Takeover Tuesday: A day in the life of a Newport Aquarium Herpetologist

Takeover Tuesday features a “day in the life” of biologists at Newport Aquarium. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

My name is Erin and I am one of the biologists at Newport Aquarium! I am a Herpetologist, which means that I work with the Reptiles and Amphibians. The place you are most likely to find me is in our Frog Bog where I care for most of our amphibian collection! Come with me on this #TakeoverTuesday as I show you a day in my life!

Erin Muldoon

Herpetologist, Erin, takes care of the animals in Frog Bog.

One of my jobs is to raise the next generation. These are Halmahera gecko eggs. We had Halmahera geckos running free in Canyon Falls and found these eggs when we were getting ready to start construction on the new Stingray Hideaway.

Gecko eggs

These Halmahera gecko eggs are from geckos that were running free in Canyon Falls. If these eggs hatch, the geckos will be released to run free in Stingray Hideaway.

If they hatch, we’ll release them and their parents back into Stingray Hideaway. So, keep your eyes out for geckos on the walls when we open our new exhibit this summer!

Sometimes, animals arrive too small to go into their future home. When that happens, I take care of them and help them grow up big and strong. Here is a baby Giant Musk Turtle who has a little more growing to do before he can hang out in our Shore Gallery.

musk turtle

Baby Giant Musk Turtle

Some of the smallest animals I care for live in the Frog Bog. These are Anthony’s Poison Arrow Frogs in multiple stages of their development, from tadpoles just getting their legs, to a brand new froglet, to two adults.

Anthony’s Poison Arrow Frogs are considered Near Threatened in the wild. Breeding efforts by Newport Aquarium and other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions will hopefully keep this frog and other amphibian species off the Endangered Species List.

You may ask yourself, what does a newly hatched dart frog eat? One food we offer is called a spring tail – it’s a tiny insect.

We also give them small fruit flies and newly hatched pinhead crickets. Here at Newport Aquarium, we breed our own fruit flies and crickets so that we always have a good supply of food ready for our smallest amphibians.

Not all of the animals I take care of are tiny. I also help take care of the biggest reptiles at the aquarium, Mighty Mike our American alligator, and the rare white American alligators, Snowball and Snowflake.

Mighty Mike (2)

Mighty Mike, the 14-foot long American alligator

 

They may look like statues, but believe me, they are alive. Part of taking care of them includes everyone’s favorite to watch: Feeding!

White gators (2)

Snowball and Snowflake, rare white American alligators

During the winter, they eat every three weeks. But in the summer, they eat every week. If you are lucky, you might catch us out on the beach feeding Mike some chickens, fish, or even a rabbit or two!

Mighty Mike

Herpetologists, Erin and Ryan feed Mighty Mike.

I hope you enjoyed #TakeoverTuesday with me. Now, like this Tiger Leg Monkey Frog, it is time to rest!

Tiger Leg Monkey Frog

Tiger Leg Monkey Frog

 

Check out our other #TakeoverTuesday posts

World Lizard Day 2016

This Sunday, August 14th, we celebrate World Lizard Day! With more than 6,000 species around the world, why wouldn’t we take the time to recognize this diverse and fun-loving reptile? Here are some fun facts about some of the different lizards guests will see when visiting Newport Aquarium.

To learn more, we talked to Newport Aquarium biologist and herpetologist, Ryan Dumas. “Lizards are important because they occupy many different niches throughout the environment,” Dumas said.

Yellow Tree Monitor

Yellow Tree Monitor

The Yellow Tree Monitor is the rarest of species of tree monitors. It wasn’t discovered until 2005 – on a small island in Indonesia. Visit two of these monitors in Canyon Falls at Newport Aquarium.

The Yellow Tree Monitor can only be found in the tropical rain forests on the small island of Misol in Indonesia. They can grow to become three feet long from head to tail and they mostly eat invertebrates. Did you know these monitors were discovered as recent as 11 years ago?

Chinese Crocodile Lizard

The Chinese Crocodile Lizard is also called “the lizard of great sleepiness” as it often remains motionless for hours.

Chinese Crocodile Lizard

Chinese Crocodile lizards can live for at least 20 years. They are a Species Survival Plan (SSP) Animal, which means their population is managed under professional care, by biologists and herpetologists to ensure the species isn’t threatened. They are semi-aquatic creatures that enjoy cool and wet habitats. The interesting thing about these lizards is that they are ovoviviparous, which means they give live birth instead of laying eggs.

Chuckwalla

Chuckwalla

Chuckwallas like hanging out on top of rocks – it’s the perfect place to bask in the sun.

Some lizards are closer to home than you think. For example, the Chuckwalla can be found in the southwestern part of the United States. They can be highly susceptible as food for other animals but their bodies allow them to expand in smaller places to stay out of reach from predators. They also like hanging out on rock crops as it serves as the perfect place to bask in the sun.

Eastern Collared Lizard

Eastern Collared Lizard

The Eastern Collared Lizard is one of the lizard species that can run on their hind legs.

Eastern Collared Lizards also reside in the southwestern part of the United States. What makes these little ones unique is that the coatings on the males are brighter than the females. The brighter the male, the more attracted he is to the female.

Panther Chameleon
Panther Chameleons come from Madagascar. Males are more vibrantly colored than females which are tan or peach-colored.

Panther Chameleon

Chameleons are zygodactylous: on each foot, the five toes are fused into a group of two and a group of three, giving the foot a tongs-like appearance.

Panther Chameleon

Newport Aquarium biologist and herpetologist, Ryan Dumas majored in Biology at Northern Kentucky University. He began as a summer aide in 2005 and has worked at the National Aquarium, as well as the Bronx Zoo.

They are zygodactylous: on each foot, the five toes are fused into a group of two and a group of three, giving the foot a tongs-like appearance. Chameleons have unique eyes – they can rotate and focus on two different objects at the same time! Panther chameleons have very large tongues, often longer than their entire body! They extend their tongue very fast to catch prey. Males are more vibrantly colored than females which are tan or peach-colored. They also lay 20 to 30 eggs between two to three times per year. This species of chameleon has a very short life span that only lasts between three to four years.

Argentine Black and White Tegu

Black and White Tegu

Oreo the Argentine Black and White Tegu is one of Newport Aquarium’s Ambassador Animals.

 

The Argentine Black and White Tegu is the largest species of tegu. It has a six-inch forked tongue that it uses to smell its surroundings. Black and white tegus have unique coloring. When they’re born, they have a bright green head and darker body. As they mature, that green gradually fades to tones of black and white. They can grow to be 45 inches long and their diets consist of invertebrates and vertebrates. Tegus are not tree dwellers. They spend most of their life on ground, but they are excellent swimmers.

 

 

Solomon Island Skink

Solomon Island Skink

The Solomon Island Skink or “Monkey Tail Skink” is one of the few lizard species that has a prehensile tail.

The Solomon Island Skink or “Monkey Tail Skink” is one of the few lizard species that has a prehensile tail, which means it can grasp or wrap around something. Although they primarily eat vegetation, they are easily agitated animals and are considered “circulars” which means one male will lead in a group of females. One of a few ways you can distinguish the gender is by the shapes of their heads and bodies – females have narrow heads and pear-shaped bodies.

These are just a few of the many lizards you can see here at Newport Aquarium. Visit www.newportaquarium.com to plan your next trip and see the latest promotions.

Happy World Lizard Day from Newport Aquarium.

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