How to care for lizard eggs?
May 29, 2010 8:09 PM   Subscribe

What do lizard eggs need to hatch?

While cleaning out my Arizona garden, I stumbled across a pair of desert spiny lizards in a bucket left over from planting a tree weeks before. Since the I knew I would continue to work (cleaning weeds, etc.) I decided to let them go away from the house. I released them in a natural habitat area about fifty yards from the house. I later came back to the garden to continue to remove some debris and then found a clutch of about 8 eggs I'm sure belonged to the now "released" lizards. I don't intend on removing the eggs to care for them - like incubating them somehow - but would like to give them a fighting chance to hatch. That is, if there is anything to be done at this point. My yard has block wall around it, I'm sure mom n pop wont be back.

So - does anybody know if these eggs are doomed without parent lizards close. Anything to be done to help them along?
posted by whatisish to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
The eggs are not doomed: hardly any reptile species guard their nests; most just lay the eggs and leave. Even if you hadn't released them, they wouldn't have come back.
posted by mcwetboy at 8:46 PM on May 29, 2010

Amusingly, I was just reading a Gerald Durrell book, which reminded me that different species of reptiles have specific conditions that they need for their eggs to hatch. Their programming (generally) covers this - they're not going to lay eggs in places that feel like the wrong humidity or temperature. I'd recover them with whatever you took off, and leave 'em.
"This species presumably lays eggs in nests constructed in friable, sandy, well-drained soil." That sound like what you've got?
posted by zusty at 9:18 PM on May 29, 2010

Oh, that's "re-cover," not "recover," if you know what I mean. Stupid language.
posted by zusty at 9:19 PM on May 29, 2010

I just finished taking a first-semester general biology course at my local community college. One of the questions on the final was: "What are two characteristics that birds and mammals have in common but reptiles do not?"

The answer? 1-Birds and mammals have consistent body temperatures. 2-Birds and mammals parent; reptiles don't.
posted by purpleclover at 9:42 PM on May 29, 2010

Zusty, yeah... that link describes the nesting location well. It's interesting, too, that it seems like they even dragged some dead grass into a pile to lay the eggs on. I re-covered them with what little debris was covering them from direct sun.

Thanks all. I'll post an update if/when they hatch.
posted by whatisish at 10:49 PM on May 29, 2010

purpleclover: "1-Birds and mammals have consistent body temperatures. 2-Birds and mammals parent; reptiles don't."

Mmm, you need to learn the difference between reptiles and lizards.

Technically dinosaurs, birds, mammals, and alligators are all reptiles that mostly engage in parental behavior while lizards do not (as far as I know).
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 12:31 AM on May 30, 2010

The definition of "reptile" is in flux lately; some herpetologists divide what we consider as modern reptiles into three classes: chelonians (turtles and tortoises), crocodilians (more closely related to birds than other reptiles), and "reptiles" (snakes, lizards, amphisbaenians [worm lizards], rhyncocephalians [tuataras]). But let's not parse the definition of "reptile" overmuch.

There are some tantalizing examples of parental care among what historically have been called reptiles. Crocodilians will guard their nests, help their babies hatch, and guard them for the first couple of years or so (baby crocs and alligators will call for their mothers in the face of danger). King cobras will build a nest, lay their eggs, and guard their nests until just before the eggs hatch, at which point they leave (king cobras are strict snake eaters, so there are good Darwinian reasons for them not to be around when the kids hatch). But I've never heard anything equivalent about lizards.
posted by mcwetboy at 4:53 AM on May 30, 2010

Hey now say wut. Are you telling me the herpetology class I took 8 years ago is already outdated? Or is this like when the Bible said not to eat the following birds and then listed a bat?

Not exactly, it's just semantics (or rather, cladistics). "Reptiles" are a paraphyletic group—that is, we can use the term because it's a traditional Linnean class with lots of history and everyone knows what a reptile is, but it doesn't describe a clade of its own. There's a quote from Colin Tudge on the pertinent wikipedia page that explains this:
But the traditional class Reptilia is not a clade. It is just a section of the clade Amniota: the section that is left after the Mammalia and Aves have been hived off. It cannot be defined by synapomorphies, as is the proper way. It is instead defined by a combination of the features it has and the features it lacks: reptiles are the amniotes that lack fur or feathers. At best, the cladists suggest, we could say that the traditional Reptilia are 'non-avian, non-mammalian amniotes.'
The accompanying cladogram on that page offers a good picture of how this works.
posted by cirripede at 8:12 AM on May 30, 2010

Technically dinosaurs, birds, mammals, and alligators are all reptiles

According to mcwetboy's link, reptiles ARE lizards. Mammals, on the other hand, are definitely not reptiles.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:13 AM on May 30, 2010

I get that it's semantics, and I'm aware of that the general grouping "Reptiles" is too broad to encompass what has traditionally been known as Reptiles, and I see how that would lead to further separations/groupings - what I don't get is how "technically" a mammal is a reptile. Maybe "technically" mammals and reptiles are both amniotes, but I don't really get what MonkeySaltedNuts is saying.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:16 AM on May 30, 2010

By cladistics based on inheritance, humans are apes which are monkeys. Old style classification wound up with categories such as *monkey which included all monkeys that were not apes, and *ape which included all apes that were not human.

The modern approach is just to use a type name such as 'monkey' to refer to all descendants. If in the tree of primates there had been many separate branches that appeared to be lemurs with one branch evolving to monkeys with all the other branches having as much distinction between them as with the 'monkey' branch then one could say that that humans were lemurs. (this is just a made up bogus example). This is why somebody had to make up a word "primate" since there were no common more general term like "ape" or "monkey" to use for the category.

"Reptile" is just one example in this cladistic naming shift. Early reptiles had many descendants including lizards, crocadillans, turtles, dinosaurs, birds, and mammals. The old school notion of "reptile" was *reptile which at the least excluded birds and mammals.

This is why I brought up the "lizard" vs "reptile" issue. Even *reptiles such as alligators provide parenteral care which seems to be unattested in the lizard or turtle branches.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:42 PM on May 31, 2010

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