Comes from the Latin toxicus or toxicum, meaning poisoned or poison, respectively, from the Greek wordtoxikon, or (poison for) arrows, from the Greek toxon, or bow. I found it interesting that the source of the word toxin comes from poisons that were extracted from plants and invertebrates to coat the tips of arrows by ancient Greeks and Romans. The Poison Arrow Frogs obviously got their common name because theirtoxins were used for the same purpose.


Comes from Middle English, from the Old French venim, a variation of venin from an alteration of the Latinvenenum, or poison.


In closing, I would like to point out that I am by no means offering precise definitions for any of the terms used. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that there are no watertight definitions for any of these words. For one thing, biology and biochemistry are so incredibly complex that it is near impossible to precisely define these things by placing them neatly into some well-defined little boxes, there always seem to be exceptions to every rule. Language is always changing and words usually have more than one meaning, so even a precise definition can be open to interpretation. The language discussed here is only relevant within the English language, but there are at least thirteen dialects of English, each with its own differences from modern American English.

When setting out to writing this article I had two points in mind:

  1. To explore some of the fascinating issues that arise when language is used to describe biological systems. Language is inherently obscure and biology is inherently complex. I feel that both are important to understand and interesting to study.
  2. To clear up some of differences between terms in an attempt to at least tighten up the definitions already in place. Even though biology always seems to offer exceptions, we can at least attempt to avoid some of the common errors in terminology.

In part I of this article I have played with the etymology of poisons, toxins, and venom. In part II of this article I will probe deeper into the biology and chemistry of toxins and venom and the evolutionary impact on delivery systems, and I will discuss various types of each.

Mebs, Dietrich. 2002. Venomous and Poisonous Animals: A Handbook for Biologists, Toxicologists and Toxinologists, Physicians and Pharmacists. Stuttgart: Medpharm.

Clark, BT. 2007. “The Natural History of Amphibian Skin Secretions, Their Normal Functioning and Potential Medical Applications.” Biological Reviews. (3):365-379.

Book Review: Leopard Geckos, the Next Generation – October 2012

The Reptile Times

Leopard Geckos: The Next Generations   by Ron Tremper

Book Review by Jennifer Greene

For the serious Leopard Gecko keeper and/or breeder, there is no book that should be considered more essential to their book collection than the first Herpetoculture of Leopard Geckos book put out by Ron Tremper, Phillipe de Vosjoli, and Roger Klingenberg.  This book, Leopard Geckos: The Next Generationis the most current version, with necessary updates to information about morphs and husbandry where needed.   In addition, this most recent version is also available as an e-book/app, which includes any and all updates as they are added.  This review only covers the printed book, and not the e-book.

Leopard Geckos - The Next Generations

This new addition covers all vital information needed to appropriately care for your gecko(s), whether you have one or one hundred of them.  There are short, concise chapters in the front for basic care to get you started, and more in depth chapters further into the book.  There is also a chapter devoted to commercial breeding, and important information to consider when embarking on such an endeavor.

The chapters with the most new information, and the most valuable to the keeper just getting started breeding, are the chapters discussing morphs, genetics, and the genetic makeup of most morphs available on the market today.  It is also interesting to read about where certain mutations came from, who produced them first, and what they bred to create them.  Vitally important is the information about specific morphs – Tremper lists nearly all of the currently available morphs, as well as their method of inheritance.  This information is extremely useful, especially when creating your breeding plans and projects for the next season.  In particular I was happy to read the section describing polygenetic traits, as it was well expressed and should help clear up the confusion I see in many new breeders when they are first learning about the possibility of polygenetic morphs.

Ultimately, if you are new to Leopard Gecko keeping, looking to get into breeding, and do not have the first edition Herpetoculture of Leopard Geckos book, purchase the physical book and read it thoroughly.  You will find the information extremely useful and beneficial!  If you already own the first edition of the book, instead consider the digital version!

Phelsuma standingi: The Standing’s Day Gecko – October 2012

The Reptile Times

Standings Day Geckos

By Jennifer Greene

Phelsuma standingi, or Standing’s Day Geckos, are an often under appreciated member of the Day Gecko family.  Babies have significantly higher contrasting colors than adults, and they generally lack the intense, jewel-like colors of their cousins the Giant Day Geckos or many of the other commonly kept day gecko species.  However, their subtle coloration hides a behaviorally fascinating gecko.

One of the larger Phelsuma species, Standing’s Day Geckos can reach up to 10” in length for large individuals (much of this is due to tail length).  Adult coloration is generally green around the head, fading to blue by the tail, with thin grey banding throughout their body.   They originate from a drier region of Madagascar, and as such can tolerate a wide range of conditions, particularly lower humidity conditions than their brilliantly colored cousins will accept.  They thrive with high basking temperatures, and to see them at their most colorful it is recommended to offer them UVB as well as a bright, white light to bask under.

Standings Day Geckos

The coolest, in my opinion, part about Phelsuma standingi is their social and reproductive behavior.  While they pair off like the rest of the Phelsuma group, the adults often maintain prolonged monogamous pairs, sometimes for life!  While it is not impossible to convince a female to change partners once her original mate is removed, it is extremely difficult, and many females will not accept new mates once they have bonded with a particular male.

Once established, eggs can be left in the cage with the pair of geckos, and they will not harm any of their offspring that hatch within the cage.  Once the juveniles begin to reach sexual maturity, the adults will become aggressive towards them, presumably to drive them off to find their own territories.  That the parents actively avoid trying to injure their offspring is noticeable, for example “If one baby happens to be accidentally seized (e.g. during feeding), it emits a squeaking sound that makes the parent let go instantly!”  (Bruse, Meyer, Schmidt, 2005, p. 95)

As juveniles get older and remain in the same area with their parents, minor squabbles often break out between them as they vie for resources.  Unlike the majority of day gecko species, they have thicker skin than most, and it is resistant to tearing.  Because of this, the scratches and bites that they receive during the minor fighting that breaks out among siblings is not overly detrimental to their health.  They should still be monitored for serious injury, but due to their thicker skin they can withstand the tussling with few problems.

With patience, Standing’s Day Geckos can be taught to accept human interaction, and even tolerate moderate handling.  Their thicker skin means that even an inexperienced keeper is unlikely to harm them as long as they’re gentle; it is still possible to tear their skin, but it takes considerably more force than with other Phelsuma species.

Sexing the Painted Agama – October 2012

The Reptile Times

Painted Agamas

By Jennifer Greene

Sexing Painted Agamas

Painted Agamas, or Laudakia stellio, are a species of agamid lizard that are beginning to gain popularity among reptile keepers.  With flashy colors being the norm for this species, and a smaller adult size than the average bearded dragon, they are an excellent choice to consider as a pet lizard species.  They are especially well suited for keepers who would like a smaller, easier to feed option to keep as a pet lizard – Painted Agamas require only insects in their diet, none of the vegetable matter than Bearded Dragons require.

Painted Agamas

For the keepers looking to try their hand at captive breeding them, an important aspect of selecting your agamas is knowing how to sex them.  At first glance, it can sometimes be a little difficult to sex them.  Adult males can develop bright, neon colored patches on their heads above their eyes, and mature, breeding adult males are often somewhat brighter than females or younger males.  However, when selecting from a younger group of animals, it is hard to be sure if the brightly colored animal in your hand is a young male or female.

Fortunately, sexing subadult to adult sized Painted Agamas is actually very easy when you know what to look for.  As with most other species of agamid lizards, males develop noticeable pores once they begin to approach adult size.  The pores are not in the common location of the bottom of the hind legs; rather, they are along the belly of the animal.  Simply put, in order to accurately sex your Painted Agama, simply flip it over (gently!) and peek at its stomach.  A male will have a line of pores that resembles the way a closed zipper appears, while a female will have a smooth, unmarked stomach.

That’s all there is to it!  With this knowledge, you should be able to accurately sex any Painted Agamas you come across, and establish a breeding pair or group with little difficulty.

Check out one of our YouTube Painted Agama Videos too. Click Here for the video!